How to raise a boy

This blog post is written by Form II Dean Eric Harrison about a school-wide summer reading initiative for all faculty and staff.  Michael Reichert’s How to Raise a Boy is a “roadmap for helping boys grow into strong and compassionate men,” according to the author. A psychologist by training, Reichert explains the stereotypes and norms that cause boys to act in certain ways – how the need to be “manly” can cause anger, isolation, and disrespectful or destructive behaviors.

Reichert also gives keys to changing the culture, which includes how parents, educators, mentors and others can help boys develop social and emotional well-being. During orientation week in August, Landon teachers and staff broke into small groups to discuss takeaways from the book as well as strategies to use during the school year. Harrison talks about how the book impacted his mindset as an educator and as a man.

In many ways, Reichert validated the teacher-coach-mentor approach of relationship-based education here at Landon. When boys are known and feel connected, they care about their learning, which in turn positions them for success in life.

One idea that struck me as an important reminder to teachers and parents was the notion that the onus is on the adult to follow up with a child in the wake of a negative interaction. While we talk extensively about the importance of boys advocating for themselves as they mature, we also need to keep in mind the role that we as adults play in any conflict and its resolution.

On a more personal level, I am on the upper cusp of the generation that was the focus of Reichert’s research. As I considered my own peer group, many of the case studies resonated with me.

He told stories of young men isolating themselves, experiencing depression, and exhibiting angry tendencies. I have friends who live every day with a form of treated or untreated mental illness, and I often wonder to what extent their conditions are a result of the norms of masculinity in which many of us were raised. Had we grown up in a culture where talking about emotions was normalized, would those peers have developed a greater competency for understanding and expressing themselves? Would they have sought clinical help sooner?

We have a tremendous opportunity at Landon to provide young men with tools to live productive, healthy lives. How to Raise a Boy reminded me that the long-term implications of that holistic work can be incredibly influential.