Great post, Joanna! Did you see this piece recently by Andrew Reiner? https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2023/06/15/boys-in-crisis-masculinity-andrew-reiner It talks about the perils of disconnecting too soon.

Re #2: I've found it helpful to be open to other forms of physical affection too. I still offer (and accept!) hugs, but fist bumps & shoulder taps are good too.

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Jul 5Liked by Joanna Schroeder

Incredibly important piece, Joanna. Cheering you along as your bring more awareness to this issue. And props on the "action items" at the end. Trying to make sure I'm putting these into play in the boys and young men in my daily life.

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This resonates with me as a mom to a very snuggly toddler boy, a partner to a Millennial dad who is trying very hard to tack against toxic masculinity’s influences, and a teacher of Gen Z adolescents. These boys are remarkable -- kind, empathetic, open. I desperately want to create a world where they can remain so.

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Jul 3Liked by Joanna Schroeder

Amen! So beautifully written!!

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What a lovely list and THANK YOU for the follow up today. That means so much to me. I agree with everything you say here on how to make a difference with boys. The one I focus on hardest with my boys is active listening. I don’t presume to know how they feel or what they are interested in or whether they even want to talk. When they do talk I ask gentle, curious follow up questions that make clear how much I love them and how much I care what they are saying. I never talk about myself or what it was like when I was their age. And I never pressure them. I let them be them. One ended up in the Army (my family are pacifists) and the other in a rowing shell (which I also did in college but he found his way through his mother’s encouragement not mine, and my comments on rowing are limited to when he come to me for help).

I am spending a lot of time talking to teenaged boys these day, as well as their principals and teachers. There is no space for these boys to be vulnerable. They are alone and emotionally shut down. Somehow we as a society have to change that if we are ever going to get anywhere.

With my sons and the boys I talk to so much of what happens is non-verbal. Males are like that. My sons watch every move I make--what I do--even when they nor I say a word. The same is true of the boys I meet in schools. They read my body language trying to figure out if they can really trust me with any tiny scrap of truth they might tell me about themselves.

Thank you so much for the work you are doing Joanna. We are all in this together.

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I think these individual actions are super valuable and helpful, but I'd also add that parents should be working on supporting home and social structures and laws that make boys safer too -- sane gun control laws and not having guns in the home, for example (boys are more likely to die by suicide than girls are because men are more likely to use firearms).

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I love me a good list of parenting tips! ;)

I'm in favor of supporting boys and giving them enough emotional fluency to grow into emotionally balanced men who can express their emotions as well as support others. In the abstract like that, there's not much down side. Where I think it gets tricky is when the difficult emotion in question is sexual frustration or abandonment. There aren't many good models for what to do with that, but there are abundant examples and condemnation of those examples of bad ways to express that. The natural lesson to learn is keep those feelings to yourself - they are toxic and dangerous feelings.

I don't have a solution to that and don't expect you to, either, but I think there's a lack of sympathy and/or non-stigmatized ways to deal with that for both boys and men, that leads to sexual frustration being such a suppressed and dangerous feeling for *some* men. For example, I think we as a culture could be a lot more positive and encouraging about masturbation as an outlet, but by and large it's treated as gross (when boys do it) or the shameful refuge of creeps who aren't attractive enough to find a consensual partner. Whether 14 or 40, the feeling of isolation and deprivation is way deeper than "But my boner!", but that's a feeling that the world - including feminists - usually treat with hostility. Shutting down emotionally may be a bad coping mechanism, but it tends to feel better than getting attacked or feared if a boy (or man) strays outside the "Allowed" zones of which feelings he's allowed to have. Shutting down then becomes easy to generalize to other feelings, not just the sexual ones.

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