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Book Review: Masterminds and Wingmen

This is the most detailed, research-based, yet practical book on boys you will ever find. After the bestseller Queen Bees and Killer Bees (which led to the movie Mean Girls), Rosalind Wiseman has now focused on boys and how they interact in groups.

Masterminds and Wingmen explores the roles boys have in a group, for instance the mastermind (the leader), the entertainer, or the conscience. Wiseman described these roles in an article for Family Circle, which gives a good overview.

The book isn’t just about the roles boys have in groups—though that’s an underlying structure that Wiseman keeps referring to. She tackles topics like gaming, girls, sports, communication, lying, bullying, and much more.

mastermindsWhat makes this book so practical is the advice Wiseman shares for parents—which is also relevant for educators and youth workers by the way. Throughout the books there are ‘landmines’: hot situations you may find yourself in what your son or a boy you’re working with that are potentially explosive. These are great eye openers that equip you to handle these situations better, for instance with suggestions on how to handle that conversation.

Aside from these landmines, the book is stuffed with practical advice—based on hundreds of interviews with teenage boys. An example is how much boys hate it when a parent bombards them with questions right after they arrive home from school. I’ve adapted my style after reading this and now allow my 8-year old some downtime before asking him how his day went.

Wiseman doesn’t shunt the difficult topics, and also isn’t afraid to be critical. The special treatments athletes get for instance is of concern to her, especially when these kids are so protected they never face consequences of negative behavior. It’s not hard to see potentially destructive patterns forming right there. Parents and coaches get discussed as well, with some notable extremes.

This book is highly recommended for anyone parenting boys or working with boys. You’ll certainly gain many new insights. That being said, the book does offer somewhat of a bleak outlook and may discourage you. I certainly was a little struck by how hard it is to not just raise a boy, but be one as well in this day and age. Thank God we don’t have to do it alone—we can trust God in this aspect of our lives as well.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book if you’ve read it. What stood out most to you?

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