He'll Be OK Growing Gorgeous Boys into Good Men - By Celia Lashlie

Book Review

Published in NZ Association of Counsellors Newsletter December 2006 Vol 27 No 2

When I first heard that Celia Lashlie was doing a research project into what makes a good man I thought here we go again, another woman telling us how to be men. My thoughts were, and generally still are that it's men's work to research and talk about men's issues. The same as I would not ever pretend to tell women how they are or how they should be.

Since then I have twice heard her speak about this project and more recently I have read this book I am now reviewing. I couldn't have been further from the truth. “My job was only to collect the stories and hold up the mirror [for teachers and parents of adolescent boys to see]. It was not then, nor is it now, to translate for men what they are seeing in the mirror or to tell them what to do next. I can describe what the world looks like from my perspective, but it must always be remembered and acknowledged that my perspective is that of a woman looking into the world of men”

What she did was to go into boy's secondary schools, interviewed boys in their classes (without their teacher present). She has asked them questions about what their world is like, what they need and more importantly she has listened to what they have to say.

Celia has worked extensively in Prisons. She was the first female prison officer to work in a male prison and she became the Manager of Christchurch Women's Prison. Since then she has also worked with 'at risk youth'.

She is also a single mother of two, one daughter and one son, who are now healthy well adjusted adults. She states that it was much harder to parent her son through his adolescent years than it was her daughter.

Celia has a very down to earth manner, calls a spade a spade and has a good sense of humour. These attributes coupled with her experiences described above have helped her relate very well with the young men she interviewed and helped her gain some wonderful insights into the lives of adolescent boys – and as a result into the world of men in general.

She talks about adolescence as being the bridge to adulthood. She splits it into stages correlating to the secondary school year, what it is like for boys in these stages and what they need to help them through them. She recommends that Mother step back from the bridge and that fathers firmly step onto it and she includes a chapter with tips to help single mothers do this.

She draws direct correlations between her findings and the number of young men who show up in our statistics around suicide, car accidents, alcohol problems and the young men she met in the prisons she worked in. She does this in her characteristic down to earth humorous style.

This book was very easy to read and I laughed almost all the way through it, although it does have some extremely poignant moments that tugged at my heart. I found it hard to put down and when my wife, Michelle read it after me she complained of the same thing.

It's comparatively short and does not go into a lot of detail or depth, and is probably the better for it. As with all research it doesn't provide all the answers and at times raises more questions. It does give an excellent thumbnail sketch of the life of adolescent boys on their journey to manhood.

Celia has overtly aimed this book at mothers. One criticism that I have heard is that some mothers have felt that once again they are being told that they have done it wrong and that therefore once again they are being blamed. She says that she feels that as a mother herself she is entitled to advise other mothers but as she is neither man nor father she does not feel that she can advise men/fathers. She does advise mothers to get off the bridge and she also challenges fathers that they should be firmly on the bridge and providing active parenting for their adolescent sons.

The book also contains challenges for teachers and the school system in general and it will be very useful for those of us who work with adolescent boys, mothers, fathers (and other men), and teachers.

I enjoyed this book so much that I've gone out and bought her other book 'The Journey to Prison'.

Peter Milne

West Auckland Counselling & Psychotherapy