Excerpt from Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon, Michael Thompson Ph.D., plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Raising Cain

Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys

by Dan Kindlon, Michael Thompson Ph.D.

Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon, Michael Thompson Ph.D.
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 1999, 298 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2000, 255 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


These boys are not gathered in my office today for group therapy--at least not in the traditional sense. None has been diagnosed with a particular emotional problem. They are not especially "bad" boys, poor students, or troublemakers. They make good-enough grades. In fact, there is nothing unusual about any of them. And that's why they're here. They represent a cross section of their class, and they have been picked by their principal to talk with me about the cruel teasing that has become so commonplace at their school as to seem unremarkable.

They all take part in the drama. Jack most often plays the role of the attacker. If he can find a flaw in someone, real or imagined, he'll point it out, turn it into a nickname, hammer it home at every opportunity, and enlist others to join in the fun. Mario is often at his side, the combination of his imposing size and Jack's sharp wit making them an almost irresistible force. Most boys in their class find themselves in the uneasy middle. Sometimes they are targets; sometimes they are the attacker. It is the way of the jungle. Only the strong survive. Robbie finds himself among a handful of boys who have been the frequent targets of teasing. The other day he broke down crying and ran out of the room when he was teased by some boys in his math class for failing a pop quiz.

I am trying to engage them in a discussion about how teasing can hurt. My initial questions are directed to James and Ernesto, who are friends.

"Is it ever all right to tease someone?"

James: "Sure. I tease Ernesto all the time, and he teases me back. But we're still friends."

"What do you tease each other about?"

James: "I don't know. I'll tease him about his shoes." (Everyone looks at Ernesto's old, very plain square-toed shoes and laughs. Clearly they are familiar with the topic. Buoyed by their laughter, James's explanation gains vigor.) "You know how, like, they're so old. His shoes are homemade, you know. His dad made them for him. His whole family has homemade shoes, even his sister."

"Does it bother you, Ernesto, when James teases you like this?"

Ernesto: "My shoes aren't homemade. I like my shoes."

James: "Yeah, right! They're like made of wood or something."

Ernesto: "Dr. Kindlon, you know how James's mom packs him a cheese sandwich every day? That's because she has all this welfare cheese at home, and that's all she'll give him for lunch. His sister gets, like, McDonald's every day, but she saves the welfare cheese for him."

"Okay, what does everybody else think about this? Is it okay to tease like this between friends?"

Jack: "Yeah, it's funny. Nobody minds."

"When isn't it okay? How do you know when you've hurt someone's feelings? When you've gone too far?"

There is silence and long vacant stares. Although I should know better by now, I am surprised by the boys' lack of understanding of how their words and actions affect one another.

"Does teasing ever hurt?"

Several boys admit that it does.

"Then how can you tell whether you've hurt someone? How about with Robbie? You were all in class with him the other day. What about that?"

More silence. They don't have a clue. They're not faking it to look cool or tough. They don't know how to read Robbie and don't even sense that they should. Another boy from the uneasy middle, Randy, offers a response, finally, that singles him out as the deepest emotional thinker in the group, yet none too confident in this intuitive realm. His answer is a question: "You know you've gone too far when somebody starts to cry?"

"Sure, that's right. But wouldn't it be better if we knew how to stop teasing before we made somebody cry? Does someone have to cry before you suspect that what you're saying might be hurting him? How else might you know that a person's upset?"

Excerpted from Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson. Copyright© 1999 by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Castle of Water
    Castle of Water
    by Dane Huckelbridge
    When a whopping 24 out of 27 readers give a book 4 or 5 stars, you know you have a winner on your ...
  • Book Jacket: Havana
    Havana
    by Mark Kurlansky
    History with flavor...culture with spice...language with gusto...it would be hard to find a better ...
  • Book Jacket: Temporary People
    Temporary People
    by Deepak Unnikrishnan
    In this powerful and innovative collection of 28 short stories, Deepak Unnikrishnan presents a ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Stars Are Fire
    by Anita Shreve

    An exquisitely suspenseful novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    If We Were Villains
    by M. L. Rio

    An intelligent and captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd rather have been talking

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -