Brendan Kwiatkowski: Connecting w Teen Boys

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Brendan Kwiatkowski knows that connecting with teenage boys requires understanding, patience, and a willingness to create a safe emotional space.

Kwiatkowski, PhD, a renowned researcher specializing in boys’ emotions, experiences, and masculinities, says that teen boys “assume most people don’t want to hear about their negative emotions.”

Helping Boys Express Their Emotions

One of the key factors in a boy’s ability to express his emotions is his parents’ response to his distress. If a boy knows that his anger, sadness, or frustration will upset his parents’ equilibrium, he is more likely to stifle his emotions. On the other hand, if he feels that his parents will respond with calm compassion, he is more likely to share his feelings honestly.

It’s important for parents to create a supportive environment where their sons feel safe to express themselves. This means responding to their emotions without judgment or immediate solutions, simply listening and validating their feelings. Don’t fret if you don’t always respond perfectly. It’s okay to miss the mark sometimes. Research has shown that parents can miss the mark 70% of the time and still raise well-adjusted children, as long as they apologize and strive to make things right when they falter.

Encouraging Teen Boys to Talk

Interestingly, Kwiatkowski’s research shows that teenage boys are often most comfortable opening up to women. Therefore, moms have a unique opportunity to foster a deeper connection with their sons by being approachable and supportive listeners.

Modeling authenticity and vulnerability is another powerful way to encourage boys to open up. Kwiatkowski emphasizes the importance of being genuine and honest with your own emotions. “I never would expect a teenage boy to be honest with me if I’m not demonstrating that myself,” he says. Acknowledging the contradictions and tensions in being a boy or man and discussing these openly can help create a more trusting and open dialogue.

Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode: — Brendan’s website

Re: Masculine — Brenda’s album about masculinity

Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Matter More Than Peers, by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate — book recommended by Brendan Kwiatkowski

What You Need to Know About Boys & Suicide (w Katey McPherson) — ON BOYS episode


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