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Education Reporter

Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons, Meg Meeker, Regnery Publishing, 2008, 287 pages, $24.95

As a pediatrician with more than 20 years experience, Meg Meeker has witnessed firsthand the toxic effects that several major cultural shifts have had on boys. American boys spend an average of 45.5 hours a week immersed in various media: TV, computers, radio, CDs or MP3s. Between school, organized sports and activities, and the equivalent of a full-time job spent tuning in to popular culture, too many boys lose touch with their parents and their parents' guidance.

Boys need less of everything, contends Meeker — less of everything except their parents. In Boys Should be Boys, Meeker challenges parents to ignore the pressure to overschedule their sons, and the pressure to buy them everything that magazines and commercials tell them they need.

Parents, not peer pressure, play the largest role in the decisions teenagers make, according to Meeker. Sons need their parents' firm and loving discipline, but they also need close family relationships. This may not always be obvious to parents, which is one of the special challenges of raising sons. As Meeker reveals, a son really does need to feel "appreciated, loved, and affirmed for who he is as a young man." She discusses at length how both mothers and fathers can foster this kind of relationship with their sons, and her book is full of both principles and practical advice on raising sons.

"The truth is that much of the moodiness, the temper tantrums, and the defiance against parents that we assume is simply part of adolescence is not normal," writes Meeker. By resisting the degrading aspects of popular culture and providing positive, inspiring alternatives for boys, parents can encourage their sons to grow into strong, virtuous men. Meeker identifies specific virtues toward which boys should strive, and how parents and others can help them to do so.

"A boy can learn self-control in a matter of moments from a man he respects who exhibits self control," she writes. "When a boy sees how self control benefits his father, and everyone in the family, he learns an important lesson." There is no easy shortcut for parents — boys learn from what their parents do as well as from what they say. Meeker challenges every parent to live a virtuous life that will inspire sons to follow their parents' careful example.

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