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As a male that still vividly remembers my years in K-12 and being picked on, sometimes fighting back and interacting with the other males my age, I found this description of how females can teach their teen sons to cope at times naïve and other times insightful. Academics and other serious writers seem destined to always create categories to describe the main players and Wiseman is no exception. It starts with the almost obligatory acronym; in this case it is "The Act-Like-A-Man Box" (ALMB).
Wiseman then splits males up into the categories:
*) The mastermind, the group member that decides what is cool, funny and all other key interpretations the group makes.
*) The associate, this is the lower-level group member that the mastermind respects the most and counts on for advice less filtered by the need to belong.
*) The bouncer, this boy is the enforcer within and the defender of the group.
*) The entertainer, the boy that makes the jokes, often at his own expense, that entertains the group.
*) The conscience, this is the boy that is always raising the concerns about getting caught or doing something wrong.
*) The punching bag, the boy that all group members pick on, mercilessly derided within the group yet often ferociously defended against outsiders.
*) The fly, this is the group wannabe that hovers on the edge of the group, clearly begging for the opportunity to join.
*) The champion, this is the boy with the strongest level of self-esteem, he will intervene in response to another being picked on and is respected by all others.
Of course, in many cases this categories are not exclusionary, for example the entertainer and the punching bag are frequently the same person, becoming funny in order to deflect/defuse the criticism.
One of the most significant differences between males and females is in how they verbally interact. I can remember boys insulting each other on the school bus and laughing about it while the girls seemed shocked at what they said to each other. Yet, despite the insults, all the boys clearly understood where the proper limits were. Much lighter insults from one girl to another would have led to tears being shed.
Wiseman does a good job in trying to penetrate this world and explain it, primarily to female parents. So much of what takes place between boys is seen as bullying by people that do not understand it, yet it is nothing more than boys solidifying their friendship. All boys have either seen or experienced situations where one boy will seem to be picking on another, yet when a third boy joins in he is warned off with threats made by the boy that appeared to be the bully. It is conceivable that the modern push against bullying in schools may be depriving boys of some critical social interaction, the insult based on friendship.
Wiseman also expresses an understanding of the role the modern electronic mediums play in the lives of boys. The great social lubricant/equalizer in the modern world is your performance in video games, the ones that you are good at as well as those that you will let others play when they don't own them. When the blame for boys going violent is so often simplistically passed on to video games, it was refreshing to read the contrary and more realistic position.
All of the landmines that boys must navigate in the modern world, from the ease of viewing soft and hard porn, to posting on the internet to setting limits on games and other videos are covered. While Wiseman sometimes demonstrates the difficulties of being the opposite gender from the one being discussed, in general she makes valid points that parents of both sexes can learn from.
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I'm eager to read the correspondence of Georgiana and Kitty and learn your projections for the "happy everafters" of all the Bennet daughters.
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