How to Raise a Boy with Michael C. Reichert


How do you raise boys to become great men?

That’s the big question we tackle here at On Boys. It’s the question Jen grapples with in her own home and on BuildingBoys, and the question Janet helps parents and teachers explore and answer through her coaching and online courses.

Michael C. Reichert has spent a lot of time studying this question as well. He’s a psychologist, dad & grandfather of boys and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives. He’s also the author of the recently released book, How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men.

The key, he says, is to make sure your boys feel known and loved.

Many people today blame “toxic masculinity” for violent, entitled and racist behavior in men and boys. But blaming “masculinity” for these behaviors draws attention away from the ways the current method of raising and socializing boys leads to all kinds of harms, including loss of virtue, loss of connection and loss of humanity, Reichert says.

Unfortunately, stereotypes about boys & masculinity cause many of us to forget or neglect boys’ basic need for connection. Pushing a boy out of the nest too early — insisting he go it alone with minimal support — does not lead to strength, resilience and grit. Boys who lack a solid relational anchor (usually, a strong relationship with a parent or other adult) are adrift — and these the boys who harm themselves and others.

Of course, boys don’t make connection easy. Thanks in part of stereotypes and societal expectations, boys are likely to resist, reject and avoid your efforts to connect. Try anyway. Keep trying. Reichert recommends these three strategies to build connection: 

1 Deep listening

2. Special time

3. The listen-limit-listen model of discipline

It’s possible to reach your son, no matter how disconnected he may be, Reichert says. It is never too late to develop and deepen your relationship with your son.

Raising good boys, Reichert says, is really quite simple.  “If we violate boys’ basic natures, bad outcomes will ensue,” he says, “If we meet their basic needs, they’re likely to wind up connected to their hearts, connected to their virtue and connected to their goodness.”

Memorial to the victims of the Portland MAX train shooting
In this episode, Janet, Jen & Michael discuss:
  • The importance of connection to boys
  • How relationships help boys become good men
  • The “Man Box” & how it restricts & harms boys
  • The 2017 MAX train attack in Portland & what it teaches us about masculinity
  • Toxic masculinity
  • The mama’s boy myth (Spoiler alert: It is NOT TRUE that only men can teach boys how to be good men)
  • Dads’ role in raising boys (Spoiler: It’s NOT to teach him the secrets of masculinity)
  • 3 strategies to build connection with boys
  • Why boys won’t work for teachers they don’t believe care about them
  • How stereotypes affect boys’ behavior
  • Why you need to create space & time to simply be delighted by your boys
  • How to control your emotions so you can become emotionally available to your son
  • Why it’s perfectly OK to not be perfect
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men — Michael’s book — Michael’s website (includes contact information)

The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger — book by Kate Stone Lombardi

When Boys Become Boys: Development, Relationships, and Masculinity — book by Judy Chu, mentioned at 19:58

The Truth About Parenting Teen Boys — BuildingBoys post that addresses the “asshole” question mentioned at 28:00