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Today’s guest is Andrew Reiner.

We go deep talking about:

  • Healthy and robust masculinity
  • Trying to heal from childhood trauma and mental wounds in order to prevent it from being passed on to our children.
  • Why it’s important to support young boys and men on their journey to finding the full spectrum of their emotional depth
  • Taking on the role of being an emotional nurturer for your sons as a father
  • Why it’s critical to teach our children that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness
  • Accepting the full range of our emotional lives as well as our deeper humanity
  • Identifying and being in relationship with extremely sensitive children
  • Learning how to speak and converse to our children in the most effective way possible

Mentioned on this episode:

  1. Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Books

Find Andrew Online At:

Web: https://www.andrewreinerauthor.com/

IG: https://www.instagram.com/andrew.reiner.author/

Curt Storring 0:00

Welcome to the DAD WORK PODCAST. My name is Curt Storring, your host and the founder of dad work. This is episode number 80. Better boys better men with Andrew Reiner. We go deep today talking about healthy and robust masculinity, trying to heal from childhood trauma and mental wounds in order to prevent it from being passed on to our children. Why it's important to support young boys and men on their journey to finding the full spectrum of their emotional depth, taking on the role of being an emotional nurturer for your sons as a father, why it's critical to teach our children that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, accepting the full range of our emotional lives as well as our deeper humanity, identifying and being in relationship with extremely sensitive children and learning how to speak and converse to our children in the most effective way possible. Andrew Reiner is the author of better boys better men, the new masculinity that creates greater courage and emotional resiliency. He has written about contemporary and healthy masculinity extensively for the New York Times as well as the Washington Post and Italy's La Repubblica. He teaches at Towson University where he offers a seminar the changing face of masculinity. Reiner has been interviewed about topics related to his book on PBS, CNN, Australia's today's show, the CBC, as well as for articles in The Guardian, Men's Health mag, The Washington Post and Forbes. He lives with his family and to unruly dogs on a small unreleased mountain in Maryland, becoming a father to his son has been the most transformative experience of his life. You can find Andrew online at Andrew Reiner author.com. Or on Instagram Andrew.Reiner.Author and reiner is spelled REINER You can find all these links in details in the show notes at Dad.Work/Podcast. This is a fun one guys. I saw Andrew come up on Instagram a number of times over the last few months. And what I enjoyed seeing was that he was taking a nuanced perspective on masculinity. And what I mean by that is he was not one of those guys who is saying, oh, you know, masculinity just toxic, we got to reframe it, we got to do this whole thing to you know, create this new masculinity. But he was also not okay, with the improper show of what I consider to be sort of immature masculinity, there was something in the middle. And that's very much what I believe there is a nuance and balance to true masculinity that is lost in most men. Today. Either we are way too much in our emotional bodies not able to have purpose and forward motion. Or we are way too far out of our emotional bodies simply being strict, trying never to show weakness by being tough and not feeling any emotions. Those are two extreme ends of the spectrum, neither of which work and so what I enjoyed about Andrew in his book was that he finds this ground where we can find what is good and we can honor what is good about masculinity and help our boys grow up in a world in such a way that they're going to be honoring themselves, their entire selves through their emotional being, as well as not losing their masculinity in the process. I really enjoyed this talk with Andrew and I appreciate you guys listening. As always, if you have enjoyed this, I would love if you could just take 30 seconds to leave a quick rating and or review on Spotify and more importantly, even on Apple. Just swipe down to the bottom of the data or podcast page you should find the ratings and review sections. Just take 30 seconds and leave a note if it has been impactful I would be very much appreciative because this is one of the best ways at least for the podcast to get this in the hands of more men. Alright guys, all that being said, We're gonna jump into Episode number 80 with Andrew Reiner. Here we go

alright, dads, we are back for another episode of The dad word podcast. And I'm excited to have with me Andrew Reiner, who is the author of the book better boys better man. And I am extremely excited to get into this, Andrew. So first of all, thank you, because I think we have a lot of stuff to cover a lot in common. But I'm very excited to get sort of a researched and lived perspective on all of this. So welcome.

Andrew Reiner 3:48

Thank you, Curt so much. It's great to be here. It's honored. I'm honored to be on Thank you.

Curt Storring 3:52

I wanted I would love to get into your story because you talk about this in your book on how you became a father from a place of still being quick to anger or filled with a red rage. I think you called it but you you mentioned a quote a question on either your socials or on in the book. I can't remember exactly where it's from. But the the quote is, the problem with many of the people who indiscriminately fling around the terms, toxic masculinity and white male fragility is that they're all too happy to tear down masculinity, but they're not doing jack to build it back up in a productive way. I would love to figure out what that looks like. So is there maybe an on ramp here into why this is so important and how we even start to have this discussion?

Andrew Reiner 4:40

Absolutely. Yeah. And you know, it's funny, we, you know, it's just having a long walk with this guy today. And he is a Universalist minister, really cool young guy. And we were talking about trying to align our mission. You know this with healthy masculinity about having something for Father's Day. And I said to him, you know, the thing that I really want to lean into that I think really needs a lot of conversation around it, is this idea of toxic masculinity and, and, and to a lesser extent white male fragility pologize for the sniffling, man, it's allergies. But yeah, it's I mean, it's, it's, you know, the only thing really, that is part of the kind of discourse right now. In I think this is true. In England, in Canada, in the States, there's just the only thing that's really getting talked about in terms of masculinity is toxic masculinity. And it's something that is, is it's just getting tossed around. I would even say sometimes wantonly and recklessly. And to the extent that it's, it's like, it's like this Castaway term that people just blindly are throwing around. And it's, I think it lacks a lot of context. I think it locks lacks a lot of compassion. I think it lacks empathy. And I think it lacks accuracy a lot of times. And, you know, you you mentioned at the outset about my own story, you know, with the red rage coming into all this 10 years ago, before my son was born. I mean, I was all in with a lot of this kind of conversation around it. And my perspective was, was coming from a place as I think it is, to be honest, for a lot of these people throw it around, wantonly. I think it, I think I was coming from a place of emotional reactivity. Because like a lot of these people who are using this term irresponsibly, it was just it was just coming from a place of hurt. And, and you know, I was coming from a place of hurt. When my son was born, he's 10 Now 10 and a half, today's this half birthday. So we, what happened was, it was a reckoning, it was this massive reckoning for me, because, up until that point, I was going through life, everything was a pitch battle. For me, it was, I was gonna push back against the patriarchy. And, and I was going to come at it with the same kind of ferocity of kind of hyper masculinity, but leaning, but coming at it from the other perspective. And that was always my pitch battle. Um, and that goes back Surprise, surprise to my own childhood, right. Yeah, of course. And so my adult, you know, disposition was always not looking for a fight, but I was I was ready to jump in, figuratively speaking. When I sensed that, that kind of hypermasculinity rearing its head, and I was going to push back with equal ferocity, but coming from the other perspective, and then my wife and I have a son. And, and suddenly, I was faced with these questions that I'd never been faced with before. Questions like, clearly, how are you going to raise this boy, because I didn't want to bring to the table, you know, my own baggage, I didn't want to, you know, yoke him with my own emotional wounds, which would, you know, would come in the form of, at times a reactive reactivity to all masculinity. And, and, and I also, on the other hand, while I was doing a great job of coming at

New parenthood, from a place of wanting to raise a boy with emotional honesty, and that that aspect of healthy masculinity that's so important. I also didn't want my son to be walking around with a target on his back. Because I knew when he got older, the minute he walked out that door, I knew what, what was waiting for him, from everybody, you know, not just men, there are a lot of, you know, girls and women out there, too, who look at masculinity in a way that while on the one hand, they often can sometimes reveal it, they also don't give boys and young men a lot of grace, in terms of saying, Okay, well, you know, yes, you should be entitled to have the full spectrum of your emotions, because on the one hand, there's a lot of male bashing going on. But on the other hand, there's not a lot of grace and, and, and encouragement for boys and young men to be supported in their path and journey to finding this emotional honesty, and the full spectrum of their, you know, their emotional depth. So, I knew of a lot of these complexities. And I, I was, you know, just just faced with all these big questions, and, and all this kind of angst and wondering, you know, what was this going to look like? You know, the place it really, I think the place that really a lot of it began was when I would start to read children's books to my boy when he was really little, you know, and He and I would get up really early in the morning, you know when to, you know, let my wife's asleep as much as she could. And I'd be reading lots of books to him. And one of the things I would do is I would find these books, old classics, new ones, and they all were presenting women, understandably, to some extent as the nurturers, you know, as the ones giving to little children, characters and stories. They were the ones that were the, you know, the emotional hearth. And the fathers were the one who were taking the little boy characters on great adventures. And, and occasionally, they might give them a little hug. But they weren't really, the boys weren't really in the stories going to the fathers, for the emotional nourishment that they were getting from their mothers. I mean, it was literally the same script over and over and over. And so one of the things I started doing was changing, because I would just change the characters to fathers for mothers, not because I've anything against mothers, but just because I wanted my son at a very young age to hear that fathers could be, you know, nurse, you know, could be the nurturers, emotional nurtures as well as the mothers could be. So, you know, there was that. But there was also, you know, having a son who, as he started to get older, wanted to express himself in ways that were kind of traditionally masculine, maybe, you know, we think of boys as being, you know, incredibly energetic, wanting to wrestle all the time. And I don't have a problem with the wrestling, but, you know, these flags started coming up for me. But by having my own son, it started to make me realize that these are a parts that sometimes present themselves in boys and eventually men, that perhaps I needed to rethink, I really needed to rethink what this whole masculinity thing means, and that I need to kind of recalibrate all of this. And so that was my journey. When I wrote this book, you know, part of the a big part of the journey for me, Curt was trying to reimagine what masculinity can look like in its healthiest form. And part of that meant taking a much, much more complex and nuanced look. At what masculinity, you know what masculinity really can be at. Its at its best. Oh, I apologize. I was trying to cover all the ground up throughout this

Curt Storring 12:38

course. No, no, not at all. This gives us so much to go off of and I just want to maybe preface this whole conversation with, there's so much potential for being triggered in this, which I love. I really love giving people the opportunity to go whoo, what do you mean? I don't know. Guys, if you're listening, sit with what your expectations are, and why you might be feeling that because as I listened to you, I know that my own feeling is we must be both the get stuff done, courageous, adventuring, you know, swinging the axe, making sure everyone's safe provider protector. And we equally have to be able to lay down in the crib with our child to hold him when he is sad to be there, when he scrapes his knee to tell him that it's okay to feel everything he needs to feel. And there is so few places in the world that I've observed right now, where those two things get married. It's one or the other. And that's really part of my job here is to bring those together as fathers as men, but especially in raising young men. And so it sounds like that's sort of where you've come to as well, with an understanding that yes, some of these so called more traditional masculine aspects are simply fine. But Let's marry it with the other side, which is to be open hearted. Is that what I'm picking up here?

Andrew Reiner 14:00

Absolutely. Yeah. And it absolutely is correct. And but one of the things I came to realize when I was doing research for my book that I think, helped me realize why we have such a hard time marrying the two is because in a lot of Western cultures, and it's it's, you know, it's I think, especially true in the States, but I think it's true to some extent, and in Canada, I think it's true in Britain, is that we have this notion that if you are vulnerable, that is weak. And so of course we think of we think of this idea of being emotional nourisher is to boys, especially as something that we're incredibly uncomfortable with, and it's going to weaken them and make them you know, potentially less competent as men because we always think of these expressions of of tenderness and affection as vulnerability, ie weakness. And so when people have these, these deep, deep fears of any kind of feeling they tend to, when we bring up the specter of experiencing and having that feeling people before they learn to really embrace it swing to the extreme. And they think, Well, if you're proposing if you're floating here, that you want me to be more vulnerable, man, you're telling me that I've got to be somebody that I'm not. And so we do that we go to the extreme when there's a feeling or an emotion, that that challenges us. And that makes us scared, we go to the extreme with it. And what I what I've had to do and talking about, for instance, my book is say, no, no, no, no, no, listen, man, I'm not telling you, you've got to be somebody you're not. What I'm telling you is that there is a spectrum, there are degrees of of this emotional nourishment that we can and should give boys, and you can come to it in baby steps. No one's telling you, you've got to swing to the other extreme, because that's not going to fit you right now anyway. But it's about taking baby steps. Because becoming this for boys, you know, is part of our journey is in healing as men, this is about emotional integration. And it's about learning to accept the full spectrum of our emotional lives in our deeper humanity. And that's only a good thing. That's only that's only that's only productive. That's only you know, that's only gonna build a stronger masculinity, for ourselves, for our children, for all boys and men.

Curt Storring 16:28

Wow, man, I have rarely heard it say so well, what I am trying to get at. And so I really appreciate the way in which you just explained it there because it's finding the balance. And it's put it in a more masculine term, it's adding tools to your toolbox. It's you can only sit out there with the support and go get them Gipper. And then like I said, something bad happens. It's just rage, like I've experienced that that's that used to be my go to is just blatant rage. And when you do that, you miss all these other tools, being able to empathize, to be able to show how to express the feelings which as a human being, not because you're not a man, not because you're a woman. But as a human, you have to be able to express those and see those in your children empathize with them, helps them move through your body and not get stuck. And I have experienced that so much without expressing my emotions, they would just get stuck in the body. And there's a whole body of work around this with, you know, trauma and the the what is the book Bessel Vander Kolk has, the Body Keeps the Score I think it is there's all of this stuff showing emotion gets stuck in the body. And adding more tools simply frees you up to be a better man. That's what I've experienced, at least Yeah. So I wonder if you could speak to that in your own life. Like you've done all this work. Now over the last 10 years since becoming a father, what does your life look like? That's different and potentially even more rewarding? If it has?

Andrew Reiner 17:55

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, you know, one of the things you touched on that, that immediately started nodding on that, of course, nobody can see. But you could see, you talk about this idea of being stuck. And and I think that that is exactly in a larger sense. Where a lot of contemporary masculinity is. I think, I don't think, you know, I don't think we're nearly as toxic as a lot of people would have us believe I think I think masculinity is static right now. I think we're stuck. I do think of course, there are toxic behaviors, if you want to call it toxic or noxious or whatever you want to do that feels more comfortable. But I don't think as an identity, there's a toxicity, I think there are behaviors that are that can at times be, you know, very unproductive and dangerous for us and for other people. Absolutely. But I think we're stuck. And I think what happens is that, you know, it's that idea of reacting in ways and in engaging the world and especially other boys and other men in ways that are just haven't we were in ruts and it's not getting us anywhere. And and it's really not serving us or other people in our lives. I think for me, I have found that I've spent you know, you asked about my own stories so much of my life, as I said earlier, pushing back against parts of masculinity that I really had an issue with and I felt like we're just really unhealthy and unproductive. But since my son has been born and it speaks to something you were talking about, I have found that there's an error a huge part of my being, especially as a husband and a father that I am stuck and it is my emotional reactivity. Man. This is like really become an issue. You know, and here I am going along thinking not that I'm superior but that I have I have just made so much ground and I am doing great and and you know there's so little I really need to work on it, tweak it red flag right there, man. Anytime you start thinking that shit, you are like on the wrong track right there, my friend. Yeah, so that is the giant red flag, right? So here I am. And so, you know, there is nothing in our lives. And we should always remember this as dads, there is nothing in our lives, that is going to hold up a mirror, to how we are behaving in any given time and who we are like our, like our family, they are mirrors to us. And I started hearing myself. I mean, it's almost as if, you know, my child, and my wife, my son of my wife weren't just mirrors to me. But it's almost like they were loud speakers. And they were just like, standing there playing back. And I could hear myself and I'm thinking, Who the hell is this, reacting this way, reacting with this immediate hostility, this frustration and this anger? Who is this, I don't even recognize this guy. And of course, surprise, surprise, it was me. And so that is that as a part of my of my, my static my stuckness that I am in, I'm looking at now, you know, that is something that I thought I gotten past. But you know, but when you're in a font family dynamic, you know, nothing, nothing reverbs back and mirrors back of ourselves, like our, like our family or closest intimates to our family members. And so that is a stuck for a lot of us. I can go and react in far different ways in the public sphere, you know, I don't, I never hear myself reacting. You know, when I am giving talks, when I'm talking to people, when I'm teaching, I am so much different. But when I get to that threshold in my home, man, it's like, all bets are off, you know, I let it down probably too much I give in to my reactivity. And that's another thing that I've learned through having a son who's got us very sensitive as big feelings. And I've learned that this, this is me. And I never really acknowledged that part of myself, because I learned at a young age, and I'm only realizing this now that I just shut that down, you know, if I was going to navigate the world, and I was going to be able to, you know, be have a kind of toughness, that I wanted to have to push back against things, you know, with equal force, I had to suppress that side of me. And I didn't realize that until, until I started seeing this, these big feelings and reactions of my young son. And I started realizing through my own journey, he is me, I am him. And so a lot of this are things that I'm having to unlearn, and relearn again, in terms of reactivity. So one of the things I've learned Curt, that really surprised me, although when I think about it really shouldn't be surprised is I've been looking into this stuff about about people who are very highly sensitive people. And I realized that this is my son, because I'm trying to help him. Well, this is me too. And I realized that, you know, 30% of the population, regardless of gender identity, are highly sensitive people. It's not an excuse, it's just that this is the way we're wired, a lot of us are wired this way. And then it got me thinking. So if 30% of the population is this way, and all the research is showing that, that means a hell of a lot of guys out there are having to find ways to mask that and hide that and swallow it back. So that they don't feel like they're going to be found out. And this happens all the time. And so, one of the things, this is the thing that happens for a lot of guys, and it gets us in trouble, you know, especially in our family lives, in relationships with our partners, and spouses and girlfriends, or, you know, or boyfriends or husbands or whatever. But we get very reactive, when we're with our intimates because we feel safer. And we do it with our children. And, and that's not okay. Because as I'm learning the hard way myself, we've got to step back and learn what to do with our big feelings. Because, you know, because a lot of us are too quick to reactivity. And, and what we've got to do well is not just swallow it back and say, I'm gonna just, I'm just gonna react differently. You can't just tough that out. You know, you can't tough out the, you know, the deeper feelings and emotions that are inside of you, that are just going to keep coming out in more warped ways. You've got to step back and say and own this is who I am. I am a sensitive person. And part of the thing that helps with that, you know, for guys, and for a lot of guys, this is really hard, but it's about setting up relational boundaries is saying, You know what, I know that there are times that that might things that my partner or girlfriend or husband or boyfriend or wife says that really hurt my feelings and I just pretend it's not a big deal. But you know what, it hurts my feelings. One of the most liberating things I started doing, was telling my wife a couple years ago, you know what, what you just said that hurt my feelings. I'm not okay with that. That is about saying, Man, I am owning my sensitivity. This could be a superpower if I learned to work it the right way. And it helps you learn to set boundaries with people. Because the more that you go around thinking, I, when you have these feelings of hurt, which a lot of men do, and a lot of men will say to themselves, I shouldn't be feeling this, I can handle this, I'm a guy, I'm tough. This is not bothering me. When you do that, what happens is, there is a deep resentment and anger, that ends up coming out in very unproductive, dysfunctional ways. So why not just learn to accept that some of us, some of us more than others really are sensitive people. And the sensitivity is not, you know, the sensitivity is not a flaw. It is it really is a superpower. Because when we learn to own it, and to redirect it in more positive ways, everybody benefits from from our, from our sensitivity, when we learn to show it in productive ways. And so a lot of us would do ourselves and our loved ones far better. If we would just say, You know what, this really is who I am. And I'm going to start drawing boundaries. So people know that, you know, they let me know, when I crossed the cross the line with them, I need to do the same thing. We will not be so resentful of our partners and our wives. If we let them know, when they have heard us, we will feel far better. And I know this from firsthand experience, you asked me about firsthand experience, this was an area of stuckness. For me, you know it was my reactivity. And it was denying the fact that I was getting hurt. And then I was getting resentful. And I have an accountability and responsibility to myself and other people to let them know, if they have crossed a boundary. Just like you know, women are great at doing that. We need to get better doing that too. Because we do have feelings. And the more that we get better at honoring and owning them, the better we can, the better we can help our sons so that they can have getting their needs met in relationships as well.

Curt Storring 27:06

Wow, all of that, again, I am just so excited about this, Andrew, thank you again for just laying down the truth. Because I agree with all of that, and I relate to all of it, I would come home from being the nicest guy, absolute gentleman. Everyone's like, Oh, my goodness, this guy is so on point. And I would come home. And what I noticed in my home Rage was that I was treating my family as an extension of myself. And the point I'm making here is that my inner talk was brutal. And I'm wondering if that was similar for you, I was a slave driver to myself, I would not let myself screw up. I would not let myself be anything but perfect, I would have incredible expectations. And there was something about, as you said, the safety of intimacy, that I simply used my children and my wife as an extension of myself. And I spoke to them in ways that was completely unacceptable. And it wasn't until I was able to develop some self love, some compassion, some forgiveness for who I was being that I stopped bringing it out on them too. And I would like to dive a little bit into some of what you said in a moment. But does that resonate with you? What kind of inner work had you had? Did you have to do on this? to maybe get to that place?

Andrew Reiner 28:25

Well? Absolutely. And can I ask you a quick question about what something you just said, Curt? Please. So tell me so what were some of the messages you would tell yourself? When you said that you were you were, you know, feeling and reacting in ways that you were they were not showing yourself compassion and love? What were some what was kind of going through your mind? What were some of the things you heard yourself saying to yourself or that that love and compassion wasn't? Wasn't there at all?

Curt Storring 28:49

It was you are a failure. Nobody likes you. You're never going to be good enough. You don't deserve this. You're doing a bad job. You're never going to figure this out. It was continual self be Raymond. And looking to be perfect. That's the best way I can. Yeah.

Andrew Reiner 29:09

Hey, thank you for sharing that. That's That's powerful. Thank you. Yeah, I mean, my experience is very similar. You know, it's, um, I'm trying to think of specific things. I mean, you know, it's, it's a lot of that that same stuff. I mean, I spent the first probably six years of my child's my son's life feeling like there were parts of my of my parenting that that I wasn't really handling nearly as well as my wife. I felt very inadequate in certain areas of my role as a father. And you know, I, I would just end it what you know, it wasn't the typical stuff. You know, for a lot of you know, for a lot of dads not all dads, but for a lot of dads. It's the emotional stuff. You know, a lot of dads feel like, okay, well, my wife will do a better job and that she can be the go to, she'll take care of that. For me, it was, um, it was very different. You know, there were things about being a dad, that I, it wasn't so much the emotional stuff, and I apologize, I'm drawing a blank on that right now. But I can't tell you this, I can't tell you that. I think for me, the area of feeling the lack of compassion really was glaringly in my relationship with my wife. Because she is really good, really good at drawing boundaries, and letting me know, in no uncertain terms when I've crossed a line, and for a long time, you know, I would just kind of when she would, you know, say things or do things that, you know, she, you know, a couple times she actually had, like, you know, whacked me on the arm, you know, or done something like that. And I thought, shit, this is no big deal. It doesn't hurt, you know, it's just nothing. You know, I mean, she would say things, you know, that the kind of things that if I said, you know, she would have been in pieces, and she would say things to me and rage. And I would think, you know, I can handle this, I've had worse man, you know, I grew up with a father who could tear this house down with with emotion with a verbal emotional abuse. So if I can, you know, if she's gonna rage at me a little bit, I can handle that. Well, you know, what, when it got to the point, and I don't remember exactly when, but I remember, I was trying, we it was problem, we were in counseling together. And I remember sitting there, you know, next to my wife, and I were, you know, facing this counselor. And I said, you know, what, there. And I can't remember the exact moment, but I do remember saying, if I'm going to be really honest here, and I'm really going to get what I need, you know, from you. I said, to be honest with you, there are times that you have done things and said things, you know that you've really crossed lines. And and so, you know, I think that some of the stuff you've you know, you've done at times probably can be considered abusive. And I said, but part of the problem, I realize is that I have not been telling you, because I've been letting you cross these boundaries. And I realize how angry I am at myself. Because I would just sit there and keep telling myself, you can handle this, you've had so much worse, Andrew, you can handle this no problem. Well, yeah, the reality is that in a literal sense, I could keep going on like that. And I And and, and I wouldn't be my life wouldn't be threatened. But the problem is that, then I go back. And what I was doing is when other things would happen, I would get resentful very quickly, very viscerally. And I would write the things we were talking about, I would start screaming and yelling, and thinking like, wow, Where's this coming from? And I realized sitting on the sofa that day with, with our couples counselor, that I really needed to start drawing boundaries with her with my wife. And it's not that she was walking all over me. She's not that kind of person. She never has been. But we trigger each other surprise, surprise, we do that in relationships, right, we trigger each other. And so what happens is that I needed to start letting her know, because there really was a big onus on me to do this, to let her know, you know what, you're crossing a line here. And this is what was really powerful about this correct. When I started doing that. I felt far less resentment, and then in turn anger and hostility when I did react to my wife. And that was a game changer. Yeah,

Curt Storring 33:52

I love that I love the boundaries. And that is, it seems so easy. Now I went through a very similar experience where I was basically betraying myself by going like, Oh, you, you can just hold everything. And that's my, one of my sort of deep wounds is everyone expects me to just hold space. And again, it's become a superpower as I run men's groups, and as I hold space for other men, but man, it hurts, especially when you're with your partner. And not having said anything about that. I think as I'm thinking back to my life, like you might have just hit the nail on the head. It's when you start setting boundaries, and then standing up for those boundaries. And this might be a good segue, actually one of the questions that you wrote down before our interview, which is how we can reimagine and reconsider the way we talk to our sons. Because I believe, at least in my life, the way I communicate to my wife ends up being very similar to the way I communicate with my children. It's now based in empathy and compassion and understanding and listening and setting boundaries and allowing them to consequences when those boundaries are crossed. And so I wonder does this tie in and if not, let's just go there anyway, because I would love to hear like How you have come to learn to talk to your son?

Andrew Reiner 35:03

Yeah, absolutely. So, um, two things come to mind right off the bat that I really, I've been trying to do a lot more with my son. One of them is curiosity, leading with curiosity, less with judgment. You know, one of the things that men are very good at doing, and a lot of us are because we've been taught to do this, you know, is we've been taught to come into a place of offering suggestions, offering solutions, offering advice. And judging is, of course, in the more extreme forms. One of the things that we are not good at is being curious, especially in the relationships of hours that matter, most, you know, we think that, okay, well, if I'm going to, if I'm going to, you know, be to you what you want me to be and what I'm supposed to be, then I'm going to offer up solutions, I'm going to offer up advice, you know, and and again, at times that more negative form of it, it can be judgment. But we don't ask questions. And and this is something I learned through teaching is that girls and young women are so much better at sitting in classrooms with that wonderful, reactive look of curiosity, and lightbulbs going going off in their heads, and throwing their hands up and raising questions to the point where you couldn't keep their arm down if you tried man, because that curiosity and that fire is burning. And I have to tell you, I do not see that with most boys and young men. And that is not a coincidence. And I get the occasional guy, you know, that I've taught that that has that. But by and large, they're much more concerned with with following that script. And part of that script means not coming off as too zealous to learn, not coming off as too zealous with anything, and feeling like, you know, that they don't want to appear wrong. By opening up by making themselves vulnerable in the classroom and having the wrong answer. The only one would be right. Um, and then, and then, of course, this part of it, of just not making themselves wanting to look bad. So all of that message negates any kind of intellectual curiosity. But you take that and you move it into a interrelate, you know, in you know, in your personal sphere, where vulnerability is thrown in, you can forget curiosity, because it's always going to be about guarding yourself and needing to come out, like you're the guy. And so because, you know, Curiosity is bad enough in a classroom, but then when you take into an interpersonal relationship, where vulnerabilities is even far more potential, the potential for vulnerabilities there, you really you're going to not going to be curious, you're going to feel like, I've got to be the guy for this person, you know, I've got to be the one who's always going to have the solutions, the advice, I'm always going to have the answer, and there is no opening there for curiosity. And one of the things I've learned, and I try to do this with my son, is instead of coming in and saying, oh, you should do it this way. Or why don't you just try doing it that way? Or, this is what you should do? Asking questions. And I started doing and really the first place I started doing this, Curt was in my marriage with my wife, you know, when I would feel that need, you know, to come in and say, you know, you're doing this again, or, you know, you're doing something that's really upsetting me, I, you know, stopped myself. And I'll say, okay, so why do you feel the need to do this right now? Or why did you feel the need to say what you just said,

that is radically different. And then then coming at somebody with a judgment, because you immediately put somebody in the defensive with judgment. And when you're constantly giving people advice, and solutions, eventually, they're going to get defensive against that. Because that appears, it always feels like you're trying to come in and save the day. When you come in with curiosity, it immediately neutralizes any any potential for defensiveness. And people appreciate curiosity, because it shows that you genuinely care and you want to know why. And so that's one of the things that I've been doing with my son is asking a lot of questions. The other thing I've started doing is that, as I said earlier, because I am a person with big feelings, and I own that now, and I'm okay with that, it's part of who I am. And I can learn how to how to find the benefits in that and work around it when it feels like it might be getting in the way. So one of the things I do is that when he triggers me, and I, you know, he's not maybe responding in a way that I really would like him to. And maybe I react with a little bit more emotion, then in the aftermath, I would like to, or maybe he hears his mother and I, you know, arguing, I go back to him, and I'll talk to him and I'll say, again, leading with curiosity, do you know why? I was getting so you know, for instance, you know why I got so upset before when you wouldn't get off your iPad and stop playing that you know your games. Do you know why I reacted with so much emotion? So I try to lead with curiosity. But I also try to go back and talk it through. And if he's not sure, then I'll say to him, you hurt anger, right? Well, let me tell you what's beneath that anger. One, you know, and often I'll, if it's something I'm afraid of, or there's fear beneath it, own it, man. I will say to him, I was this is this, this had me afraid, I am afraid that you're going to become, like so many boys out there who just so addicted to gaming, and then it becomes a way for them to escape. And it becomes a way for them to get stimulation, where they're not finding it off the screen. And that really becomes a slippery slope. And I was afraid. I get afraid sometimes when I see you getting just getting so upset if you can't be on the screen. Honestly, it scares me a little bit. It really does. There's a lot going on there. When you come at a boy especially. And you tell him what's beneath your anger? You don't want to do it in that moment. I mean, really? How can you go when you're angry? And go and say to somebody, do you know what's really beneath my anger? I mean, it's a comedy skit, right? You go back, you go back, right? You start out with curiosity, because it also when you also ask with curiosity empowers the other person in terms of buying for the conversation. And then you share it was really beneath the emotion once you figure out what it was. And what that does, you know, that kind of going back and that kind of, you know, that kind of, you know, mediation of approach. Models for boys the importance of being accountable. When they do overreact. There's accountability in that you don't even tell them that. They're just getting it by you modeling, there's accountability. My father is coming. He's apologizing. I often apologize whenever I always apologize. When I overreact, I apologize, believe his curiosity. And I come in and let him know what the deeper fear was. Because when he hears me saying that, it creates this safe space for him to know, now and in the future, he can think about and get beyond the initial reactivity, and think about what is the what is the real emotion beneath what I'm feeling. And I can be accountable to myself and other people for that. My God, I mean, for my money, that is, that is the most important step for my money we can take for our sons. So that's, that's one of the things I've really been leaning into.

Curt Storring 42:35

Amazing. Thank you for sharing that. And are there other ways that you've been purposefully and intentionally trying to model emotional resiliency? Because I know, this was one of the things that you had mentioned is how do we prepare our sons for a changing world and allow them to build that resiliency? So what other tools or conversations are you having with him or even modeling for him that are going to help increase his ability to be resilient?

Andrew Reiner 43:05

Absolutely, yeah, that's a great question. You know, we really do live in a world now. Where in classrooms and and workplaces, the expectations have dramatically changed. And the toolkit expected is that our self greater self awareness, greater empathy, greater collaboration skills, and these, these are things that that, you know, these are things that aren't part of what many boys are still being raised on, this isn't part of their, you know, their diet, this isn't to go back to what you were talking about, you know, you know, with the tool belt, these aren't part of the tools, we're putting in most boys tool belts, you know, we are still coming at it with a place of, you know, having right answers, you know, swallowing back your emotions, so that you can, you know, rise to the occasion and be the man that you need to be. But these kinds of softer skills, they're called, we're still not teaching boys these things. And yet we expect them to show up and have them. And so these are really, these are things that boys are at a deficit and young men, if they don't have these skills, and you can't fake it till you make it with these things. So, you know, one of the things that I started doing with my son when he was pre verbal, is when I would read picture books to him. Another thing that I would do is I would point to a character that was having a strong facial expression, I'd say, What do you think, like, not when he's pre verbal? Because he couldn't speak? I'm sorry, when he could speak, I would say what do you think that character's feeling right now?

You know, to me, what was more important than him understanding the story was understanding characters emotions and feelings and why they're feeling the way they're feeling. And so why do you think that character is feeling that way? And so what I was trying to do was get him on board with the idea of facial recognition and model and feel understanding empathy. And so that's one of the things that I was really leaning into with him. And so, you know, it started with little picture books when we would start to watch Cartoons together. You know, I might stop it and say, What Why do you think that characters reacting the way that that character is, things like that. So, you know, there there It began with that. When it comes to things, having greater self awareness, and having the ability to not overreact, emotionally with big feelings. A great example for me is in the car, you know, I'm driving, and somebody is driving recklessly. And I get really frustrated and really annoyed. One of the things that I you know, I've had to teach myself to do with my son in the backseat is to take it in stride, and be more philosophical about it. And one of the things you know, he'll start getting upset now. Say, why are you not laying on the horn dad? Why are you not flipping them off? Why do all these crazy on these crazy things, man, and I'm just saying, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, I hear what you're saying. I understand why you're saying that, believe me, I get it. But you need to understand that we live in a world where if you know, when you roll down the window, and you flip somebody off, or things like that, people get into fights, and people get killed every day for simple things like that. This is about you know, you learning to have greater control over your own strong feelings and emotions. This is a really important part of emotional resiliency for boys and men, is not getting reactive. And so one of the things that I often try to do when he's in the backseat of a driving because he knows my, you know, how quickly I can easily get, you know, annoyed and frustrated, is I'll say, you know, man, that was really dangerous. I mean, I will, you know, beat the horn, but I don't lay on it and scream things with him there. But that is a behavior. And he really I like it. Right? Now, when he is saying to me, why aren't you doing this data? Why aren't you doing that? Because to me, that is that is an open door to have a conversation to say, This is why because this is why, you know, this is why when people do these things, people get hurt, and people get killed. And people get into the and then and then later after the fact, if they haven't gotten seriously injured, but they have gotten into an argument or fight, they sit back and they say, You know what, that was a really stupid thing to do. And I said, so this happens time and time again, in boys and men's lives. And they're so regretful afterwards, and it shouldn't have to take that, why not just get a handle on your emotions, and start doing some breathing. And so that's another thing about emotional resiliency is when we get those strong, big feelings coming quickly. And for those of us who are sensitive people, man, we can feel that train out of the gates quickly. And so one of the things I also do with him is when he's feeling those strong feelings, I'll say, Okay, we need to dial it back. Let's just take a minute. And let's just do some breathing together. And then we'll do some of the you know, breathing into the nose, holding the breath, exhaling slowly through that little o in the mouth. This is another simple way of developing emotional resiliency, because it's preventing that train from getting out of the gates and slowing it down. And that slows down the emotional response. So these are just a couple different things that, you know, that I've been working on with my son that just off the top of my head, they do come to mind.

Curt Storring 48:23

Yeah, no. And when you're saying that, I mean, this is sort of my line in the sand. That's why I'm doing what I'm doing is it's incumbent on us as fathers to be the ones to learn these skills and model them. Because if we don't, as you say, the world is going to expect that from them. And they are going to have to suffer until they learn. And oftentimes, they never will, because they'll be crushed by the suffering that comes from that. And so I'll see, my goal is to provide my children with the tools that they will need to thrive to be emotionally resilient to notice to be aware. And so I as a father, if I do not do these things, I necessarily take the weight of generational trauma, if you will, off my shoulders and knowingly place it on my sons. And what kind of father am I if I do that, so guys who think this emotional stuff is too hard? What could be what could be more manly than doing hard things, guys? Right? It was like, Oh, I was born. I don't want to feel this. I'm judging myself. And she says to me, like Oh, isn't don't strong man do hard things. It's like, damn it. This is the hardest. Anyone out there who's like really unsure about this. You are literally putting a weight of your forefathers and yourself onto your children if you don't do the work. So I want all of your time. But you have to find sort of final thoughts on this. Before we can tell people where to find you and get your book.

Andrew Reiner 49:49

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. This this point, Curt, I really think is we can't emphasize this enough. You know, yes, it's hard. But one of the things that has been humbling and empowering For me as a father, is the things I've just been talking about for the past five minutes or so, I have been learning with him. And I even say to him, You know what, I am a sensitive guy, you get this from me, we are I am learning this with you. And you know what, this is really a gift for me too, because I'm learning this every step of the way with you. Because Because grownups don't know everything. And you need to know that they don't. And they might pretend that they do. But we there's a lot that we do know from life experience. But there's a lot of things that we that we don't know. And we're not serving you or other people in our lives, if we're not really being honest with ourselves and stepping up and you know, doing what we need to do to become better versions of ourselves. Because I'm always telling him about the importance of being the best version of himself, he can be. And I'll say to him, this is me trying to learn to be a better version of myself by learning along with you taking these baby steps with learning how to teach you emotional resiliency, because sometimes I'm learning to

Curt Storring 50:58

Yes, man, this is exactly what I was hoping and more, I feel like I've only scratched like this very surface of everything I wanted to talk to you about. So perhaps one day we'll have to do this again, if you have short energy on that. And I really, really appreciated your energy and I'm really glad you did this because it's a sensitive space these days to not just straight up call all masculinity toxic, and it's very courageous to be able to step into it in a nuanced way which you have. And so thank you for being that person. That man. And could you please tell us where people can find you and the book?

Unknown Speaker 51:32

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that. Curt. Yeah, so I am on Twitter, Andrew T Reiner. I Twitter you know, kind of like staying away from it because Because man talk about a toxic space. I really, I really kind of, you know, don't go on Twitter, as you know nearly as much. But yeah, I'm also on Instagram a lot. Actually. I've got a lot of, I feel really, really good about a lot a lot of the material I have a lot of the stuff on on Instagram because it's um, I've been putting a lot more of my heart and my soul into the stuff on Instagram. It's a lot more positive message about healthy masculinity. And that's Andrew Reiner author. I've got a web a web page andrewreinerauthor.com. If you ever want you know, if you have questions, you can email me a A Reiner areiner@towson.edu. Yeah, please, by all means, check out my book.

Curt Storring 52:22

Amazing. Okay, Andrew, thank you so much. I'll put all of that in the shownotes guys at Dad.Work/Podcast, you can find all of that and follow Andrew by the book there. And thank you so much. I really really appreciate your time and your wisdom and your vulnerability. So thank you.

Andrew Reiner 52:35

Same with you, Curt I really appreciate you having me here having me on here and the conversation was great. Thank you so much for showing up with your vulnerability and your wisdom. It was great. Thank you

Curt Storring 52:54

that's it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening. It means the world to find out more about everything that we talked about in the episode today, including Show Notes resources and links to subscribe leave a review work with us go to dad.work/pod. That's DAD.WORK/POD type that into your browser just like a normal URL dad.work/pod You'll find everything there. You need to become a better man, a better partner and a better father. Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time.

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