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Maggie Dent is a well known voice of reason and comfort when it comes to raising all children, and especially boys. With 4 boys of her own all grown up now, and being a teacher in a boy’s senior school she knows a thing or two about what makes boys tick, what helps us raise good, resilient men and how to nurture the feelings of boys, allowing them to express themselves, holding space for them, and supporting them through challenging times. In this chat we discuss the unique opportunities and challenges in raising (or educating if you’re a teacher) boys, as well as her new book “Mothering Our Boys”. Maggie is so full of knowledge and love when it comes to boys and I do hope parents, coaching, tutors and teachers everywhere hear this chat and take the words of wisdom into their every day. As a parent of a boy myself I often find myself thinking “What would Maggie do?” in the, erm, more challenging times. Enjoy and don’t forget to head to the show notes for this week’s sponsor details, the giveaway and more information on how to connect further with Maggie’s work and books, Alexx x  

Here are the questions I asked Maggie:  

  • In the note at the start of your new book, you mention a survey you ran that was research for your book. What was that survey... what answers were you seeking in asking those questions?  
  • You say you're bilingual in that you can speak man speak AND woman speak: Can you share a bit about what you see to be the fundamental difference between the way boys/girls men/women communicate?  
  • This book really feels like it's a plea and an invitation to all mothers of boys to make a pledge and it's all leaping from your heart, you can feel it: Did it bubble away for you for a bit or did this book leap out into the world with urgency?   
  • Early on also you talk about the alarming stats on violence, self harm, addiction and suicide in young men. What do you believe are some of the biggest contributing factors to these stats?  
  • You talk about a limit to "free exploration" and a shift to experiencing life via a screen: How's that playing out? What effects? What is an urban, apartment dwelling family with an only child to do (ie my family)? The 2018 parent could read the stats / these shifts and be overcome with pangs of guilt and feel like they're not giving their child the childhood that will help them thrive best... BUT: Can these families create that wild freedom in new ways? 
  • What do you see to be the best ways we can help boys develop a good moral compass?  
  • The #Metoo movement has brought to the fore so many injustices inflicted by men from the old 'boy's code' of entitlement and power... but while we teach our boys that good moral compass it seems they're then handed over to the porn screens of the internet and see entitlement and power/domination exaggerated... How do we help them navigate kind and respectful relationships with girls when we can't control what they see 'out there' - is it as simple as being really open and having conversations about porn  and its non-real depiction of sex?  
  • Does seeing a popularisation of "The Future is Female" make you sad? It makes me sad... I feel it's a good intention (women's equality) miscommunicated (ie, step aside men, women are taking over) when that was never the point of feminism... How do we navigate the rise of female empowerment, while holding space for men to evolve their definition in tact, in this new world?  
  • Now onto some other, wonderful and powerful things I took from your book: What often matters greatly to your son, will be some sort of experiment / activity that you will just not understand why on EARTH it's important: Can you give us an example of that / how we can recognise potential sabotaging of their 'special projects' and what to do to ensure they feel validated in them?  
  • How are our young boys sidelined as ineffective / 'dumb' / useless often, in schooling and at home with mixed sibling households and what are some of the best ways we can empower our boys to feel their worth / 'warrior tendency'? 
  • Decoding boy behaviour after school: This I loved from both your book and recent seminar... I often joke with my mother friends of girls, that thank gosh we get to find out everything that's going on / needs doing through the girls because trying to get two words out of Seb after school is blood from a stone. Could you share why that is? Best ways to get good juicy chats happening with our boys (and men!) 
  • There is a mistaken perception that boys and men don’t feel emotions as much as women — they do. They just process them and often communicate them very differently. How is that and what do we need to be aware of as parents? Signs we need to help them unpack emotions about what's going on for them socially / school-wise? Best ways to help them open up?  
  • You talk about 'big ugly feelings' - what are they and how can we help our boy process them?  
  • And so believe it or not folks that's a few questions from literally just the first quarter of Maggie's new book. So much goodness in there and could honestly keep talking for hours, BUT given we have a strong focus on food / body / home and mind and we've done a lot of talking about the mind today, let's finish off with a couple of questions across the other low tox life pillars: Boys and body image. In your book you mention there's research coming out about boys as young as 8-10 with eating disorders. What on earth is causing this? What can we do to support a healthy relationship with body for young boys / love and respect for ones body?  
  • Food: The importance of family meal time both for nourishment physically and emotionally?  
  • Fussiness / being contrary about food that's been prepared lovingly: Is it really a dislike for the food? Control / power play where they might perhaps feel powerless elsewhere?  
  • And to finish off for today... A lot of us seem to feel instinctively that trying to make our children sit still, get good at tests is not the best way forward in education, and the literacy / numeracy rates since standardised testing seems to back us up on that feeling. If we're in a country, like Australia, where this is the case, what is your piece of advice to help us play a bigger game here to work to change the system?  
  • If you could say one last think to mothers of boys (all mother figures in a boy's life) to help us feel empowered to be the best mother figures we can be, helping our boys to grow and thrive: What would it be?  

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