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Over the last year or so, as story after story of men’s misconduct hit the headlines, one question rang out in the hearts, minds and souls of parents: How do we raise boys to become good men?
Boys, we know, are not born evil or prejudiced. We’ve seen their sweetness. We tousle their hair and tuck them in bed. We step over plastic dinosaurs and sit on the sidelines in all kinds of weather because we care about our boys. Because we love them. Because we want them to share their gifts and talents with the world.
None of us wants to raise a sexual abuser, serial predator or school shooter. But none of us are quite sure how to insure against those awful possibilities. We don’t know the exact recipe for a good man. Sure, we have some ideas, but in real time, most of us are just doing the best we can, minute to minute. Raising boys in a culture that’s rapidly changing brings some real challenges, and those of us born before the turn of the century aren’t sure how to parent the digital natives who share our homes.
Washington Post writer and editor Amy Joyce is intimately familiar with the challenges of raising boys; she has two sons, ages 9 and 11. In 2018, motivated in part by national discussions about masculinity and how to raise good men, she and a team of journalists talked to boys, parents and experts about what it’s like to be a boy today. The resulting three articles, published in late 2018, captured the essence of American boys at this critical juncture in time. The articles focus on boys at three discrete stages: Age 8, Age 11 and Age 17. Jen calls this series “the most real and compassionate portrayal of boys and their families in the media in a long time.”
We talked to Amy about this ground-breaking series and her experience raising boys.
In this episode, Janet, Jen, & Amy discuss:
- Why the Washington Post produced this series, and how they found the boys and families they featured
- Possible plans for a follow up series
- Real-life challenges of boys and their parents
- Generational changes and challenges
- The “how do I not raise a jerk?” question
- How our stereotypical beliefs about boys can limit our boys, our parenting and our teaching
- Implicit biases against boys
- How working on this series changed Amy’s approach to parenting her sons
- Male friendships during the tween and teen years
- Changing expectations for boys and men
- The public response to the WaPo series
- Why listening to — and not underestimating — boys is key to raising great men
Links we mentioned (or should have) in Episode 145:
Being a Boy: Age 8 — Washington Post article
Being a Boy: Ages 11 & 12 — Washington Post article
Being a Boy: Age 17 — Washington Post article