Talking to Boys

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I’m currently reading Masterminds & Wingmen, by Rosalind Wiseman. You might know her better as the author of Queen Bees & Wannsbes (which was the inspiration for Mean Girls), but let me tell you: This woman knows boys. She’s a mom of two boys, and she worked with over 200 boys to develop and write the book.

One of the things she writes about is boys’ supposed unwillingness to talk. You know the drill:

Mom: How was school today?

Boy: I dunno. Fine.

I’m guessing you’ve heard this scenario played out more times than you can count. And if you’re anything like most moms, you keep doing it, again and again and again, even though you’ve never gotten one ounce of worthwhile info from your son this way, simply because you care. Because you care and you keep hoping.

That’s not a good idea, Wiseman says. Boys shut down when they feel interrogated. An interrogation might not be your intent — in fact, I’m willing to wager that it’s not — but that’s what it feels like to your boy. Most boys, she says, just want to relax and unwind when they get home; they don’t want to be bombarded with questions.

So what should you do instead? Wait. 

I’ve found that I get the best results if I wait for my sons to come to me.

Let me give you a glimpse into a typical afternoon at my house:

Boy #4 comes home first. I’m usually still at the kitchen table, on my computer. I look up, say hi, greet him warmly. He breezes through, barely looks at me, grabs a snack, heads to the living room and turns on the TV and his iPod. Arthur is usually on at this point. he knows I like Arthur too, and may invite me to watch with him. If he does, and if I’m available, I go sit in the living room with him. He might not pay me any attention right then, but I know he wants my presence.

Boy #3 is home next. He’ll say hi, grab his iPod and start rummaging through the cupboards. If he says anything beyond hi to me, at the point, he’s probably asking a food-related question.

Boy #1 is next. He’s typically my most talkative, but he’s not talking about school or what happened during the 7 hours he was gone; he’s talking about whatever’s on his mind and what he’s doing next. Or not. Some days, he’s talkative. Other days, he’s not. I  try to keep up.

At some point, #4 and #3 will come to me. They might come with a question or a comment, or they might just hang around me. When they come to me, they’re ready to talk. Don’t get me wrong: we’re probably not going to have an in-depth conversation. But while I never have luck with, “What happened at school today?”, if I wait for them to come to me, I might discover a random detail — which is never really random — such as, “I hate our substitute teacher.” 

Try it. Instead of asking your boy a million (or even one) question when he gets home, say hi and wait. Then come back here later and tell me what happened. I’m curious to know how it went!

Want to know more about Rosalind Wiseman and Masterminds & Wingmen? She’ll be on BuildingBoys soon! 


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