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Tips & Advice

Raising Responsible Boys:
8 Books to Help Along the Way

by Denise Schipani

Photo credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc, Digital Vision/Getty Images

As a mom with two sons, I can say with confidence that raising boys can sometimes be a handful. They test my patience in so many ways. They pee on the toilet rim (or the floor); they play hockey on the hardwood floors using backscratchers for sticks and crumbled paper for pucks (what, just mine?); they are the reason the third-grade class has to stay in for recess (because they were unable to sit primly through a reading lesson or walk quietly in the halls). That said, I wouldn’t trade being a #boymom for anything. They fill my heart with so much love, and knowing my boys will one day be men, I hope to raise them right.

Unfortunately, adages like “boys will be boys” and “man up” are still a thing when it comes to bringing up boys, but we’re slowly moving toward putting these old stereotypes about masculinity to bed. Nowadays, our goal as parents is to raise kind, compassionate, and caring kids who grow up into kind, compassionate, and caring adults. The way we parent boys needs to evolve in ways that foster their growth in the right direction. We aim to honor and encourage our sons’ unique selves, their forms of play, and their paths of learning while also teaching responsibility, kindness, and respect for themselves and others.

It’s no small task, but there are books available to help guide us. If you’re looking for a few good books to help you raise a few good men, look no further.

  • How to Raise a Boy

    by Michael C. Reichert

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    Drawing on decades of psychology and neuroscience, Michael Reichert creates a new script for nurturing boys into young men of character. Gone are the days of “sucking it up” and “being a man” — rather, Reichert shows parents how to encourage boys to talk about their feelings, seek out mentors, and listen to themselves over harmful gender norms or confusing messages they receive from the world. As Reichert writes, “Holding boys in relationships where they are known and loved is the best way to build good men.”

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  • Boy Mom

    by Monica Swanson

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    With a biblical foundation combined with research and personal experience, Monica Swanson — a mother of four boys — shares advice and encouragement on the particular endeavor of raising sons to be physically and emotionally healthy, ethical in work and relationships, and confident in pursuing their dreams. Her stories are deeply relatable (or will be someday, as your son grows!), and her message is both hopeful and empowering.

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  • That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week

    by Ana Homayoun

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    When academic counselor Ana Homayoun noticed that many boys she worked with scored high on standardized tests but brought home low grades, she pinpointed a crucial part of the problem: disorganization. In this roadmap for success, she breaks down the learning differences between boys and girls, helps parents identify their son’s particular disorganization style, and discusses how to share tools, encourage academic goal-setting, and more. A must-read for whatever stage of school your son is in.

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  • Masterminds and Wingmen

    by Rosalind Wiseman

    A follow up to her popular Queen Bees and Wannabes, an exploration of Girl World, in this book Wiseman – herself the mother of sons – delves into Boy World, a place where boys hide their real feelings behind gruff answers like “I’m fine.” Some of them, it seems, really aren’t fine, and it behooves parents and teachers of boys to understand what’s lurking under the surface.

  • Strong Mothers, Strong Sons

    by Meg Meeker, M.D.

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    Raising good men feels particularly challenging these days – especially for women (both moms who have partners in their homes and single mothers raising boys). This is an ideal book for moms wondering how hard to hold on, how soon to let go.

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  • The Wonder of Boys

    by Michael Gurian

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    Gurian doesn’t believe our sons need “civilizing” in the traditional sense of that word, which often boils down to suppressing their natural tendencies. In his view, our boys need tools to help them channel their propensities toward aggression and competition into positives, with the help of strong role models.

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  • Raising Cain

    by Dan Kindlon, Ph.D. and Michael Thompson, Ph.D

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    These two experts have something to tell you (which you might already intuit): boys are hurting, and it’s hard for them (or their parents) to get to the root of why. Thompson and Kindlon pick through outdated myths about boys’ emotional landscape, and illuminate the unique challenges they face.

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  • Raising Boys

    by Steve Biddulph

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    Australian psychologist Biddulph doesn’t mince words. He’s worried about some pretty serious risks facing boys today, such as greater propensity for learning disabilities and higher rates of violence and suicide. A practical guide for parents, Raising Boys clarifies boy/girl differences in terms of social and emotional needs, education, discipline, and more.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2021.