Worthwhile advice for mothers of sons

Elspeth McLean reviews Mothers Raising Sons.

Nigel Latta
Harper Collins, $29.99, pbk

"Your poor mother," is a common reaction my offspring encounter when new acquaintances find out I have four sons and no daughters.

"No, don't feel sorry for her. She loves having sons," they respond.

They're right. I do.

Hopefully, after reading Dunedin clinical psychologist Nigel Latta's latest book on child-rearing, Mothers Raising Sons, some other mothers might find increased enjoyment and enthusiasm for raising boys.

He says he wrote the book because he wanted mums to know they aren't bad for boys, to allow them to make more informed judgements about what matters for their sons, and to increase their awareness about the politics behind parenting advice. (It is hard not to shout hallelujah about all that.)

Latta has a look at research behind some of the issues which might worry mothers, including whether there is a crisis in boys' education.

He points out that if there is any picture emerging it is that some boys rather than all boys are in trouble.

He argues that it is attending good schools with good teachers that is important, not whether they are single sex or co-educational.

Refreshingly, particularly for those raising sons alone who might be worrying about whether there are good male role models for them, Latta says what boys need is good role models and it doesn't much matter what sex they are.

The essentials of being a good man, Latta says, are the core values of responsibility, humbleness and compassion.

Latta's side-chat can be irritating when you want him to cut to the chase, but if you stick with him you will find much that is worthwhile, including an excellent section on crime.

He points out that most teenagers fall into the idiot category rather than that of the persistent offender.

Examples showing where parents went wrong when dealing with their son's skirmishes with crime do not pull any punches.

- Elspeth McLean is the mother of four adult sons. Widowed in 1998 when her eldest son was 15, she has been a single parent since.

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