Houston, we have a problem.
Go searching for inspiring, uplifting books, websites and docos for teenage girls and you’ll be drowning in content. DROWNING. From websites like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and A Mighty Girl to gorgeous, inspiring books like Amazing Babes and The Girl With The Butterfly Tattoo to docos like Miss Representation and Killing Us Softly— there are hundreds and hundreds of choices all designed to inspire our girls, remind them of their worth and help them navigate those tricky high school years.
But boys? Tumbleweeds, people.
Am I missing something because I’ve just spent close to two weeks trawling the net and it’s disheartening to see how little is out there. And I’m not sure the “boys don’t read” argument really cuts it anymore.
The good news is there are loads of great men to follow on social media — 21st century men who show us what it looks like to be a good man: a good person, a good colleague, a good boyfriend, a good friend, a good father, a good husband. What does “good” even mean? It’s subjective but to me it means a man who has integrity, who knows what they stand for, who contributes to their community (school, uni, work) in a positive way, who sees women as equals and champions their fight for equality. A good man is a man who moves through this world with kindness, empathy, humour and integrity. Added to that there certainly *are* some great books, organisations and websites out there.
But let me repeat what I said at the start of my list for teenage girls … there is no ONE conversation to have with your son about drinking or drugs or sex or consent or respect for women or depression or homophobia. It’s an on-going discussion. It’s about using every teachable moment that comes your way. It’s a running dialogue in your family so that when stories hit the news you can talk about the Stanford Rape Case and watch the Consent is Like A Cup of Tea video and discuss what consent MEANS. You can talk about the boys from Orange Sky Laundry winning Young Australians of the Year and the genius of their mobile laundry idea and how it will change lives . You can talk about Chris Hemsworth wearing a ‘Livin’ t-shirt and what that represents for male depression.
My opinon (for what it’s worth) is that we need to start the ‘big’ conversations early with our young kids (boys and girls):
“When someone says STOP – the game stops”
“When someone looks upset and isn’t having fun anymore the game STOPS”
“Do you have your brother’s consent to touch his stuff?”
“Keep your hands to yourself”
These can all become part of your daily conversation. We need to teach our kids (but especially boys) to read people’s facial expressions and body language. “Is this person still having fun?” And, of course, do lots of reading (including an equal amount of stories with female protagonists) since reading is one of the key strategies to help build empathy.
So here’s my work-in-progress list. I’d love to hear your suggestions …
Nearly every teen is on social media. (Keep in mind kids are meant to be 13 before signing up for accounts … ). So once they have signed up, the key is to CURATE your feed and make it work for you. Protect your headspace and give priority to those people and organisations who motivate and inspire you.
Here are some great men for teenage boys to follow on social media:
Nic and Lucas are what good men look like. These two mates, both aged 20 from Brisbane, created a mobile laundry service in the back of a van so that homeless men and women could access clean clothing. In 2016, the were awarded Young Australians of the Year.
John Green and Hank Green Ah, the Brothers Green. John Green is one of the most successful YA authors on Planet Earth (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, Looking For Alaska.) He is (according to wikipedia) an American author, vlogger, director, writer, producer, cinematographer, editor, stunt performer and actor. Together with his brother Hank (educator, musician and producer) he set up the VlogBrothers Youtube channel which now has over a million subscribers. Their Crash Course online series talks through everything from politics to history to astronomy and philosophy. (info source from Wikipedia)
Waleed Aly Waleed is an academic, lawyer, radio host, writer and one of the hosts of The Project. He’s not on social media (DAMMIT!) but his monologues on The Project on topics ranging from terrorism to racism to homelessness routinely go viral. Follow The Project on social media and you’ll be guaranteed to see his latest monologues. Waleed is married to Dr Susan Carland and has two children.
Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada — Fiercely intelligent, Trudeau identifies himself as a feminist and in 2016 marched in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade. Canada’s Prime Minister is setting the benchmark on the new manhood.
Adam Hills: He continues to be best-known as the host of Spicks and Specks and Adam Hills Tonight but this Helpmann award-winning comedian also travels the world appearing at comedy festivals, hosting TV shows, covering the Paralympics and doing stand-up comedy to sell-out crowds. He’s a good egg.
Hugh Jackman He can play Wolverine one day and then tap dance at the Tony Awards the next. Jackman is a big advocate for meditation. He is an invested husband and father. He also happens to be married to actress and activist Deborra-Lee Furness.
Hamish Blake and Andy Lee Hilarious? Absolutely. sure. But Hamish and Andy have created nothing short of a comedy empire with their national radio show, TV series and podcast. Better than that they’re both excellent examples of a good men. Hamish is utterly devoted to his wife Zoe Foster Blake and their son Hamish. While Andy won Uncle of the Year in 2016 for surprising his sister by writing (and having published) a children’s book for his nephew George’s first birthday.
Johnathan Thurston: JT is considered to be one of the greats of rugby league. He’s a three time Dally M medal winner. He’s currently the captain of the North Queensland Cowboys and is well-known for the work he does in Australia’s indigenous communities.
Dave Burton: Dave is an author, playwright, producer, director, podcast host and sometimes creative writing teacher. I feel really tired just writing all that down. His Facebook page is funny, serious and engaging.
Markuz Zusak best-selling Australian author of New York Times best-selling novel The Book Thief as well as Fighting Ruben Wolfe and The Messenger.
Chris Hemsworth Best-known for his roles in Thor, The Avengers and Ghostbusters, Chris Hemsworth is clearly a softie at heart. He cherishes his wife and three small kids and in his spare time Chris supports a range of charities including Livin – a charity to support people with mental illness. In 2016 his most famous social media post was a photo of the dinosaur cake he baked for his daughter India’s birthday.
Troy Cassar Daley Award-winning indigenous Australian country music star, devoted husband and father and all round great man.
Matthew Reilly Matthew Reilly has sold more than 7.5 million novels worldwide. He got his big break by self-publishing his first novel. His best-selling novels include the Jack West series, Ice Station and Area 7. Matt currently lives in LA.
Hugh Evans is best described as an Australian humanitarian. He is the co-founder of both The Oaktree Foundation and the Global Poverty Project. He has received numerous awards for his work in promoting youth advocacy and volunteerism in order to reduce extreme poverty in developing countries.
Osher Gunsberg TV host, radio host, vegan, feminist and avid cyclist. Osher has been very open about his mental health challenges and how he stays on top of them.
Peter FitzSimons A former Wallaby, FitzSimons is a poetry-loving, newspaper columnist and best-selling author (take a breath) AND the current head of the Australian Republican Movement. He is married to Today Show host Lisa Wilkinson and the father of three children.
Jamie Oliver Jamie is the perfect example of someone who uses their passion to give back to the community. This world-renowned chef has dedicated much of his career to providing training and employment to young homeless people as well as improving the quality of food served up in school canteens around the developed world.
Robert Hoge Rob is an author who writes about ugliness, disability, politics, social media and everything in between. His memoir Ugly became a must-read on high school reading lists across the country.
And these women: Captain Catherine McGregor (army officer, cricket commentator and author), Tara Moss (author and feminist), Turia Pitt (athlete and motivational speaker), Leigh Sales (Walkley Award winning journo and host of 7.30), JK Rowling (author and social justice campaigner) and Emma Watson (actor and UN Global Goodwill Ambassador)
ORGANISATIONS TO FOLLOW
Real Aussie Blokes This is a website to go with the three-part ABC TV series “Man Up” that will air in October 2016. It’s all about what it means to be an Australian bloke in 2016, masculinity and men’s mental health.
The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want this is the website based on the book of the same name by author Rosalind Wiseman – mother of two sons and author of the best-selling Queen Bees and Wannabes.
Geena Davis Insititute of Gender in Media “If she can see it, she can be it.” Great feminist site about the representation of women in media.“The Institute is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need to dramatically improve, gender balance, reduce stereotyping and create diverse female characters in entertainment targeting children 11 and under.”
The Gates Foundation: Created by Bill and Melinda Gates, the GF aims to improve the lives of people everywhere. Their work (and their social media feed) is inspiring, educational and eye-opening.
Penguin Teen excellent facebook page from Penguin with YA reading recommendations
GIVIT and GIVIT KIDS (a great not-for-profit site that encourages people to donate their unwanted, no longer needed items to specific people in genuine need. Givit Kids allows Australian kids to help other Aussie kids in need.)
Smiling Mind – teaching kids and adults about mindfulness and meditation. Their app is TERRIFIC.
The Women’s Legal Service Queensland Important articles and stats on domestic violence as well as how to spot it and how to get out.
VIDEO: What Your Boys Aren’t Telling You — a video with Rosalind Wiseman and three teenage boys talking about the things you may not know about your teenage son.
VIDEO: Masterminds and Wingmen — another video from Rosalind Wiseman about what she has learnt from researching and talking to teenage boys for two years.
Maggie Dent: The mother of four sons, there is nothing about boys Maggie doesn’t know. She’s a parenting and resilience expert and her Facebook page is a wealth of information and guidance on raising kids but especially BOYS.
Steve Biddulph’s Raising Boys Community – Steve Biddulph’s books have sold millions of copies for a reason. He is a voice of the new manhood and provides brilliant, helpful guidance to parents of sons.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg — Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is probably Australia’s most well-known child and adolescent psychologist. His books on parenting offer valuable, sensible advice for parents of teens.
Dr Justin Coulson: I really love Justin Coulson whose mantra is to help make families happy. Justin is a parenting, relationships and happiness expert. He graduated with first class honours in Psychological Science (UQ) and completed his Ph. D. at the University of Wollongong, researching parenting and happiness. He runs parenting workshops and while often focused on smaller children — he still offers up great advice about raising boys.
Hey Sigmund: where the science of psychology meets the art of being human. This is a GORGEOUS, USEFUL website for parents and non-parents alike. Psychologist Karen Young offers wisdom + the latest research on everything from relationship break-ups to parenting young kids and teens. GREAT RESOURCE.
FICTION FOR TEENAGE BOYS
My current recommendation for teenage girls AND boys (which was given to me by Megan Daley at Children’s Books Daily) is:
Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey – this is a YA novel which is incredibly powerful about online behaviour, consent and the ramifications of sharing naked images without someone’s consent. It’s blunt and realistic – expect f-bombs but it will speak to many teens. Great to see a novel dealing with the issue of sharing naked images from the point of view of one of the three perpetrators (two male and one female). If your sons can get passed the fact there’s a girl on the cover, they’ll like it.
AND (this one comes recommended by a group of teacher-librarians)
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler – “Critically acclaimed memoirist Aaron Hartzler, author of Rapture Practice, takes an unflinching look at what happens to a small town when some of its residents commit a terrible crime. This honest, authentic debut novel—inspired by the events in the Steubenville rape case—will resonate with readers who’ve ever walked that razor-thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.”
For suggestions for tween and teenage boys go to Children’s Books Daily (parents) and Guys Read (parents and teen boys). Authors to look for include John Marsden, Marcus Zusak, Nick Earls, John Green, Will Kostakis, Matthew Reilly, Tristan Bancks and Andy Griffiths.
BOOKS – Non-Fiction (for teens to read)
Standing Tall: on confidence, teamwork and leadership by Tom Harley “Tom Harley considers himself a lucky man, having captained the Geelong Football Club to two premierships in three years. Never the club’s top player, he set personal goals, working hard and pushing himself to achieve them. On his way to becoming the greatest leader he could be, Tom discovered what qualities he values most, and how to bring out the best in others. Respect, courage, risk, pride, gaining confidence, finding your passion, leading under pressure and coping with failure — using his own experiences, Tom shares his thoughts on what makes both great leaders and followers. He shows what it takes to stand tall, on and off the field.”
How To Be Happy: a memoir of love, sex and teenage confusion by Dave Burton I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read this memoir yet but it comes SO HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by so many people. Dave Burton is a bit of a creative genius — he writes plays, hosts podcasts, directs, produces, teaches … all of it. Here’s the blurb about his memoir :”How to Be Happy tackles depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, academic pressure, love and adolescent confusion. It’s a brave and honest account of one young man’s search for a happy, true and meaningful life that will resonate with readers young and old.”
The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want by Rosalind Wiseman. This is Rosalind’s book for teenage boys covering everything from friendships to dating to the ‘bro code’.
The Manual To Manhood: how to cook the perfect steak, change a tire, impress a girl & 97 other skills you need to survive by Jonathan Catherman I’m in the process of reading this book but what i have read, I like. While the book does cover dating (how to ask a girl out, how to meet her parents), there’s zero advice in here about love or sex or sexting or porn. But put that and the traditionally heterosexual nature of this book aside, and I can see that this book would be popular with teen boys. It’s easy to read, clear instructions on how to do loads of things all of us are expected to be able to master from changing tires to putting on a tie to writing a resume. The author Jonathan Catherman is a father of two sons and specialises in teaching leadership and building character in adolescents.
Surviving Year 12: a sanity kit for students and their parents by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg Every year, more and more emphasis is placed on achieving good results in the end-of-school exams. This can lead to students feeling extraordinary pressure and having unrealistic expectations. In this new edition of Surviving Year 12, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Australia’s leading adolescent psychologist, gives advice to students on how they can cope with the pressure, work smarter and actually enjoy their final year of high school. Dr Carr-Gregg includes advice on:
• how not to get trapped by social media like Facebook and Twitter
• the secrets of studying smarter
• overcoming anxiety and stress
• getting enough sleep (the best study tool of all!)
• setting goals
• dealing with procrastination
• ensuring exercise and diet regimes are good
• how to cope with the exams themselves
Ugly – a memoir by Robert Hoge Robert Hoge was born with a giant tumour on his forehead, severely distorted facial features and legs that were twisted and useless. His mother refused to look at her son, let alone bring him home. But home he went, to a life that, against the odds, was filled with joy, optimism and boyhood naughtiness. Ugly is Robert’s account of that life, from the time of his birth to the arrival of his own daughter. It is a story of how the love and support of his family helped him to overcome incredible hardships. It is also the story of an extraordinary person living an ordinary life, which is perhaps his greatest achievement of all.
Ask Me Anything : heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions for teenage girls by Rebecca Sparrow I wrote this book for teenage girls but I’ve found over the past 12 months is that teenage boys WANT to read this book to better understand how teenage girls see them and the world. Ask Me Anything covers everything from friendships (How do you know if your friends really like you?) to dating (How do I let a boy know I like him?) to sex (How do you say no?) to family and school issues.
Resources For Parents
Articles to read:
What Teens Need Most From Their Parents – Wall Street Journal Article
Rising To The Challenge of Raising Boys One Football Match At A Time by Jacinta Tynan
A Letter To My Son About Porn by Harriet Pawson
Non-Fiction Books for parents to read:
The New Manhood by Steve Biddulph
The Making of Men by Arne Rubinstein
Masterminds and Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman
Strong Mothers, Strong Sons by Meg Meeker
WORKSHOPS RUN IN SCHOOLS
Killing Us Softly 4 – Advertisings image of women: this doco is based on Jean Killbourne’s lecture on gender stereotypes and the image of women in advertising.
Miss Representation – this 2010 doco explores how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of women.
Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt (pre-order on iTunes now) ** this is a must-watch for all teen boys (and tween and teen girls)
He Named Me Malala (the story of Malala Yousafzai)
VIDEOS TO WATCH
Sportsmanship Jack Sock and Leyton Hewitt Tennis player Jack Sock shows great sportsmanship when he encourages his opponent (Hewitt) to challenge a wrong-call that would go in Hewitt’s favour.
Consent is like a cup of tea — a video designed to help young men and women understand the concept of consent. IMPORTANT!
DUSTIN HOFFAN talking about what he learned playing a woman in the movie Tootsie. This is a really powerful video about the expectations society places on women to be beautiful.
Texting While Driving — some young drivers talk about their texting and driving habits and then are faced with a woman who lost her family to texting driver.
Tim Minchin’s University of Western Australia address 2013 (Tim offered 9 life lessons to university graduates).
Comedian/actor Russell Brand talks about ‘the harmful effects of porn and how it alters ideas and perceptions about sex, drawing from science, research, and examples from his own life.’
POSTS TO TALK THROUGH
“You’re Going To Die, Poofter! – why we need Safe Schools” by Shannon Mollloy
Former Stanford University student Brock Turner raped a 22 year old woman behind a bin after a college party. This is his victim’s devestating impact statement about the impact of his crime.
RESOURCES FOR YOUR TEEN WHEN THEY NEED HELP (I’m only listing a few — I have a full long list at the back of each of my books)