Book Review: He’ll Be OK, by Celia Lashlie

cv_hell_be_okay_lashlieAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

As a mother of two boys, one of whom has only just gone to school, I have some time before their teenage years arrive and carry them away from childhood and onto the path into adulthood. This book, nonetheless, feels essential to me already.

The edition of this book I am reading is the 10th anniversary edition of this international bestseller, published very soon after Lashlie’s death of cancer last year. Celia Lashlie traveled throughout the world as a speaker about social justice issues, and the psychology of teenage boys. The core of her work with teenage boys was the NZ Good Man Project, a project involving 25 schools from all over New Zealand, of various socio-economic backgrounds. This served to give her a solid understanding of what makes teenage boys tick, and how parents can work together to keep them on the right track.

The book itself is direct, succinct and like I guess Celia herself, not afraid to tell things straight. Each chapter tells the background of how Celia has come to the conclusions she presents, then the key messages are summarised in bullet-points. This is a very easy manner of presentation, assuming its future use as a reference text.

When I realised somebody I knew was about to start work as an English teacher at a boys’ high school I immediately said ‘Have you read He’ll be OK?’ She hadn’t, so I am going to ensure there is an opportunity to give a copy of the book to her. Every teacher working with boys – especially female teachers – should have this book.

The simplistic view I was given of boys versus girls, when I had sons, is that girls are much more complicated – with boys, they are easier to read, and so to understand. What I learned from Celia is that your son may become a monosyllabic grunter, but this is simply because they are processing everything internally, unlike girls, who are more likely to talk things out. Boys will discuss acceptable ‘male’ things like anger with one another, but not the ‘feminine’ emotions.

The essential message Celia gives to mother is, ‘Step off the bridge’. At a certain stage, your boys need to grow up, and they need you not to be forcing them to hold your hand as they do so. Common sense, sure, but something most mums are guilty of forgetting once in awhile. It is over to the fathers, or a father-figure to help them figure out their way over the bridge.

I can’t overstate the importance of this book for any mother or teacher of boys. Get this book – no matter what stage your boy is at, it will be useful.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

He’ll Be OK
by Celia Lashlie
Published by Harper Collins
ISBN 9781775540809

There is a day of lectures coming up in Wellington celebrating Celia Lashlie’s legacy, on Thursday 25 February. More information here.

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