Building Boys Bulletin 1-4-21

New Year, new start?

I don’t know about you, but I just couldn’t get into New Year’s this year.

I’m as happy as anyone to see 2020 shrink in the rear view mirror, but if 2020 taught me anything, it’s that so much is out of our control. Making resolutions and setting intentions seems a bit…naive in light of everything we’ve learned. And somehow thinking things will be better because we flipped the calendar? I’m not buying it.

So, I opted out of New Year’s celebrations and ceremonies. (Granted, this was extraordinarily easy to do, given that public health authorities were begging us all to stay home anyway.) I didn’t make a resolution or create a vision board, something I’ve enjoyed doing each of the last few years. I didn’t force myself to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve and I treated New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day like perfectly ordinary days.

It was quite freeing, actually. I realized how artificial the whole concept of “New Years” is. I realized that I can start over whenever I want to. And I realized that there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking life as it comes and making the best of it.

None of this means that I don’t have goals, hopes or dreams for 2021. I do! I am currently in the process of writing my first book, a first-time mom’s guide to raising boys. (With any luck, it should be available for purchase later this summer.) Janet & I have big plans for ON BOYS podcast, including more ON BOYS Live Interactive sessions. I also intend to grow the reach of Building Boys Bulletin. (You can help me by sharing this Bulletin with your friends & encouraging them to subscribe.)

I’ve simply decided to keep my head down and continue working toward my goals, rather than distracting myself with additional (and unnecessary) plans. What I’m doing now is working, more or less, so why change it?

Similarly, if what you’re doing is not working, you can change at any time. You don’t have to wait for a turn of the calendar. You can have a new start anytime.

Let’s make the most of 2021.

Here’s to building boys!


2-Letter Words You Need in Your Parenting Plan Now


  • Go. No. Do. Be.

  • “If we’ve learned nothing else [in 2020], it’s that we’ve got big emotions, and our kids do, too. We’ve also learned that emotions are just as contagious as coronavirus.”

  • ‘The situation is too stressful? The kids are bickering endlessly? Sometimes, …[s]imply leaving the room and doing some deep breathing—giving ourselves a moment’s pause to reset ourselves—is golden.”

  • “Teach kids the concept of accepting ‘no’ for an answer, and how that can build social capital.”

  • “Remember that kids are just as happy when we allow them to ‘be.’ We don’t need to be cheerleaders, party planners, and DJs to ensure our kids have a good time.”

Schools in Denmark Have Mandatory Empathy Classes as Part of the Official Curriculum


  • “Danish schools decided to introduce mandatory empathy classes in 1993, as a way to teach children aged 6-16 how to be kind.”

  • “For one hour each week… students are invited to talk about problems they have been experiencing. During this time, the entire class works together to find a solution. This teaches children to respect the feelings of others without judgement.”

3 Ways to Change Your Parenting in the Teenage Years


  • “[O]nce kids reach adolescence, they need to start managing their own lives, and they do tend to fire us as their managers. Parents who are too controlling—those who won’t step down from their manager roles—breed rebellion.”  

  • “Many kids with micromanaging parents will politely agree to the harsh limits their parents set with a ‘yes, sir’ or a ‘yes, ma’am’ attitude, but then will break those rules the first chance they get. They don’t do this because they are bad kids, but because they need to regain a sense of control over their own lives.”

  • “Letting our kids become the primary decision makers does NOT mean that we become permissive, indulgent, or disengaged. It does mean that the quality—if not the quantity—of our support shifts. We give up our role as their chief of staff and become more like life coaches.”

  • “Giving teenagers a lot of information isn’t an effective way to influence them anymore…[as] it can feel infantilizing to them.”

  • “When it’s time to bring up [a] topic you want to influence your teen about, speak as you would to someone with the highest possible social status”

  • “…give them a chance to speak, to work out what they are thinking in a low-risk environment. Practice staying calm despite the discomfort. Keep taking deep breaths. Keep relaxing your shoulders.”

  • “As hard as it might be for us to watch, our teenagers are going to make mistakes. When they do, our anxious over-involvement won’t help. What will help, though, is our calm presence.”

Someday, Our Teens Will Know We Never Gave Up on Them


  • “The slacker student became the engineering major who complained when he got an A-. He ended up working for NASCAAR and becoming a beloved and dedicated teacher at a high school tech center.”

  • “It did not escape his attention that my parents still cared about him and cared for him even when his injuries were the result of doing exactly what they told him not to do.”

ON BOYS podcast

Best of 2020: ON BOYS Year in Review

On Building Boys

The Truth About Parenting Teen Boys

 By age 14, the little boy you knew is all but gone. You may still see traces of him, particularly if you happen to get a glimpse of his face while he’s asleep. But during waking hours, he’s something else entirely. He’s a slightly gawky human in a body that’s simultaneously too big and too small for him, a human with limited life experience who nonetheless is sure he has all the answers — and that you, dear parent, absolutely do not. By the time your son is 14, your intelligence quotient and coolness factor will have gone down considerably, at least in his eyes. He’s likely withdrawn a bit from the family, and is far more likely to be found holed up in his bedroom than happily playing with his siblings. When it comes to communication, you may find he has two channels: silence, and sarcasm. In short: yes, 14-year-old boys can be assholes.

There’s something liberating about knowing that, about acknowledging that fact. You see, when my first son hit that age and started to have some pretty drastic mood swings, I assumed I’d done something wrong. I’d bought into the idea that the relationship between parents and teens does not have to be adversarial. I guess I assumed that if I did a good job parenting my son, he’d continue to be a pretty pleasant, mostly reasonable human being.

I was wrong…