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Decoding Boys: New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons

By Cara Natterson, M.D.

(Ballantine Books)

April 20, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

As you may know, I am a mom to three boys, ages 10, 12, and 14. I grew up with all sisters, so having a group of boys living in my house is quite foreign to me. As I adapt to the newfound smells in my house, the pee on my toilet seats, and the overall surge of testosterone all around me, I am constantly trying to figure out how to raise these boys in a world much different than when I was their age. Dr. Cara Natterson’s latest book, Decoding Boys, has been an incredible resource. She is a pediatrician, speaker, consultant,  New York Times best-selling author of several health and parenting books, and most of all….a boy mom.  Dr. Natterson takes her readers on a journey into the world of boys. It turns out, there is actually a method to their madness.  Let’s get to it.

To start off, Dr. Natterson’s book tackles puberty, brain development and the importance of communicating with our sons.  It is the perfect read for parents with boys about to enter this wild world of change (8 years old and up) and for those in the throws of it as well.  To begin, Dr. Natterson explains the physiology of puberty and the timeline of maturation. She discusses how brain development is not directly related to puberty and that even though our boys may look older, their brains are many steps behind (that actually makes sense to me as I say the same thing over and over again to my boys).  On top of all the science behind a boy’s brain and development, Dr. Natterson debunks the notion of leaving a quiet boy alone. So many boys appear to be “men of few words”, especially when compared to girls. However, prompting and engaging in conversations with our boys is absolutely critical during this adolescent journey.

“Ultimately, I have come to believe that in order to parent our boys best, we must get over the notion that silence is golden.  We wouldn’t – we don’t – tolerate our girls shutting their doors and shutting us out, because she needs to know.  Well, it’s time to start raising our boys more like we raise our girls.  If there’s one thing you will realize while reading this book, I hope it’s that he needs to know, too.”

Dr. Natterson does an excellent job of presenting the physical process of growing boys.  She also makes it very clear that the consequences of parents not talking to their sons is growing more severe each day.  She then jumps right into the nitty gritty of what is to come for so many of us parents. She goes into great detail about the importance of talking to boys about sex.  She offers tips and strategies on how to get the conversations started in an organic way. Now if this makes you uncomfortable, then buckle up quickly. Dr. Natterson dives right into the pool of the 97 billion dollar online industry called PORN.  Yes, you may actually sweat reading this section. It is hard to imagine our sweet boys anywhere near this stuff. But guess what, 97% of boys will see porn before they are twenty. The birds and the bees “talk” is no longer a one and done conversation anymore. It now involves ongoing dialogue about  porn, “sexting”, consent, and so much more. They definitely did not warn us parents of this in the What to Expect While Expecting pregnancy books.  Who would have thought that all of this was a part of having a cute little baby boy?

Brain development, puberty and sex is what we expected, right (ok…not the porn part though)?  However, parenting boys in the 21st century is HARD! In addition to all of the above, we now have to be on top of our game when it comes to body image (not just a girl issue), addiction, gaming and gun violence.  Is your heart rate up yet? Mine surely is! This is why I love this book. Dr. Natterson ties in all of these current issues with what is going on with our developing boys. Her facts and trends are coupled with strategies that will put your mind at ease.   You can now exhale!!!  

Through the years, I have read and thumbed through numerous books on raising boys. None of them came close to offering me insight into this unfamiliar gender than Decoding Boys.  Dr. Natterson’s book is based on science, facts and experience.   What sets this book apart is its contemporary information and relevant game plans for navigating these uncharted waters.  Raising “masculine” boys that do not need to talk about things because it isn’t considered “manly” is a thing of the past. Raising boys who are encouraged to communicate their feelings and talk about uncomfortable issues is what is going to help keep them safe and guide them in future decision making.  It is NEVER too early to start talking to your boys. I highly recommend that all parents of boys have this book on their bookshelves. Let the convos begin!

Happy talking!

Your Biggest Fan,


P.S. “A boy’s story is the best that is ever told.”

Charles Dickens

Click on the book pic below to purchase.

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