How to Talk to Boys about Not Being A$$holes

This podcast will focus on teaching boys to recognize the humanness in everyone—to be kind and to NOT be an assh*le. How can we teach our sons to have positive interactions, make good decisions and recognize when they are being jerkfaces? We talk about all of it on the How to Talk to Kids about Anything podcast with guest and author, Kara Kinney Cartwright.

Guest Expert: Kara Kinney Cartwright

What if we could compile all the unwritten rules of being a good guy in one space? That’s what we are doing today during our show—and it comes down to one major lesson that keeps our favorite young men, teens and tweens from crossing into some ugly territory—and it’s simple. Other people are also humans. Right? And because other people are human, we want our boys and young men to be aware of how they conduct themselves in all of their interactions—with their family, their friends, at work, to women, online, in the world and to their own selves. Our next guest, gives it to us straight—and for good reason. She wants us all to raise kind men who show respect and sees everyone’s humanness & dignity.

Kara Kinney Cartwright is the author of Just Don’t Be an Assh*le: A Surprisingly Necessary Guide to Being a Good Guy, a frank and funny guidebook designed to help teach young men how to have positive interactions, make good decisions, and recognize when they’re being jerkfaces. Kara lives in suburban Maryland and works in legal publishing. She married a total good guy and, through relentless lecturing, teasing, cash-bribing, and tricking, they have raised two sons who are not assholes, for the most part. If you happen to know her in person, she wants you to know that her book is not about you, (for the most part).

Important Messages:

  • Part of successful parenting is constantly adapting to your child’s emotional state, their availability and their preferred communication method and style and then reinforcing those messages for the new context that teenagers are living in today.
  • Teenage boys have a lot going for them! Funny, loyal, quick- but also have trouble with assessing risk and predicting consequences.
  • College offers being taken away from boys because they didn’t assess risk and consequences to their words—in particular, regarding systemic racism. People took screenshots of their hurtful words and sent them to the appropriate people.
  • Personalize consequences- how their choices impact others AS WELL AS themselves.
  • Check what you are relaying to your children- are they getting the message that it’s more important to cheat and get a good great or for our children to be honest and not do as well?
  • Our teens are human beings- they will make mistakes. Listen to understand. Rational- how was their emotional state when they made this decision?
  • Teen logic different than grown- up logic.
  • Listen to them- and then we can have the important conversations beyond the dos and don’ts. So if they mess up- move to (1) How will you make it right and (2) What the plan for next time? This is how they learn how to cope with what’s thrown at them.
  • Dr. Robyn says; Script on mistakes, if this is the case: “This is not a conversation to reprimand you. This is a conversation to move forward from this. We all make mistakes.”
  • Dr. Robyn says; If we want kids to talk, we can’t make the conversations so unpleasant and also make it so that whatever comes out of their mouths gets them into more trouble!
  • Script from KKC: “Thank you for telling me that. I will get back to you after I speak with your other parent.” Or “I’m going to sit with that for a little while. I can’t talk about this right now but I will talk to you about it tomorrow.”
  • Thoughtful resting period can be really helpful for our teens. Appreciate the impact of what just happened.
  • Looking back (friendship) The people who we couldn’t count on- not still our friends. Share what’s really important about friendship.
  • Relaxed relationship- people keep track of those who take advantage. Who is a plus and who is a minus in the relationship?
  • Money- you pay your own way.
  • Children need to ask themselves; in a trade or in a money swap, does everyone feel that they are better for it?
  • Fairness principal. Reflect- do you feel good or bad inside? Why? Do you feel that you have been taken advantage of—or the other way around?
  • What age did you see that your adults were actually human beings?
  • Avoid the “mantrum” (tantrum). When you behave in a way that is more level-headed and kind, then they are regarded better. This needs to be experienced. More conversational and less “screamy” then we can take a step back, as parents, to realize that we can talk to them and regard them as young adults.
  • Show your cards: “What I’d like to see…” Before you go to this social event, I’d like you to demonstrate that you can do X at Y event.”
  • Scripts from Dr. Robyn: “Thank you for sharing what you are doing today, when you share details like that, it builds our trust and makes me feel like I want to give you more privileges.”
  • Great lessons from going to work. They learn about building teams and pulling your own wait, responsibility, etc. Can be a shock to see how hard you work and how little you get paid. When kids come from a privileged background, it’s a big eye-opener. Learning about bosses. Doing what you are told. Task with value. To customers, to boss, to teammates.
  • Family rules: We do what we say we are going to do.
  • Surprised by how boring and low-paying first job is now.
  • Known by others as someone who works hard, who follows through, who is a good teammate…
  • Give our boys the scripts. There is so much in the atmosphere right now about misogyny, and feminism and respect for women and romantic relationships- but this doesn’t always translates into knowing what to do in a particular moment. Lay out the dos and don’ts. For example, Don’t surprise a girl by standing by her car at 9pm at night. If someone says “yeah, I guess” when asking about sex, that’s not a yes.
  • Humor can open the door—and reinforce the lesson- when dealing with sex and hormones.
  • Model how to have a conversation when we’re not 100% sure what to say. Model feeling uncomfortable- and coming out the other side.
  • Online behavior: (1) Not everything you see is true. (2) If you have to hide the fact that you are participating in a certain community, perhaps you should think about why. (3) Are you spending your time wisely? What’s the end game? Entertainment? Enrichment? Need more in-person relationships. Are they retreating from in-person relationships to spend more time online?
  • Meet kids where they are. Know your child. Keep trying. Live your values out loud. It’s going to be ok!
  • Once you’re in teenage mode, there are a lot of big, important conversations to have but you have already done so much work to import your values into your children and living them in front of them. You are in reinforcement mode!

Notable Quotables:

  • Part of successful parenting is constantly adapting to your child’s emotional state, their availability and their preferred communication method and style and then reinforcing those messages for the new context that teenagers are living in today.
  • Teenage boys have a lot going for them. They’re incredibly smart, their very funny, they’re quick, they’re very loyal to their friends, they can smell a hypocrite from a thousand miles away and they’re totally gifted at…disdain. I’m a huge fan of them! But most parents would agree that they are not great at impulse control, not terrific at assessing risk or predicting consequences.
  • When we take time to hear the answer to ‘what were you thinking?’ from our teenage boys, then we can talk about two really important things: (1) How are you going to make it right? And (2) What’s the plan for next time?”
  • “Our boys need to realize that people do keep track of who is a plus and who is a minus in our relationships. If you want to maintain these relationships, you’ve got to keep your word. You sometimes have to act in the best interest of your friend even if it’s really hard for you to do. Friendship is fun but there’s work involved in a friendship as well. It’s important for our boys to realize, on the most basic level, what it means to be the guy who is counted on to help other people do the right thing.”
  • Parents should show their cards. There should not be secret tests that our teens don’t know about. If we are expecting certain behaviors in order to move to the next level of adulthood in our house, we should say it out loud.”
  • “Cringy is good. Model how to have a conversation when we’re not 100% sure what to say. If I can model getting through an awkward conversation, then maybe, having seen it, will be more willing to do it themselves.”
  • “Once you’re in teenage mode, there are a lot of big, important conversations to have but you have already done so much work to import your values into your children and living them in front of them.”

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