He’ll Be OK — Celia Lashlie

This book is about about raising boys, especially teenagers. It’s heartfelt and compelling, and it has a lot of good things to think about and remember if you have or are planning to have a teenaged son.

Celia Lashlie spent a lot of time at boys’ schools talking with the boys and their teachers, and describes what it’s like to be a student in a boys’ school. She describes the experience really thoroughly — as I read, I really felt I knew what their world was like. But there are many different ways for boys to experience their school life, and I thought she focused on one without really acknowledging others.

The view in the book is undoubtedly true for many boys — the importance of sports, mates, school spirit — but experiences are different for everyone. I went to a boys’ high school myself, and I do recognise some of the aspects of schoolboy life that Lashlie describes. But overall my own experience was generally more middle-of-the-road than that described in the book. Of course some of my fellow students were much more extreme than me, but some were more boring and conventional — I don’t think my experience was that unusual. Lashlie does occasionally nod towards alternatives, but overall the world she describes does seem traditional and stereotyped. Perhaps that’s the most obvious view to an outsider, but I do feel Lashlie romanticises things a bit.

I also read another book around the same time called Boys Should be Boys, by Meg Meeker. This is not so good. The author says things like, “speaking as a psychologist and a mother,” and then trots out some homily according to her rather old-fashioned, conservative worldview. There is some attempt at scientific justification of some ideas, but really I didn’t think there was anything new in that book. I couldn’t bring myself to write any more about it than that.

Lashlie’s book is much better. She seems to be intelligent, caring and committed, but not dogmatic. I enjoyed reading her book even when I disagreed with parts of it.

He’ll be OK is opinionated and takes quite a traditional view of gender differences. Even so, I really liked it.


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