2017 was the year I realized how hungry parents are for information about tween and teen boys — and yet another year in which my own teens challenged everything I thought I knew. (For most of the year, I had 3 teens and 1 tween.)
It was a year in which sex and consent were on everyone’s minds. As the #MeToo movement took off nationally, as powerful men fell from their positions, we parents of boys wondered, how can we do better? How can we raise sons who respect all human beings?
All year long, all around the globe, we struggled with school and homework, technology and discipline. We shared information and supported one another, both here and in our private Facebook group. Collectively, we learned that we are not alone. Other families are dealing with similar issues, and some have figured out ingenious tips and tricks that make life a little bit easier, at least for awhile. Because that’s how parenthood goes, right? As soon as you get a handle on an issue, your child grows and morphs, and you have an entirely new set of challenges.
We’ll be here with you for the long haul. Here’s a look at our 10 most popular posts of 2017:
I wrote this post a year ago, and it continues to resonate. That’s likely because it cuts to every parents’ desire to, well, raise a decent human being.
I am convinced, though, that if we want peace in this world, we need to begin in our own homes. The ways in which we raise our children affects them profoundly — it colors their perception of normal and acceptable, and teaches them what is tolerable and what is not. The way we treat our children is reflected in the ways they treat others. (Will they always follow our example? No. But our example will always stick in their heads.)
It’s absolutely essential that we talk to our boys about sexual harassment, consent and healthy relationships. And though the cultural focus right now is on men who have sexually harassed and assaulted women, our boys need to know that males can be victims too. They also need to know how to get themselves out of uncomfortable sexual situations.
A study published in 2014 found that 43 percent of high school boys and young college men had had an unwanted sexual experience and of those, 95 percent said a female acquaintance was the aggressor. According to one of the researchers, ” ‘unwanted seduction’ of young men by women is largely overlooked in existing academic research…[but is] a particularly pervasive form of sexual coercion in this study, as well as peer pressure and a victim’s own sense of an obligation.”
Translation: Boys are having sex because they feel pressure from girls, from their friends and from themselves.
Most schools are far too sedentary for boys (and girls). The good news is that educators are beginning to realize the link between movement and learning, and schools are increasingly looking for ways to incorporate movement into the school day. That’s an effort we should support and encourage, but let’s face it: it’s going to take time for our schools to change. In the meantime, you can boost your boys’ learning and all-around mood by letting him move freely at home.
When I facilitate and accept their need for movement, I help my boys to understand and accept it as normal, instead of something to suppress. I help them test their physical boundaries and develop their bodies and minds. And most importantly, I give them a space to be themselves. After sitting in school all day — a place that too often subtly shames boys for their interests and ways of perceiving and interacting with the world — it’s a relief, I think, for my boys to be able to be.
Stress is a fact of life, and whether your son is 2, 12 or 20, there are going to be times when his stress levels escalate to the point that they affect the entire family. This post includes 5 tips you can use to help your son calm down.
The research shows that boys are likely to ignore stress. They may deny their stressful feelings or refuse to think about the issue causing them stress. And while both strategies may work in the short-term, neither is a long-term solution. So your first step as a parent may be to help your son realize that feeling stressed out is a signal, a signal that something needs to change.
This post started with a heartfelt question from one parent to another. To date, I believe it’s the only BuildingBoys post that contains the word “asshole.”
Your son will not make it through his teen years without doing something he’s not supposed to. He’ll get a bad grade (or fail a class or three). He’ll crash the car, get caught in a lie, come home drunk…the list of possibilities is endless. It’ll be up to you to enforce consequences, but please remember that no human is perfect. Boys, especially, learn via trial and error, and sometime they have to screw up — and experience the consequences of their mistake — to learn the “right” way to do things.
Sensing a theme here?
Teenage boys are awesome. And infuriating. It’s OK to be completely frustrated by them. It’s OK to wish this stage away, to not love the teen years. It doesn’t make you a bad parent, nor your kid a bad kid.
Every parent of boys must grapple with the weapons question — will you or will you not let your son play with toy weapons? — sooner or later. It’s a question that causing a lot of anxiety and stress for a lot of parents, especially as our societies continue to grapple with the acceptability of weapons in public places.
Research into weapons play has shown it to be a very nearly universal experience for human boys. Boys’ fascination with weapons, researchers have concluded, is very normal and natural, and likely due to a combination of biology and socialization. Furthermore, weapons play does not increase the likelihood of real-life violence or aggression. Quite the contrary: boys seem to use weapons play as a way to experiment with power and dominance, to try on various roles and negotiate imaginary challenges.
Tune-out, bored boys are nearly endemic in our society. But as writer Rick Ackerly makes clear in this post, boys’ apparent disinterest may have more to do with adults’ failure to engage and recognize boys’ potential and interests than anything else.
So many boys are suffocating in their unused abilities. By the time they come to kindergarten their brains have been researching, collaborating and creating for more than 43,000 hours. Do schools give them a mission? or do they say: do this meaningless task on your own? This indignity sometimes continues for the next 13 years. Forty-years of working with children, teachers and parents has confirmed for me that learning by doing is better for the development of all brains, but girls seem to be able to get good grades without it. Most boys need to act, or they will “act out.”
I love that this simple post from 2009 is on 2017’s Top 10 list! Whether you’re dealing with toddlers or teens, hugs are helpful. All humans — boys included — need loving touch.
Young boys, Thompson says, will ask for a hug when they need it. (Which is why I’ve been getting such wonderful, wonderful hugs from Boy #4 lately.) But older boys look to their parents for cues. If his parents seem at all uncomfortable about hugging and physical closeness, the growing boy soon stops asking and gets his physical contact through aggression instead.
A lot of parents are surprised by the changes that seem to suddenly attack our boys around age 11 or so — and extremely comforted when they find out that they (and their boys) are not going crazy. I’m currently on my fourth trip through tween boydom, and in this post, I distill my experience into 6 tips to help you survive your son’s trip through the tweens.
Your son’s brain is still developing. His executive functioning — the cognitive skills he uses to assess risk and prioritize and organize — won’t mature until he’s in his 20s. Your son isn’t messy and disorganized because he’s lazy — well, not only because he’s lazy. He’s messy and disorganized because he’s still developing self-control — and because his priorities are not the same as yours.
What was your favorite post of 2017? Tell us in the comments below!