Maggie Dent: What Teenage Boys Really Need

What words come to mind when you hear the phrase “teenage boys”?

Messy? Stinky? Frustrating? Lazy? Moody? Dangerous?

Teen boys can be all of those things. (So can teen girls!) But there’s also a lot more beneath the surface, and if we’re to effectively parent and educate our teen boys, we have to go deep. We need to remind ourselves — and each other — that teenage boys are complex human beings who deserve our respect and support.

“Inside every teenage boy is a 4-year-old who is confused about life and desperate to know that you will love him unconditionally — especially when he cannot love himself,” says Maggie Dent, Australia’s “boy champion” and author of From Boys to Men: Guiding Our Teen Boys to Grow Into Happy, Healthy Men.

Though our first instinct is often to come down hard on our boys when they fail to follow our rules or meet expectations, Maggie suggests trying kindness instead. Most boys feel terrible when they mess up, whether they show us that or not; our lectures and punishments further add to their self-loathing — and cause them to distrust our love for them. Going against the grain and offering your son kindness and compassion in lieu of punishment may strengthen your connection and help your son feel safe enough to share what’s really going on.

“We don’t think teenage boys are sensitive, but they are,” Maggie reminds us. “What we see on the outside is not necessarily what’s going on inside.”

In this episode, Jen, Janet & Maggie discuss:
  • Why teenage boys seem so confused, scattered and disorganized
  • Teen boys’ fear and anxiety
  • How shame shapes (& limits) boys
  • Kindness vs. harsh discipline
  • How to get teenage boys to listen
  • How roughhousing teaches boundaries
  • Helping boys connect during the pandemic
  • Why you don’t necessarily need to worry if your son lose his temper while gaming online with friends
  • Surrounding boys with stories of good men
  • Talking to boys about tough stuff
  • Moms’ role in boys’ lives
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode: — Maggie’s website. Jam-packed with resources!

From Boys to Men: Guiding Our Teen Boys to Grow Into Happy, Healthy Men — Maggie’s latest book — Maggie’s YouTube channel

Parental as Anything – Maggie’s podcast

Maggie Dent on Mothering Our Boys (Part 1) — ON BOYS episode 139

Maggie Dent on Mothering Our Boys (Part 2) — ON BOYS episode 140

7 Tips for Parenting Teenage Boys: “Nagging Them is Like Shouting Into a Void” — Maggie’s Guardian article (mentioned at 7:20)

The Decline of Play — TED talk by Peter Gray, who Maggie mentions at 9:20

The Art of Roughhousing (w Dr. Lawrence Cohen) — ON BOYS episode

Orange Sky Australia—  organization providing free showers and laundry for the homeless; founded by 2 teen boys (mentioned by Maggie at 16:21)

A Fiver for a Farmer – charity started by a young boy from Sydney that has raised over $1.6m for Australian farmers since 2018 (mentioned by Maggie at 17:00)


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