Decoding Boys by Cara Natterson

Weekly Trip to the Library

Not all nannies care just for infants and toddlers. For most of my nanny jobs I helped care for older boys until they went to junior high school, high school, and then I worked as a family assistant as the eldest son went off to college.

In my past nanny jobs the tweens and teens actually came to me to discuss dating issues, rather than asking their parents. I typically just listened to them vent about relationship drama. But I was also honest when asked sensitive questions about safe sex. I always immediately texted or told the parents in-person what was discussed.

Since I am a nanny and not their parent I often have told children to speak to their parents about topics about dating, sex, or puberty. It is always good practice for nannies to tell children to talk to their parents if we aren’t sure how to discuss a sensitive topic. Just text the parents giving them a heads-up.

Most importantly, as a nanny I always tell the children that I have no secrets with their parents. I am always an employee and the parents have a right to know anything their children confide in me.

Although I’m not a parent I still read parenting books. I recently found Decoding Boys: New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons an interesting read.

In Decoding Boys: New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons, pediatrician Cara Natterson helps parents support their sons through the transition to puberty, which mostly begins when they’re nine- to 14-years-old. She says parents might start to notice that their once-chatty sons start to get quieter around this time. She wants parents to keep trying to engage them because they need us to keep the lines of communication open.

“Despite what they say (‘I’m fine’; cue closing door) and despite social convention (if he doesn’t want to talk about it, leave well enough alone; ‘He’s fine’), not talking to your son about his evolving physical, emotional, and social self is the biggest parent trap of them all,” says Natterson. “Because if you don’t have the conversations, someone else will: a friend who’s got it all wrong, or a family member who doesn’t exactly share your ideology, or the Internet.”

Natterson offers 10 suggestions about how to talk to boys about puberty and the changes that accompany it. First, parents should initiate the conversations because however anxious they may feel about it as a parent, it’s likely that the son feels even more embarrassed by puberty. Then, listen and ask questions so they can find out what he is thinking.

The author suggests avoiding eye contact in the beginning. She recommends finding opportunities to talk when not looking directly at each other, like at bedtime. When talking be sure the son has turned off devices so that neither parent or child are distracted.

She says parents can find teachable moments from the media or people they meet to illustrate rules and expectations and explain them without lecturing so the son can understand the reasons behind them.

Boys may need a lot of time before they break their silence or reply in more than a few words. To help with that, parents should find a surrogate — another trusted person that your son feels comfortable talking to when he doesn’t want to talk to the parents.

The author recommends pointing out the bright side, but don’t overpromise that there won’t be hard parts about puberty. She recommends parents acknowledge their missteps, apologize, and give themselves grace and another chance to try again when mistakes are made with boys.

Click the links in this review or click here to visit my storefront to purchase your own copy of “Decoding Boys: New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons.”o

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