241 episodes

Ever wonder why do boys DO that? Join co-hosts Jennifer L.W. Fink, mom of four boys, and Janet Allison, parenting coach & educator, as they explore and explain boy behavior. Their weekly conversations include a healthy dose of humor & insight, and feature take-away tips you can use right now, at home or in the classroom, to help boys grow into healthy, happy men. Whether your boys are teens or toddlers, you’ll find a big dose of support, encouragement and camaraderie at On Boys.

ON BOYS Podcast Janet Allison, Jennifer LW Fink

    • Kids & Family

Ever wonder why do boys DO that? Join co-hosts Jennifer L.W. Fink, mom of four boys, and Janet Allison, parenting coach & educator, as they explore and explain boy behavior. Their weekly conversations include a healthy dose of humor & insight, and feature take-away tips you can use right now, at home or in the classroom, to help boys grow into healthy, happy men. Whether your boys are teens or toddlers, you’ll find a big dose of support, encouragement and camaraderie at On Boys.

    Parenting Through Health Challenges

    Parenting Through Health Challenges

    Parenting inevitably includes health challenges.

    Kids get sick. Parents get sick. And injuries and accidents happen more often than we'd like. Learning how to manage a medical diagnosis -- and navigate the health system -- is a crucial parenting skill.

    "Boy mom" and COVID, cancer and heart failure survivor Jen Singer has more medical system experience than most parents. She was diagnosed with lymphoma when her boys were eight and ten years old.

    "I learned, by doing, how to advocate for myself," says Singer. When her local hospital refused to perform a PET scan that she knew was crucial to the proper diagnosis and treatment of her illness, she signed herself out of that hospital AMA (against medical advice) and sought care in NYC instead. That PET scan was key to her treatment and eventual recovery.

    (The Right) Information is Empowering

    Singer, a medical writer who parlayed her experience into a series of books, the Just Diagnosed Guides, says that parents (and others) should not rely on search engines for medical information. When you receive a diagnosis, "Don't Google it," she says, because the results "are unfiltered." The info you find may be incorrect or out-of-date.

    In case of a serious diagnosis, do not believe the statistics you find online. General survival statistics, she says, "always include the oldest and sickest people" and may not reflect your  experience.

    Getting Necessary Care

    Unfortunately, patients and families often have to push to get the care they need (and deserve). Don't assume that "your" doctor (or the first doctor you see) knows best. If a doctor or healthcare professional doesn't listen to you, adequately answer your questions, or take your concerns seriously, you should probably seek another medical opinion.

    "If you feel like you're not being heard, get a second opinion," Singer says.

    That's not always easy -- particularly for patients in rural areas and those with restrictive health insurance policies or no health insurance -- but when faced with a serious diagnosis, it's worth the effort to explore all options. In some cases, you may be able to access specialists in other parts of the country via telehealth.

    Helping Kids Cope with Illness

    "I used to think I ruined their childhoods by having cancer," Singer says, "because all of their innocence was taken away at one time." Yet she realizes that her sons learned a lot about independence and caring for others through their shared family experience.

    Still, when she was diagnosed with heart failure in 2020, she "immediately set up support" for her sons, even though they are now young adults, because she knew another serious illness "was going to be a major flashback for them." She looped in caring family and friends and asked them to text and check in on them.

    Parents (and others) need to allow boys to experience and express their feelings, both physical and emotional.

    "We do our boys and our men a tremendous disservice by expecting them not to feel their feelings," Singer says, "and it causes them problems, health-wise and in communication" with others in their lives.

    In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Jen discuss:

    * Getting a diagnosis

    * Finding reliable medical information

    * When (and how) to switch doctors or seek a second opinion

    * Helping kids cope w a parent illness

    * Determining what information to share (and not share) with others

    * Supporting people who are sick

    * Asking for (and accepting) help

    * Teaching boys to manage health & medical issues

    • 44 min
    Gender Equality, Boys and Men

    Gender Equality, Boys and Men

    Doing more for boys and men does not require an abandonment of the ideal of gender equality. In fact, it is a natural extension of that. -- Richard V. Reeves

    Those words are from a new book Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why it Matters, and What to Do About It, by Richard V. Reeves, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, a public policy think tank based in D.C., and a father of three grown sons.

    Boys and men (as a group) now fare worse than girls and women (as a group) in school and in the workplace. (In fact, the gender gap in college education is now wider than it was in the 1970s - but flipped, with far fewer males than females attending or graduating from college.) Males are also generally less healthy and die sooner than females. Yet these gender gaps aren't often discussed and, to date, there's been little action to address these concerning statistics.

    "The gender inequality that Title IX was intended to tackle [in education] is now larger but completely flipped," Reeves says. Also, many American men now earn less than many American women. White women, in fact, now out earn Black men.

    Obviously, progress still needs to be made in terms of women's rights. But we can't continue to focus on girls and women and ignore the needs of boys and men. We must also address the issues affecting males. That's how we work toward gender equality.

    Redshirt the Boys?

    Given the fact that males typically develop more slowly than similarly-aged females, Reeves proposes redshirting boys, or having boys start kindergarten a year later than their female peers.

    "The main reason girls are doing better in school than boys is because they mature much earlier than boys," he says. At age 15, in fact, the average boy is developmentally two years behind the average 15-year-old girl.

    The current educational system is better aligned with girls' development. "The structural advantage in the educational system that treats 15- and 16-year old boys and girls as if they were the same is becoming apparent," Reeves says. "We couldn't see it before because sexism was holding girls down. Now that we've taken those barriers off, you're seeing girls flying."

    Starting boys in formal education one year later would "level the playing field," Reeve believes, particularly because a policy or proposal to start all boys a year later would extend the benefit of extra time to lower-income boys. (At present, many high income families do redshirt their sons. Private schools often recommend redshirting boys.)

    Like so many parents of boys, Reeves assumed his sons were being deliberately lazy during their teen years. He's since realized that, "This is neuroscience. These brain synapses need time to develop."

    Encouraging Boys to Pursue HEAL Jobs

    HEAL jobs -- those in the health, education, administration, and literacy/communication fields -- are in great demand. Yet despite the fact that males are under-represented in these fields -- and health and education, for instance, are facing critical staff shortages -- there's not yet been a concerted effort to encourage boys and young men to pursue these careers.

    That's a mistake, Reeves says.

    "We're trying to solve labor shortages in healthcare and education with half the workforce," he says. "I think we owe it to ourselves, and to our kids, to make a huge investment in helping get men into those growing jobs o...

    • 54 min
    Step in or Step Back?

    Step in or Step Back?

    Independence is good for kids. 

    Helicopter parenting is bad for kids.

    But figuring out when to step in or step back...well, that's a challenge!

    When another boy punched her 11 year old son in the face during hockey practice, writer and "boy mom" Caren Chesler acted immediately. "I had one leg over the half-wall and was stepping onto the players’ bench when the coach looked up and our eyes met," Caren wrote in a Washington Post article. " Mine were still saying, 'Are you kidding me?!' while his were saying, 'Lady, I got this.'”

    Caren backed away and let the coach handle the situation. After practice, her son told her that he and the other boy worked things out.

    Like so many parents, Caren feels compelled to act "when I see my son in harm's way, whether it's socially or physically," she says. She know there's value in giving her son space and time to navigate challenges, but it's not easy to sit on the sidelines. Yet as our boys grow, they want (and need!) opportunities to manage conflict and challenges.

    Managing Parental Anxiety

    Often, parent involvement is driven by parental anxiety. Caren has realized that her tendency to involve herself in her son's social issues is stems from "my own personal feelings, memories, scars, and traumas," she says.

    "I can tell there's something wrong because when something happens to my son, I feel like it's happening to me," Caren says. That recognition spurred her to work on separating her issues from her son's.

    Managing our anxiety -- and our desire to step in -- is a constant process. As we recognize and address personal traumas and tendencies, our kids grow and change as well. We must adapt our parenting to the new moment. Rather than rigidly adhering to a set of rules or guidelines, it's best to ground our actions in honesty and integrity.

    Admit your mistakes to yourself (and your son). Adjust your rules. Experiment, and then readjust again, as necessary. And as many times as necessary.

    In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Caren discuss:

    * "Mom instincts" that compel us to act

    * Dealing with our "stuff" so we can give our boys the chance to deal with their stuff

    * Male vs. female friendships

    * Making yourself available vs. directly intervening

    * Giving kids space on social media

    * Managing video games

    * Adjusting your parenting positions

    * Setting limits

    * Discussing mistakes

    Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

    I'm Too Involved as a Parent. For My Son's Sake, I'm Trying to Change. -- Washington Post article by Caren

    Probing the Complex Influence of Video Games on Young Minds -- Discover article by Caren

    The Model of a Mother and Son Project -- Next Avenue article by Caren

    Encouraging Independence -- ON BOYS episode

    Video Game Addiction -- ON BOYS podcast

    BACK TO SCHOOL is happening around the globe and that carries it’s own set of challenges. Join Amy McCready for the BACK TO SCHOOL SurTHRIVAL training.  End homework hassles, put the responsibility where it belongs (your kiddo…) and more.

    • 42 min
    Braden Bell Explains Middle School Boys

    Braden Bell Explains Middle School Boys

    Middle school boys may seem messy and mysterious, but they're also entertaining, challenging, and inspiring, says Braden Bell.

    The middle school years are "a wonderful, magical moment," says Bell, an experienced educator, father, and grandfather. "It's important to keep in mind that we are not raising 6th graders, we are not raising 7th graders -- we are raising future adults who currently happen to be in 6th or 7th grade."

    Keeping that long view in perspective is helpful because if we stop the metaphorical film at any moment, we're likely to feel stress because a lot of change happens during the tween and teenage years. But "if we realize that's a natural part of becoming an adult, that gives us a little more space and freedom to model grace and resilience ourselves," Bell says. A parent's role is to provide love, encouragement, guidance, and empathy.

    "Our job is not to solve their problems," Bell says. "We don't want our children to face their first problems alone when they're 25 or 30."

    Giving middle school boys agency to tackle their problems allows them to develop the skills and stamina they'll need to problem-solve as adults. And the beauty of tweendom and adolescence is that boys don't know what they can't yet do! During their tween and teenage years, they're more apt to set and attempt to achieve audacious goals than at most other parts of life.

    "I think that if we start with the assumption that our child can probably do far more than we think they can, that is almost always going to be true," Bell says. However much you think your child can do, he almost certainly can do more. But, he cautions, it has to be on your son's time. You can't push him, force him, or incentivize him.

    Bell's (borrowed from a 14-year-old) advice, to both middle school boys & their parents: Choose the kindest possible response in every situation.

    In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Braden discuss:

    * Why middle school boys need struggle

    * Backing off so boys can tackle their problems & set & strive for goals

    * How autonomy builds competence, confidence, and self-respect

    * Boys & tech

    * Collaborative rule-setting

    * Nurturing boys' strengths - while giving them time & space to mature

    * Respecting boys' development

    * Helping boys cope with school

    * Dealing w your sons' teachers

    Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

    Parent-Teacher Conference: A Teacher-Dad on Parenting Teens — Braden’s newsletter (Don't miss "My Parents Refused to Intervene. It Remains One of Their Most Enduring, Precious Gifts to Me.")

    Honoring Dads on Father's Day (& Always) -- ON BOYS episode featuring Braden

    Managing Screen Time -- ON BOYS episode featuring Devorah Heitner (mentioned at 16:32)

    Middle School Matters with Phyllis Fagell -- ON BOYS episode

    BACK TO SCHOOL is happening around the globe and that carries it’s own set of challenges. Join Amy McCready for the BACK TO SCHOOL SurTHRIVAL training.  End homework hassles, put the responsibility where it belongs (your kiddo…) and more.  Go to:  https://boysalive.

    • 47 min
    Michael Gurian on Raising Boys

    Michael Gurian on Raising Boys

    When Michael Gurian published The Wonder of Boys in 1996, there "wasn't any national consciousness about boys' issues," he says.

    A quarter century later, there are dozens of books about boys, and parents, educators, and politicians alike are realizing that we must address boys' issues if we are to address the current epidemic of violence. Yet despite this progress, "we are still talking about ancillary concepts as to why these boys kill people rather than getting to the root causes of what's going on," Gurian says. We also "still don't systemically understand boys or how to raise them."

    What Parents Need to Know About Male Depression

    Male depression, for instance, is often unrecognized (and untreated) because it is covert. A boy who immerses himself in video games, does just enough school work to get by, or uses drugs or alcohol may actually be depressed. As many as 10-20% of males may be experiencing unrecognized depression, and these males are having an outsized impact on our culture and lives, Gurian says.

    Parents, healthcare providers, and counselors need to learn about male development -- and they need to learn how to recognize and respond to the signs of male depression, which may include anger, irritability, withdrawal, and substance use. Parents and educators must also partner together to figure out how to help boys succeed in school.

    How Parents Can Partner with Schools to Help Boys Succeed

    "Parents and schools need to get really well connected around a specific question: How do we make sure the boys can succeed as well as the girls?" Gurian says.

    He suggests parents of boys connect with other parents of boys (from at least 3 other families) to create teams to share info, gather data, and approach school administration, expressing their concern and willingness to help address gender disparities in academics and discipline referrals.

    In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Michael discuss:

    * Progress we've made -- and not made -- regarding boys' issues over the last 2+ decades

    * What the Left and Right get wrong about boys & men

    * Why you may want to consider going organic

    * Male depression

    * The need to train healthcare providers & counselors in male development

    * Importance of fathers and male mentoring

    * Advocating for boys at school

    * How tech affects boys' brains

    * Boys & violence

    * Male bonding

    * "Toxic masculinity"

    Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

    Gurian Institute -- online home for all things Gurian (includes links to his books, classes, & upcoming events)

    What We Must Do to Stop the Killing -- blog post by Michael Gurian

    Helping Boys Thrive virtual summit, sponsored by The Boys Initiative and Gurian Institute -- online event happening October 8, 2022 (register HERE)

    a href="https://www.on-boys-podcast.

    • 48 min
    Empowering Boys to Challenge Rape Culture

    Empowering Boys to Challenge Rape Culture

    Empowering boys to challenge rape culture is one way we can decrease sexual violence, says Gordon Braxton, an anti-violence educator and activist who formerly served as the Director of Men’s Outreach on Sexual Violence Prevention at Harvard University.

    Currently, most of us "spend little to no time empowering boys to raise their voices against sexual violence,” says Braxton, author of Empowering Black Boys to Challenge Rape Culture. “That leaves them in the hands of a world that minimizes it & normalizes it.”

    Parents typically teach girls how to recognize danger signs and avoid potential violence. But parents don't always prepare their boys to recognize or respond to violence, particularly sexual violence. We don't help boys answer the question, "What should I be doing in a violent world?" Braxton says.

    Contrary to what we may think, boys welcome these converations, Braxton says. They want time and space to unpack their thoughts and observations regarding sex, violence, pornography, masculininty, and so much more.

    Boys also need education and support. They need to learn how to respond if a friend, acquaintance, or stranger discloses abuse or sexual violence to them. Often, boys' intial reaction is to "adjudicate or jump in," Braxton says, but that's rarely the right response. Instead, he tells boys that "if you are approached as a friend, respond as a friend." They can listen and support -- and we can encourage them to process their thoughts and feelings with a trusted adult.

    Black boys need support to wrestle with centuries of unfair policing and persistent racial stereotypes that have long (unfairly) painted Black males as dangerous predators. Braxton invites young men "to consider that there is more than one response to historical injustice. We can choose to push back against those myths and stereotypes through our everyday actions." We can also help boys understand that "these fights [against racism and violence] are not mutually exclusive."

    In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Gordon discuss:

    * Differences in how we talk to boys & girls about violence

    * What anti-violence is

    * Helping boys recognize how they contribute to a culture where violence is normalized

    * The power of peer education to confront sexual violence

    * Breaking past boys' cliched responses

    * Preparing boys to deal with the complications of stepping outside the man box

    * Why you must teach boys how to respond to disclosures of sexual trauma or violence

    * Helping boys recognize (& embrace!) their role as change agents

    * Inviting boys to consider nuance in conversations about racism and violence

    Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

    Empowering Black Boys to Challenge Rape Culture, by Gordon Braxton

    StandUpWithBoys.com -- Gordon's website

    List of state Coaltions against Domestic Violence

    A Call to Men — organization mentioned at 37:48

    Helping Boys Grown Into Healthy Men (w Ted Bunch) -- ON BOYS episode featuring the Chief Development Officer of A Call to Men

    RAINN -- the United States' largest anti-sexual violence organization (lots of helpful free info!)

    • 40 min

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