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Don’t talk to your sons about sex—talk about this instead

If you're wondering about the right time to talk to your son about sex, then recent research has some recommendations for you: don't. Don't talk to your son about sex. Instead, talk to him about relationships. Talk to him about romance. Talk to him about those funny feelings in the pit of his stomach and how that certain person turns his brain to mush. Talk to him about what a healthy relationship looks like, talk to him about mutual respect, and, oh please, talk to him about consent. Talking to him about sex? It doesn't appear to be working. So, y'know, don't.


I said, “Hey, What's going on?"

The majority of sexual education in schools is based around contraception, pregnancy and avoiding sexually transmitted diseases. The problem is that these programs aren't answering the kinds of questions school kids have about sex and relationships. The programs assume girls are the gatekeepers of sex and pitch lessons towards them. They underestimate the emotional capacity and interest of boys and, tellingly, these programs just aren't working.

In America, 66% of 12-to 25-year-olds report regretting their first sexual experience. However in the Netherlands (proud owners of a relationship-based sexual education program that begins at age four), the same age bracket reported “wanted and fun" first experiences. Interestingly, states that run abstinence-only programs have the highest rate of teen pregnancies.

By focusing on the facts surrounding sex, we're missing the relationships component and our kids know it. Teenagers are confused about relationships and sex, and they aren't finding the answers in the classroom. This is where parents can step in, but don't have “the talk." Have lots of talks, and have them early and often. Because all the things we know about boys and sex? None of them are true.

Boys only care about one thing

Is it romance? Or is it boobs? Research says it's connection. We are all aware of the culturally sanctioned stereotype of the sex-obsessed teenager: the boy who places his friends at the center of his world and uses and discards sexual partners like takeaway coffee cups. This notion of toxic masculinity does teenage boys a disservice. While some may focus on living up to this unfortunate standard, research suggests that teenage boys need and want information about relationships much more then they want tips on picking up.

A study conducted on 105 10th grade boys found that the vast majority preferred and were seeking out meaningful relationships rather than sexual activity. This research appears to be consistent across the life span, with a comprehensive study on adults finding that the most commonly wanted sexual behavior was romance and affection. These most-wanted behaviors included things like kissing, cuddling, and saying sweet things to each other.

The assumption that boys only care about sex renders them invisible in discussions regarding the emotional components of relationships. As it turns out, this is information they sorely want and definitely need. Which leads us to: where are they actually getting their information?

They'll find out from their friends

Boys already know all about sex, right? They learn from their friends (who know everything right?), and general society, and sometimes even from pornography. The problem with their current sources of information is that their friends are relatively clueless, society lacks the depth needed to navigate the murky waters of positive sexuality, and pornography rarely portrays healthy sexual relationships. All of these sources of information are inadequate and can reinforce the negative stereotypes regarding teenage boys.

People who are working with adolescent boys report the same finding over and over—they want to know what to do about emotions. Professional mentors and youth workers have found boys need permission to talk about feelings, otherwise they won't. They follow the expectations of their gender and don't talk about how they feel. This leaves boys with fewer outlets for emotional development and impacts their chances of healthy romantic relationships.

However, when they're given the expectation that emotions are valid and anticipated, then they're all over it. The things boys were interested in? How to ask someone out, what to do if they liked someone, how to let someone know they liked them, and what to do if someone likes them. Relationships were the basis of their concern.

What about, *gulp,* pornography?

Pornography is a poor teacher about relationships. Even if boys are using sexualized language, this doesn't mean they understand sexuality or that they have the tools to cope with it. Polly Haste, a researcher on sexuality and relationships, found that even 12-year-old boys (who had already seen pornography), were concerned about the availability of porn and the view of sexuality it offered. They were also highly aware that adults often thought of them as “experienced," so they were hesitant to reveal the extent of their inexperience or insecurity regarding sexuality.

When boys don't anticipate being taken seriously by adults, they don't talk to them even though their concerns regarding sex were still there. Teenage boys know that they're not getting the information they want; what they need is a mentor or parent to fill this role. Parents and mentors need to talk to their boys, and adolescence is too far along for boys to learn about healthy relationships and sexuality. This conversation must start early, with the expectation that boys are capable of having rich emotional lives and making good choices. This doesn't mean talking to a 4-year-old about sex, but instead about love and relationships.

“When two people love each other very much…"

It becomes easier to talk about sexuality when you think of love as the basis of it. Talking about how we show each other love every day can be a great conversation starter. Asking your kids questions like, “What makes you feel loved?" and “How can you be a good friend?" can help them make good relationship decisions later on in life.

Problem solving and decision-making skills are imminently transferable. By learning these skills early in life, children are already on the road to making healthy romantic and sexual decisions. Talk about what kinds of intimacy make you feel safe and what kinds don't. Talk about having feelings and how fantastic it is to be a man and be emotional. Talk about what consent means and how they can practice. Model consent with your children. When playing wrestling or tickling games make sure you have your child's full “Yes!" rather then a lack of “No."

Parents can also model great relationships, and model respect for other people's bodies and emotions. By gaining an awareness of their own boundaries and the kinds of friendships they value, boys can use those decision-making skills when they start entering the world of romantic relationships.

Teenage boys are inherently capable of having rich and mutually fulfilling relationships. They want to know about love, they want to know how to show love, and how to be loved in healthy ways. When boys are told it's okay to talk about their feelings, they talk!

They are also very aware that their current sources of information are failing them. This is where parents and caregivers can step up. Talking to boys about sex rarely involves talking to boys about sex. Instead, talk to your sons about love, that's what they're actually looking for.

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Three was not enough for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Mom and dad to North, Saint and Chicago are expecting again.

The story broke earlier this month, but this week Kim appeared on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" and confirmed everything People and E! have been attributing to inside Kardashian sources.

Host Andy Cohen, a father-to-be himself, asked Kim to confirm if the leaked sex of the baby was also accurate.

    "It's a boy," Kim told him, revealing that she's the accidental source of the leak. "It's out there. I got drunk at our Christmas Eve party, and I told some people, but I can't remember who I told."

    Like Chicago, this baby will be born via surrogate, and Kim says he's due quite soon.

    Kim has previously talked about how the decision to grow her family through gestational surrogacy was a hard one, but the only one that made sense for her after two difficult pregnancies.

    "Anyone that says or thinks it is just the easy way out is just completely wrong. I think it is so much harder to go through it this way, because you are not really in control," she told Entertainment Tonight when expecting Chicago.

    "Obviously you pick someone that you completely trust and that you have a good bond and relationship with, but it is still … knowing that I was able to carry my first two babies and not my baby now, it's hard for me," she explained at the time.

    One of six kids herself, it's not surprising that Kim wants a large family (considering how close she is with her siblings) and, according to Kim, Kanye's been campaigning for more children for a while.

    "Kanye wants to have more, though. He's been harassing me," Kardashian said on a 2018 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "He wants like seven. He's like stuck on seven."

    Four is still pretty far from seven, but maybe Kanye and Kim will compromise a bit on family size. Kim has previously said four children would be her limit.

    [Update: This post was originally published on January 2, 2019. It was updated when Kardashian confirmed the news.]

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    Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

    For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

    That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

    We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

    Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

    If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

    Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

    Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

    According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

    The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

    The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

    That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

    Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

    Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

    That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

    What does that mean?

    It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

    Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

    Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

    When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

    This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

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    Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

    As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

    It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

    Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

    1. Use positive reinforcement.

    Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

    2. Be simple and direct.

    Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

    For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

    3. Re-think the "time out."

    Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

    4. Use 'no' sparingly.

    When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

    The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

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    To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

    If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

    Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

    But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

    Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

    It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

    I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

    Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

    This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

    Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

    So here's what I want you to know, mama.

    If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

    There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

    There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

    And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

    It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

    Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

    But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

    And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

    We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

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