Recommended Reading List

The Purpose of Boys - Michael Gurian

The Purpose of Boys - Michael Gurian

Several families who attended our latest Family Seminar were interested in what we considered as some of the most recommended books to read on the subject of parenting and mentoring boys. All of the books on this list have taught us how to better teach our middle school boys. Every staff at Cherokee Creek will have their favorites, but three books in particular that really captured my attention and spoke to me were: The Purpose of Boys, Boundaries with Kids,and Wild at Heart.

Here is our recommended reading list in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name:

Beausay, Bill. Teenage Boys! Surviving and Enjoying These Extraordinary Years. 1998

Brozo, William. To Be a Boy, To Be a Reader: Engaging Teen and Preteen Boys in Active Literacy.2002

Cloud, Henry & John Townsend. Boundaries With Kids. 1998

Dobson, James. Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for those Shaping the Next Generation of Men. 2001

Eldredge, J. You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2004.

Eldredge, J. Wild At Heart. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2002.

Gurian, Michael. The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life. 2005

Gurian, Michael. The Good Son: Shaping the Moral Development of Our Boys and Young Men. 1999

Gurian, Michael. (1999). From Boys to Men: All About Adolescence and You. New York: Price Stearn Sloan.

Gurian, M. with Trueman, T. (2000). What Stories Does My Son Need?. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

Gurian, M. (2009). The Purpose of Boys. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gurian, M. & Stevens, K. (2005). The Minds of Boys. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

James, Abigail Norfleet. Teaching the Male Brain. 2007

Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louv

Last Child in the Woods - Richard Louv

Kimmel, Michael. Manhoodin America: A Cultural History. 2006

Kindlon, Dan and Thompson, Michael. Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. 1999

Mosatche, Harriet and Unger, Karen. Too Old for This, Too Young for That! Your Survival guide of the Middle-School Years. 2000

Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books.

Muharrar, Aisha. More Than a Label. 2002

Pollack, W. (1998). RealBoys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Schaffer, Susan and Gordon, Linda. Why Boys Don’t Talk and Why It Matters. 2005

Slocumb, Paul D. Hear Our Cry, Boys in Crisis. 2004

Strauch, Barbara. The Primal Teen: What the New Discoveries About the Teenage Brain Tell Us About Our Kids. 2003

Stone, Richard. (1996) The Healing Art of Storytelling. New York: Hyperion.

Tatum, Alfred.  Teaching Leadership to Black Adolescent Males. 2005

Thompson, Michael.  Speaking of Boys: Answers to the Most-Asked Questions about Raising Sons. 2000

Thompson, M. & Barker, T. (2008). It’s A Boy! Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18.New York: Random House.

Tobin, L. (1991). What Do You Do With A Child Like This? Inside the Lives of Troubled Children.Whole Person Associates: Duluth, MN.

If you would recommend other books that you have read that are not on this list, please let us know. The staff at Cherokee Creek Boys School is in perpetual learning mode!

Happy Learning!

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comment (1)

Framing Criticism

How often has what we considered a simple direction or instruction to a child escalated into a power struggle of mammoth proportions?

Denise Savidge, Academic Dean

Denise Savidge, CCBS Academic Dean

We want our child to do well in school, be fairly neat in their home environment and abide by simple rules, and when they fail to do so, it becomes a battlefield.

In a wonderful Psychology Today article (March/April 2013), writer Mary Loftus talks of the importance of giving constructive criticism in a way children can hear it. She writes, “Criticism is the single most significant factor in a child’s perception of the parental relationship. It’s important to criticize without demeaning or humiliating.” Often when we think we are giving direction, we are really beginning by condemning them, which can damage the parent/child relationship.

For poor grades or a failed experiment in something new, she suggests asking your child to evaluate his performance and ask what he got out of the experience. Then she says to turn the conversation to how they might do things differently the next time to achieve their desired result. Framing it as a lesson learned and giving options to do better the next time gives children power to overcome a failure.

How often do we come home and say, “This place is a mess. You have until so-and-so to get this cleaned up or there will be no (insert activity here.)” which is usually followed by a big argument, talking back, or worse. The problem, Loftus explains, is that we go right to the grilling and the incorrect behavior without first going on a “fact-finding  discussion.”

Instead of saying, “This playroom is a mess, you’re not having any friends over until it’s clean,”  she suggests explaining first and skip complaining, by stating “I’d love to see your playroom cleaned up by this weekend so you and your friends can have fun this weekend.”

I thought while reading the article that it sounded a little wishy-washy, so I tried it out on the messy playroom in my own basement. My daughter was having a big skating and slumber party for six girls and I had no time to straighten before racing around town to borrow a vehicle big enough to transport them all to the festivities. So I used the phrase above, word for word. Her answer: “Ok. I’ll go do that now.” I almost fell off my chair. By acknowledging that her party was important to her and phrasing the request in a positive manner, she was willing to jump right on it. Everyone was happy.

Science LabAround campus, the phrase, “How could you have done that differently resulting in a more positive result?”) is common.  (Sometimes we abbreviate to boy lingo, like, “How’d that work out for you?”)  Either way, the boys reflect and take ownership of mistakes while giving thought to what they will do better next time. There is no blame or judgment in these simple phrases and there is always another chance to do better. Often, the positive redirection with an additional chance to try again will get them to where they need to be.

Denise Savidge serves as Academic Dean at Cherokee Creek Boys School in Westminster, SC., and also teaches Language Arts and Social Studies.

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments Off on Framing Criticism

For Some Children with Communication Challenges, Seeing is Knowing

Written By: Marilee Emerson

Marilee is a consultant to CCBS

Marilee is a consultant to Cherokee Creek Boys School

One of the first questions I ask when I inquire about an individual’s communication is, “What is the most reliable way your child/student receives information?”

The vast majority of responses point to a visual channel, i.e., printed to-do lists or schedules, a picture of the end project, or photographs.

Through the years, one of the things that I’ve learned, both the hard way and easy way, is that sharing information verbally makes the information transient. Once you say it, it’s gone.

Visual information (written words, pictures, or objects) on the other hand is static. It sticks around so you can reference it, if needed.

Speaking is, of course, the quickest and most convenient way of sharing information. But, in this highly distractible world we live in, it is often wise to “back up” your verbal communication. For example, using a note, a memo, a voice recording will make the spoken words more permanent.

But, for children with communication challenges, “backing up” spoken information maybe be a necessary part of their everyday learning experience.

In fact, visual information may be the primary way to communicate; verbal sharing of information would be the back up.

It’s GREAT to be alive in the 21st century. Here’s why: Technology has made the task of supporting communication much, much easier.

One of the most helpful actions we can take for others is to clarify expectations, especially if a new task or experience is forthcoming.

Think proactive preparation. Ask yourself, “What does my child/my student need to know to be successful in this up-coming situation?

Notice I said, “…need to know…” This doesn’t mean you should prepare the child for every aspect of the situation. Rather, I recommend focusing on the areas of the situation that will make him most successful. This is often referred to as “priming.”

You can share your expectations for a variety of activities, i.e., school and community involvement, travel, social events, religious ceremonies, and doctors appointments.

Depending on your child (whom you know best), you should consider how much information to share and what’s the best format to use.

Before the Internet was so pervasive, (Yes, I’ve been teaching that long!), you might have used pictures from magazines, drawings of stick figures or Polaroid pictures. But now, you have amazing resources at our fingertips.

mom and son on computerBelow are my top 3 resources for sharing expectations:

1. Google Images– You can find almost ANYTHING on Google. I find that Internet images are good for showing specific locations, or finding brand logos and generic pictures.

2. Digital Cameras-Nowadays, if you have a cell phone, you have a camera, too. Digital pictures you take are good for illustrating step-by-step sequences or generating lists.

3. YouTube videos-Videos are another great resource. Of course, you’ll want to preview the videos before you share them. Videos are helpful for priming more involved experiences such as going to the dentist for the first time; first time flying in an airplane; how to brush teeth, make popcorn or any number of activities.

Note: If your child is overwhelmed with the narration, you can view the video without the sound. You can also make your own videos, without narration.

With so many choices for accessible visuals, it’s much easier to support learning new expectations than ever before.

I encourage you to try, even if it’s at the most basic level, and observe how your child responds to priming of expectations.

Once you know what works, experiment with other applications for growth and learning. That’s when ‘seeing is knowing’ becomes really exciting.

Have you used visuals with your child to prime him for new expectations? Please share your experiences with me or on the MyMarilee Facebook Page.

Let’s start a conversation.


Marilee Emerson is an educator who is passionate about helping families through challenging transitions. She helps parents of children with disabilities and learning differences know what they need to do next, so they can create better lives for their children and families. Her weekly newsletter Note from Marilee is full of practical tips and helpful perspectives. If you are ready to take your next best step for your child and family, sign up for a FREE subscription at

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True,Educational Insights and have Comments (2)

You Can’t Have it Both Ways

As the rain continued for the FOURTH day in Westminster, SC, I chuckled at a friend’s Facebook post saying, “Hey! Quit grumping about all this rain when just a few months ago we were grumping about the drought and low lake levels. You can’t have it both ways.”

It reminded me of how often my parents used that exact phrase. It always drove me a little bit buggy to hear it (and usually was followed by a big long argument beginning with BUT WHY CAN’T I…?). This was my parents’ phrase for teaching me that life is full of choices and choosing meant something had to be given up as part of the bargain. I spent the better part of my 20s learning and relearning that I can’t expect to have my cake and eat it too.

This lesson, along with providing opportunities for our boys to rethink actions once given the consequences, are two of the primary  steps for teaching good choice-making here at Cherokee Creek Boys School. Life is full of choices. Life is full of consequences  —  both natural and man-made. Navigating the waters of life involve consistently making better choices for ourselves and our families. It’s not an easy task and it seemed like I’d barely gotten the hang of it before it became my duty to impart it to my children as a necessary task. Talk about feeling barely qualified!

My daughter Grace, who is six, came to me the other day wanting a piece of her sister’s birthday cake. It was the pre-dinner hour. I said she could have it right then or she could have it for dessert. She of course chose right then … because she is six and there is no “later” to six-year-olds. So she had the cake and ate her dinner. Of course everyone knows what happened after dinner: Big tears, wailing, flailing and drama that there wasn’t going to be a dessert piece. I held my ground, shuffled her off to the bath, and tucked her in shortly thereafter. The big pouty lip was still there as I tried to explain to her why she couldn’t have both pieces of cake. We talked about how sometimes waiting a little bit made things even better when you finally got them. She seemed to understand as I pulled out the piece of perennial wisdom, “Sometimes you have to choose, Grace. You can’t have it both ways.”

She nodded, pulled the covers up and – as only a six-year-old can – said, “Okay. I’ll have two tomorrow to make up for it.” I sighed. Thank heavens for more tomorrows to impart the lessons of choice.

Academic Dean and Mom Denise Savidge explains choices.

Academic Dean and Mom Denise Savidge explains choices.

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on You Can’t Have it Both Ways

“Just Try It, Buddy.”

Noah Climbs

Noah reaches new heights...after voicing his concerns.

My daughter’s school recently held a short presentation that included the best and worst phrases you can say to a child. There was a buzz about the room as the audience went through the list and reacted. We parents patted ourselves on the back for the many “Best” things we said frequently to our children. We cringed at some of the “Worst” things that had been said to us as children and sheepishly admitted that, yes, we had said some of them to our children, too.

Unanimously we all paused at the end of the list of the worst statements. The phrase, “Just try it, buddy,” rounded out the list.

Of course, it must be a threat, right? “You cross that line one more time and you’ll regret it. Just try it, Buddy!” A baited warning that mom or dad had met their limit…the final straw. I am certain this is how it was meant in my house growing up and can easily visualize the body language: pointed finger, hand on hip, raised eyebrow, etc.

And then our presenter clarified why “Just try it, buddy,” had made the “Worst” list. This phrase was NOT included because of its common use as a stern warning or threat. The context, we were informed, was the circumstance where a child is communicating or demonstrating real resistance to trying something we parents think they should be ready or wanting to try that, perhaps, they are unsure, unready or afraid to attempt.  What is called for in this moment is listening…not our well-meant coaching.

“Huh? Are we not supposed to encourage our kids to try things, to step out of their box?” we challenged. Our discussion continued, a circle of folks meeting the common parenting challenge of when to push and when to pause.

Of course, as parents, teachers, counselors and clinicians, we often have to give “our kids” a nudge when it comes to new things, new activities and new responsibilities. “Just try it, Buddy,” is used here as a cautionary tale. Sometimes there is real fear, real anxiety or another “real” reason that a child is digging in their heels.

In those moments I hope I remember to pause and listen and make the statement, “I will listen to your concerns.” Ninety percent of the time it will be followed by a pep talk about perseverance over fear and trying new things…but once in a blue moon it will be time to try something different…to say, “That’s OK, Buddy, let’s try this instead.”

At Cherokee Creek Boys School we study the Way of the Warrior in the winter months. The lessons of the Warrior include knowing the right language, time, place, etc.

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (2)

Way of the Parenting Warrior

A few of of the boys with Nali, one of our canine Trek staff.

A few of of the boys with Nali, one of our canine Trek staff.

I disappointed my daughter today – her birthday, of all days. I’d promised her a dog after she tearfully approached me saying she missed our old dog that mysteriously disappeared in October. So I showed up early at preschool and took her to the local shelter. I’d secretly been doing recon on one certain dog for weeks and was confident he was still available three days since my last visit. Needless to say he wasn’t. I’d blown it. Someone saw him the day before and his sign read “I’m Adopted!!” I was crushed.

I can’t tell you how firmly my heart was set on that beautiful red chow mix. But Grace’s wasn’t – she had never met him. In her joyous, five-year-old exuberance, any old dog would do as long as we took one home then. I halfheartedly took a pretty, white, husky mix out to the dog run to play. Grace had a blast chasing him, while throwing the ball and Frisbee. He played along a little, but was more interested in menacing the puppy in the run next door and twice snapped his head around, annoyed at my daughter for interrupting that mission. Obviously, he didn’t come home with us and Grace was NOT happy. She stomped, cried, and generally made my life miserable all the way home as I attempted to explain we would try again another day. She wasn’t having it.

Upon reflection that evening, I recognized the mistakes I had made and how to fix them next time. First, I failed to set the boundaries of our visit – that we were looking for a dog, but might not take one home that day. Next visit I will remember to define the parameters ahead of time and come out the shining mom I know I am.

Second, I neglected to be consistent in my words and action. I told her she could have a dog for her birthday. That, to a five-year-old, means “dog on birthday,” so I broke my implied promise. Walking the talk is something I’m usually pretty good at when it comes to following up with consequences. I learned I need to be cognizant of saying what I mean and meaning what I say ALL the time.

Third, I forgot to conduct due diligence to see if the dog I picked as the perfect match for our family was still available. A disciplined check on the internet could have helped me avoid the whole situation. I’ve resolved that being busy isn’t an excuse for important information gathering!

This learning path I traveled falls nicely into our new quarter: The Warrior Leadership skills ask us to align our words with actions, be responsible and disciplined, and to respect limits and boundaries. When we disregard doing so, we fail ourselves and others, unintentionally or otherwise.

Not to worry, Gracie will get her dog, I will get over my disappointment, and the Husky may get another chance without distractions. Who knows? I may name him Warrior.

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (2)

Save Money This Holiday Season!

David LePere

David LePere

How many times have you heard this recently:

Save money this holiday season!

Really, it is possible. Let’s push the pause button on the rush of the season for a few minutes and think about what kind of toys our kids would do well to have.

As we prepare for the holidays and gift-giving for our children, our current culture would have us believe that more is better or that electronics lead to happiness. But I recently read an article that reminds me that it isn’t always glitz and glamor and bells and whistles that capture the attention of our children.  Imagination and interaction are the most fun part of toys.  And that what brings happiness is the thoughtfulness of the gift, not the price tag.

I was struck by the simplicity of the wisdom in this article from “WIRED” magazine about the top 5 toys of all time. When you read the article, I hope you smile as you remember all of the fun you’ve had playing with these toys yourself!

So, what are the top 5 toys of all time?? My children are 10, 7 and 5 years old and If I were to get all 5 of these toys for each my sons, I could probably spend less than 10 dollars on my entire Christmas and create hours of family fun! I’ll give you a hint…much of it can be found in your backyard or in the garage.

Enjoy the article, it’s great fun! What would you add to the list that would help us “discover what is real and true?”

The 5 Best Toys of All Time

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (3)

Touch Down! – Me, Mom & Boundaries

Matt Carla Ben

Therapist Carla Shorts with recent alumni Ben

On a Monday, many years ago, I was instructed to complete the task of cleaning my room or I would not be allowed to go to a football game with my friends that Friday night. Like most 15 year olds, I thought the request was outrageous and that surely my mother would forget about it by the time Friday actually rolled around. Boy, did I misjudge the woman. As I hair sprayed my “mall bangs” (don’t judge, it was the 90’s), my mother came into my room to inspect my progress with the assigned task. She took one look around my discombobulated living space (which I’m fairly sure resembled Calcutta at that point) and proclaimed that I would be staying in for the evening. “Was she actually serious about cleaning my room?!” I wondered.

As fate would have it she was, indeed, very serious and wasn’t being swayed by my feeble attempts to bargain with her. “I swear I’ll do it as soon as I get home!” No dice. My mother made it very clear she would not be transporting me via minivan to my high school football game. There I stood in my carefully picked out outfit and perfectly teased bangs with all the hurt and anger an adolescent girl could muster. Deep in my own crisis, I threw out the biggest weapon in my arsenal, “You are the worst mother in the world and I hate you!” My mother proceeded to tell me she regretted the decision I had made and left me to deal with my sorrow and disappointment.

In the book Boundaries With Kids, Dr. John Townsend states that, “Basically, we change when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.” That day, I learned that it was going to be more painful to miss the football game than to clean my room. I also learned that my mother was a woman who was going to follow through on her word. By setting that boundary, my mother taught me she wasn’t going to be a woman who made idle threats or tolerated disrespect.

Many years later, when I was an adult, my mother confessed she had locked herself in her bathroom that day and cried over my hurtful words. Looking back, it would have been so much easier for my mother to throw her hands in the air and allow me to go to the football game with my friends. It would have been an infinitely more simple task for her to clean my room herself rather than endure our nasty confrontation. Fortunately for me, my mother wasn’t one to take the easy way out when making difficult parenting decisions. Because I had a mother who didn’t immediately jump in to save me from my pain as a child, I’ve grown to be an individual who can navigate the waters of adulthood in a healthy, independent manner with a sense of knowing that I am responsible for my actions. Because my mother set this seemingly small boundary with me, I learned that I, too, should be a woman who keeps my word and does not tolerate disrespect from others. And for that I am thankful.

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (8)

Divine Comedy

Phil works with an early CCBS student on a building project

Phil works with an early CCBS student on a building project

“I hate you.  I’m going to run away.” That was my son at 7 years of age – willful and independent – pretty typical, I know, but then I added, “Good. I’ll help you pack.” I stood there while my son stuffed his red Elmo stuffed toy and other essentials into his small daypack and headed for the door. I was slightly amused, but also amazed and ashamed that this little powerhouse of energy was able to put me in that emotional spot so easily.

In another instant I was remembering myself as a child that age and shouting that same thing to my parents, righteously justified and utterly convinced of the injustice of my life. I also remembered the blessing uttered by parents and grandparents everywhere, “May you get one just like you.”

I often find that the universe has a sense of humor – like a perpetual April Fool’s Day.

I love my parents completely and unconditionally…a gift from the universe that was hard wired into me at birth. However, the deep love and fierce sense of protection I feel for my son is a gift from him. There is just no way I could have reached that level of emotion and devotion on my own. I needed the help of another soul, one who at times is helpless, at times is independent, but is almost always a true reflection of myself.

At Cherokee Creek Boys School, the small school with the big heart, we are entering the Visionary aspect of our Lessons of the Medicine Wheel; a time when we emphasize Truth and the lesson, “Tell the Truth without Blame or Judgement.”

For me, truth is always mixed with a little humor. And the truth is that the love we feel for our children can make fools of us all. Learning to laugh at ourselves and see our own reflection in our children is a real and true gift.

Happy April Fool’s Day

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments Off on Divine Comedy

PhD Fishing

Student Artwork by Davis!

Student Artwork by Davis!

The trout of Henry’s Fork are widely respected as some of the smartest eaters around. They have learned to detect the smallest difference between an artificial fly with a hook in it and a tasty meal. Fly fishing aficianados refer to these particular trout as “fish with PhD’s.” Catching even a small one of these geniuses is a real feather in the cap of any serious fisherman…

So there I was, standing in the current for hours, casting fly after fly at these fish with no takers. The water was clear, and I could watch fish feeding all around me, I could even see the insects they were eating. Even when I tied on a fly that matched the pattern of their bug feast exactly, they would still watch my mock insect float by. Extremely frustrating or extremely challenging depending on how you look at it.

Since I had hours to spend casting and not catching fish, I thought about my children and just how smart they are.

Every Saturday I do a run to the dump with all of our trash. Every Saturday I try to get one of my kids to go with me. I love the one-on-one time with them. Last week it was my oldest son’s turn. My first “cast” was to try and ask excitedly, “Hey, you want to go on a ride with me?”

“No thanks, Dad.” He said this without even looking up from his book.

My next cast… “It would be some great male-bonding time,” I suggested.

“Nah, that’s okay,” and still no look.

“There might be a surprise…” This cast was expertly swung to appeal to his love of ice cream. This one almost always works.

“How about later today, Dad?” And once more, not even a glance up at me.

“Riley, I want to spend some time with you. It’s important to me,” I stated simply and sincerely.

He looked right into my eyes, saw that I really meant it, put his bookmark in place, and without reservation said, “Okay, Dad. Let’s go.”

It turns out that my kids have been watching me for years. My oldest proved to me, again, that what he really wants is a father who will meet him on a genuine, honest level. He wanted the “real thing.” We had a great time riding to and from the dump, and I realized he has a PhD in me!

The people who we are close to in our lives – our families and co-workers , have “PhD’s”, too. They know when we are “fishing around.” The challenge is to stop casting disingenuous invitations to connect, and realize that only a real and true invitation will be met with enthusiasm.


Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (3)