Georgene Rice of KPDQ-FM, interviews Michael Ross, author of What Your Son Isn’t Telling You. He unlocks the secret world of teen boys, placing emphasis on not only the necessity of fathers, but also on mothers understanding of what goes on in the hearts and minds of their sons. Michael Ross takes you on an eye-opening journey into the sometimes brutal landscape that is characterized by loneliness and peer fear. He and his co-author Susie Shellenberger give insights into how to better communicate and reach and understand that young man.
Georgene: Give us just a brief glimpse into the teenage world boys face today and the “code of cruelty”.
Ross: Boys are not quite adults. They are playful one minute, but yet think very deep thoughts and very much moving toward an adult world. So, it’s this mix, this pull that they have to deal with. Let’s talk about the physical stuff they deal with. Men have a secret “Guy Code” that expects them to be rigid—don’t blink, don’t show emotion, never look weak, always be a tough guy, always be in control. Sort of the survival of the fittest with the weak being preyed upon.
Georgene: How can a mom help her son see who he really is and talk about your chapter “father hunger and guy time”?
Ross: In the book we talk about five ways that a mom really influences a teen boy and works out his rough edges. Surprisingly, moms play a big role in busting the myths about what it means to be a man. She can help him turn away from myths such as “a real guy lives in the moment”, and “a real guy hides his emotions”.
One of the most important things we heard from boys was that they hunger for guy time. They want to be with their dad and men in their lives, when they can take off their masks and talk about whatever is on their minds.
Georgene: At this time in their lives a lot is going on hormonally. How can parents pull the plug on angry blowups?
Ross: Three things that parents can do: empathy, trust and consistent connections. Empathy is really understanding your son is a work in progress. The Nat’l Institute of Mental Health says the parts of the brain that handle self-control, judgment, and organization have the greatest changes between adolescence and adulthood than any time in life. Trust is a two-way street. Parents need to set the tone and be consistent, setting the parameters and knowing when to step back.
Georgene: Your book gives great practical insight in how to relate to our sons. You have a chapter I especially love, “Eight things I need you to know about me”. What are some of those things that a teenage boy would want to be known about himself?
Ross: I’m visual. I’d rather experience a lesson than hear one. I have a fragile ego despite my tough exterior. I need to be close to God. I need you to be close and to listen. I yearn for adventure. I need my space. I may not always talk a lot, but I hear you, and especially, I am watching you.
Georgene: You also address topics that are especially troubling to parents. You have a chapter on lust, sex, and dating. What do parents and youth leaders need to know about boys.
Ross: Battling lust is the number one issue, across the board, for teenage boys, no matter the economic level or the part of the country they live in. Fighting thoughts and trying to live a pure life, especially with the abundance of pornography on the internet.
Again, empathy is important. Come along side them and teach them what is right and wrong. Don’t just assume they’ll grow out of it. Arm them with the truth. Bring accountability in their lives and connect them with people they can talk to, such as a pastor or counselor. It’s hard for young guys to sometimes talk about these issues with their parents.
Georgene: Let’s talk about your final chapter “Lost in Space, if a boy rejects Christianity where you encourage parents to think practically.
Ross: You arm the troops. As Christians we are meant to live in community with other people who can come into your teen’s life. Involve the troops.
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