Michael, Could you tell us about what Inspired you to write a Book
Working as the consulting psychologist to a boys’ school outside Philadelphia since 1987, I’ve seen close-up how little has been actually understood about how boys grow and learn. I conducted a series of global studies that revealed boys to be relational learners – their connection with their teacher or coach determined whether they could invest themselves or not. But the studies also revealed how poorly those in the trenches working with boys recognized the make-or-break nature of the relational connection. I wrote a couple of books on that research, did lots of trainings and talks, and realized that what was true in schools was also true in families – not to mention in the society as a whole.
Titled How to Raise a Boy- The Power of Connection to Build Good Men?We played with a number of titles but decided on a title that recognized the fundamental, paradigm shift I was recommending. Assuming that parents hope for their sons to become good men, my goal is to shift the focus to the power of the relationships we provide to shape that outcome.
What have you discussed and learned along the way of putting this Book together?
Great question (1) how hungry parents – and all of us – are for a guiding theory based in science and research, rather than on prejudice and stereotype. (2) how this message has transcended politics, even at a time when masculinity is so weaponized. I have spoken with many parent groups on the left and right coasts – but also with audiences at boys’ military schools, evangelical christian audiences, urban school audiences and the most elite communities and schools in the world. In each place, parents’ have shown palpable longing for a reliable theory to guide their work.
Could you share with Parents how we can help our Young Boys?I describe three different strategies in my book for how to strengthen relationships: deep listening, special time and a listen-limit-listen model for discipline. Each emphasizes the quality of the parent’s attention and ability to prioritize knowing our son’s heart – what he is thinking and feeling, what he wants – over requiring him to satisfy us. So often, our urgencies, worries or irritations drive our interactions with boys. But if our real goal is every boy known and loved, each must must believe his parent knows his thoughts and feelings – which only happens when they listen.
What can we do to help prepare them for Jr. High, High School and College Years?There will be challenges, for sure, and we cannot protect them from all those that will arise – or we risk communicating a lack of confidence in their ability to make their own way in the world. Better is to make sure they have at least one “relational anchor”, a place where they can be themselves. Experiencing themselves being known and loved helps them to remember who they truly are even as peer pressures or temptations push and pull them away from core values at odds with contemporary culture. If we want boys to fight to stay true to themselves, we have to fight to keep them close.
What can we do right by our Boys and what do we need to stop doing at home?
Boys elicit more “command and control” parenting, typically, and more physical discipline. But it is one thing to dominate a boy, to see him as somehow feral and animal-like and to threaten and scare him into conformity, but quite another to strengthen his sense of himself and his connection to his own heart. As I said, if we want a boy to hold onto himself, we have to hold onto them ourselves.
Can we create an atmosphere where our Boys enjoy a simple Childhood?
Boyhood must be grounded in the fundamentals of developmental science – in particular, that all children, all human beings, are born to love and wired to connect. That means we must recognize the emotional and relational dimensions of boys and make sure we provide the nurture and resources which allow them to exercise those human qualities. I have found, quite simply, that if we build it – a boyhood based on the realities of boys’ human natures – they will come.
Please share your Perspective for Parents, on what to not to stress over and what to do when they feel like they need extra support?
Parenting boys can be quite challenging, just as teaching them often is, because boys often behave in ways that elicit strong feelings – anger, fright, impatience. Parents often cannot tell they are getting through because their son has gone behind a mask. Frustrated, scared, parents and other caregivers can revert to using strong-arm tactics of domination, punishment and threat, violating their son’s faith in being “well-held” and treated with love and respect. But it is up to us adults to remember there is always a beating heart behind the mask, that boys yearn to be known and loved, and that they cannot really live without being “well held.”