In this episode Diana talks to healthy masculinity expert Mark Greene about how we can parent boys to combat man box culture.

Mark explains what man box culture means, how it affects our boys, and what we can do as parents to ensure that our boys are not adhering to the precepts of man box culture that can hurt their ability to be full human beings with a wide range of emotions, and rather encourages dominance over others and to suppress displaying emotions and having meaningful and deep relationships.

Mark also highlights powerful  statistics from Equimundo that show how man box culture affects men in the USA, Mexico and the UK.



Mark shares fascinating insight on how man box culture hurts boys and men, and how man box culture affects the politics of today (think MAGA and how white men feeling like they are losing). He also discusses why it’s important to be in relationship with our boys and gives examples of how building those solid relationships can support our boys as they get older.

Mark is the co-author with Dr. Saliha Bava of The Relational Book for Parenting, and in our conversation he provides a few examples of games to play with our kids to help have conversatoins and talk about our feelings, and help them express their emotions in a safe and engaging way.

Make sure to follow Mark on Instagram @remakingmanhood 

If you liked this conversation, be sure to check out our conversation about social emotional learning with Tim Shriver. 

Don’t forget to leave a review, share this episode with your friend and follow us on Instagram, @parentingandpolitics



00:08 – Diana (Host)
Welcome to Parenting and Politics, a podcast for parents who want to make a difference, where we look at parenting through a political lens. I’m Diana Limongi. Today, our guest is Mark Greene, who is an expert on healthy masculinity. He has a community called Remaking Manhood, which you should definitely check out on Instagram and other platforms. Mark is the author of the groundbreaking the Little Me Too Book for Men, which has been called a Blueprint for Men’s Liberation. He’s a co-author with Dr Saliha Bavaaba of the Relational Book for Parenting, and his new work of fiction is called Dance of the Hangman. Mark, you’re very busy. Look at all that writing. I’m so excited that you’re here. Welcome to the podcast.

00:49 – Mark Greene (Guest)
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here

00:54 – Diana (Host)
I always ask my guests, when I say parenting and politics, what comes to mind?

01:01 – Mark Greene (Guest)
I posted a little thing on Instagram yesterday, I think, and it was born out of a conversation that I witnessed people having on LinkedIn about hey, this is a business platform, you shouldn’t talk about politics here, and so on. To paraphrase myself, I said something the effect of everything is political. The most political act of all is to tell people that they shouldn’t talk about the political. That’s definitely a message we get from people who are disadvantaged. When a larger, more significant, more universal examination of the systems and structures that are in place and have been in place for a long time, when that conversation starts happening, the folks at the top don’t like it.

I think parenting is a political space. I don’t mean we want to politicize small children. There’s these terrifying stories of mothers waving their small daughters around at anti-abortion protests 30 years ago. I do think that we are political creatures in the sense that the political world is impacting our individual experiences in family life. If we don’t have a strong sense of how to help our children grow up with real capacities for creating relationships and community, then that larger cultural impact will alienate them from themselves and others.

02:39 – Diana (Host)
I love that you mentioned the word community, because I often think about, which is what we’re going to talk about in a little bit right Boys and girls and men and women, and how we women have a community, we develop a community, and how that affects our parenting and just mental health and all of these things that we’re going to talk about when we talk about men and boys and raising boys, which is what we’re here to discuss Today, we’re going to talk about raising boys and the challenges that come with raising boys in a patriarchal society. Now, tony Porter, who’s also a masculinity expert, has labeled he coined a term called the man box. Right, you have written and spoken so eloquently about this idea of a man box culture. Tell us what a man box culture is so the listeners can have that framing before we talk about the parenting aspect of boys.

03:42 – Mark Greene (Guest)
Sure. Well, in the early 1980s, a man named Paul Kibble went around to high schools in the Oakland Bay Area and he asked boys a very simple question. He said what are the rules for being a man? Surprisingly, they all came back with a very similar set of rules and they included things like number one was don’t show your emotions, except possibly for anger. Be a breadwinner, never a caregiver. Be tough, never ask for help. Have lots of sex. If you’re going to talk to other boys and men, talk about cars or sports. Don’t talk about anything deep ever. Be heterosexual, never homosexual, and have control over women and girls. Those were the rules, I think.

If I go in front of a group of men even today and I say what are the rules for being a man, many of these come up. Now we won’t, as men, admit as readily anymore that we think heterosexuality is the right way to be a man. Men don’t want to admit today that having control over women and girls is a thing anymore. I’ll have men in that context say, oh yeah, that thing about having control over women and girls, that was my parents’ generation. That’s not really something that men believe anymore. I immediately take them to research by Equamundo, which is an organization that does masculinity research. They have a report called the Manbox. It’s a report on deep research they’ve been doing for years. You can download it very easily on the internet. Just Google Equamundo and the Manbox and you can download the PDF. It’s research that asks yes or no questions of populations of men in Mexico, the United States and Great Britain. One of the questions they pose in that study in 2017 was the following statement Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? The statement is if a guy has a girlfriend or wife, he deserves to know where she is all the time. Now, that’s not caregiving and that’s not keeping your partner safe. That’s control. The assumptions men make in that audience is then oh well, it can’t be that many men and it’s probably Mexico and whatever bigoted, biased, denial kind of assumptions they might make. But I’m here to tell you that the population of men that answered yes to that question in the highest percentage was the United States, not Great Britain, not Mexico, and the percentage of men that answered yes to that question I’m going to repeat the question If a guy has a girlfriend or wife, he deserves to know where she is all the time. The percentage that answered yes was 46% In Mexico. It was 28%, dramatically lower In the United States of America. Men feel like they have the right to control. I guarantee those men don’t feel like their wives have the right to know where they are all the time.

When we look at these man box rules be tough. Never ask for help. Never ask for help if you have mental health challenges or issues. Never do self-reflection. Never do self-care work. Never do this is where we get this idea that men just have to suck it up and deal with things. And this is why men have significant mental health issues is because we have a culture that tells them if you ask for help, you’re not a real man. So this is man box culture in a nutshell, and man box culture underpins how we raise boys and what we do to them in the process of raising them.

07:27 – Diana (Host)
And everything you said is mind-blowing. I feel like I’ve heard all this, but when you listed it all out and when you gave the statistics, about 46% of men in the US answered versus Mexico, which I think people may think may expect the Mexico for some cultural reason. We expect men in Mexico to maybe be more macho, right, like cultural, like Latino men. But that was mind-blowing.

07:57 – Mark Greene (Guest)
Yeah, and what’s fascinating to note about this whole construct of man box culture is the degree to which each one of these edicts has led to men, you know, creating identities that have patriarchy threaded through them. When you say to a man, never be a caregiver, I guarantee you, if a man believes it’s his job to bring home the money and never be a caregiver, he sure as hell isn’t gonna put a spoon in the dishwasher, right, he’s not gonna do that, much less take care of his kids in a way which creates a real bond or connection between him and his daughters or sons or non-binary kids or whatever. So the long and short of this is that we need to look at every aspect of the man box and see how it is reinforcing patriarchal culture, dominance culture, and we call this dominance-based masculinity because it’s a hierarchical system within which men constantly have to prove their man box credibility. It is a process by which men have to hide aspects of themselves that don’t fit that right. So we have men who are essentially playing a caricature of patriarchal masculinity, and I know what this is like because I did it for decades. I did some version of it, did the version of it that the best version I could try to do, given my predilections as a human being. And so women listening, men listening, non-binary folks listening to this conversation should understand that we have a cultural system that dates back well before Kimmel noticed it in the 80s, and that Tony Porter later said this act like a man box language isn’t working for my population.


I’m gonna shorten that to the man box, and then I come along and I attach this word culture, because what we need to understand is that when we talk to men about masculinity, they don’t even, they’re not even conscious of the larger culture. It’s so ubiquitous that they start getting trained into this beginning in infancy. They get taught by their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers, kids in the neighborhood, teachers, coaches, media every single conduit by which they construct identity is threaded through with this man box idea of masculinity because it’s so universal, and when something’s that universal, it impacts. Women internalize it, men internalize it. It’s the water we swim in, it’s the air we breathe and subsequently, if we talk to men about what’s going wrong with masculinity, if we don’t intentionally say the culture of masculine I wanna have a conversation about this larger culture that taught us everything we believe then men see it as an attack on their identity. And it is this moment in which this male fragility, this angry pushback, this not all men all of those aspects of the dialogue become problematic.

I try not to focus on identity ever exclusively, because of all the intersectionality that informs what it means to be black or Latino or gay or trans or any concept that might be a leading identifier is informed by all the other intersectionality, including status and class and religion and geography and all that stuff.

And I try to do that for men as well. So I’m saying, hey, brothers, let’s look at this larger culture that taught us everything we believe, and then let’s ask ourselves some questions, because in that little bit of daylight between identity and culture, we can create a little daylight between those two and say, hey, what did we learn? Then men are able to begin to self reflect about well, why do I believe, what I believe about women or black people or trans people or whatever, and they can start asking questions about and these things I believe, how have they impacted my quality of life, my own experience of being in the world? And I can tell you how it’s impacted them. It’s impacted them by creating levels of social isolation and loneliness for men that are off the fucking charts and are leading to health impacts equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for men. Men are dying earlier of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases. All this stuff because we live in a culture that trains us out of connection as young boys and slots us into a competitive hierarchy.

12:31 – Diana (Host)
In raising boys. How does the man box culture influence the parenting of boys? And I think in the long run we’re going to talk about the politics of it, you know how these boys are growing. But let’s talk about the aspect of raising boys when it’s so ubiquitous, right? When it’s all over the place, Right right?



12:54 – Mark Greene (Guest)
Well, first let me just pause for a moment and thank you for letting me just throw data and information, because I feel like this is a really big story that no one talks about enough, so I’m going to throw a little more data at this question of raising boys. We have to understand what the research tells us about how boys are impacted by culture, and often that culture gets amplified within the family if the family is not being critical in their thinking about what the messages are they’re passing through to their sons. But the important thing to understand is first, in order to create a patriarchal culture, we have to strip boys of so-called feminine aspects of their personalities, which include things like caregiving, empathy, ability to hold difference, caregiving all those things which are actually human capacities I’m not in the do with gender but which we strip out of boys through a process which was documented in research by two researchers that are very important. If you want to understand what your sons are up against culturally, you need to know about Nairobi Wei and Judy Chu.

Nairobi Wei wrote a book called Deep Secrets and it’s got 30 years of her research. She’s a professor at NYU and what she discovered in her research all was born out of a simple question she was asking. She asked boys not what are the rules for being a man, which Paul Kivill asked them. She asked them this question what does your best friend mean to you and what boys in early adolescence told her, 13 years old or so. They said two things. They said one I love my best friend. They used the word love unashamedly. And the second thing they said was without my best friend I would go crazy. Now the reason they would go crazy without their best friend is because she discovered they were having deeply intimate conversations with their best friends. Their best friend was the place where they processed life and living and understanding what was going on in their lives. And these deeply intimate conversations were the kinds of conversations that boys we all remember.

Any man you meet on the street is walking around with his head down in cloud over his head, feeling, you know, stressing out about what it means to be a man At one time in his life had a deeply rich and meaningful friendship with other boys. I mean we would. You know a five and six year old boy. You send him out to play with his friend and he’s going out to make a golden afternoon of joy, because boys are born just like girls, are just like non-binary kids, are born with this powerful human capacity to create connection.

So Nyabee Wei then goes back to these same boys in late adolescence and she says okay, what’s your best friend mean to you? And by then the same boys are saying well, my best friend Mike, he lives around the corner but I don’t see him that much anymore. He’s a good basketball player, no homo. They’ll throw that little phrase in if they say anything nice about that boy. Another boy describes it as yeah, that friendship’s kind of on a crossfade, it’s kind of fading out. And Nyabee Wei makes it a point to say very clearly that the boys she interviewed were black and brown boys as well as white boys. So she’s talking to boys from all different racial backgrounds, all different stratas, class, et cetera. And these are the voices of boys telling you in very clear language that the very relationships that they would quote go crazy without they’re intentionally giving up later, in late adolescence, at which point their suicide numbers become four times that of girls their age. And when she dug deep, oh, go ahead.

16:39 – Diana (Host)
I was going to say, and then they fade them because they think that that’s what is acceptable. Now right, having these deep relationships is no longer acceptable, so they’re going to push them away or just have them on the surface, without the deep connection.

16:56 – Mark Greene (Guest)
Here’s the kicker she found out that the one, that what they were trying to do is no longer express who they are authentically by late adolescence. They’re trying to prove what they are not. They’re trying to prove they’re not little kids, girly or gay, and in that moment what we see is the impact of these man box rules coming in right. I don’t need help. Don’t be homosexual, don’t be, have control over women and girls, don’t express or connect in ways that might be considered feminine. So we’ve taken in our culture of masculinity, in our in patriarchal culture. We have taken half of our human capacities for connection, human capacities not male, not female capacities like empathy, caregiving, holding, uncertainty all of those things have been defined as feminine and boys are shamed for needing friendship, for expressing emotionally, for doing all that stuff. Meanwhile, we’ve taken the other half of human capacities, which being tough, being a leader, sticking to your guns, all that stuff, and we’ve defined that as masculine. And when a woman shows up as a political leader or as a leader in the workplace in ways that men do every single day, in exactly the same ways, we define that as un-ladylike, as being a ball buster, as all this sort of negative stuff based on a false gender binary about what capacities are feminine and what capacities are masculine. So let’s just notice here what we’ve talked about.

We’ve talked about breaking connection for boys around all of the relational capacities that create real relationships, that create and care for relationships and that create community. So it’s a deeply isolating function. Then we slot them into a hierarchy of dominant space, masculine hierarchy. Patriarchy is hierarchical right and dominant space man box culture is the weapon by which boys are forced into that. And you can’t have a culture of institutionalized, you can’t have a culture that would pass a law that says women may not have an abortion and if they try to get one by driving on this highway in Texas, we have the right to arrest them. You can’t take that level of oppression of women and put it in place without first stripping empathy out of boys and men, right? So we break all of this relational capacity, we drive men into this deep isolation.

Then we put them in a competitive hierarchy which says based on your status, your family connections, your size, whatever it is, you get slotted in at this point. Then at that point, from that point forward, you have to learn how to dominate the men around you or you lose status. And if you lose status it means more people are gonna dominate you, and if you lose enough status, you’re doomed right. So men are put into this process where they’re constantly checking in on the list of man box rules and trying to make sure they’re doing it right and they’re struggling up this hierarchy of competition by policing and attacking the men around them. And if they get too anxious, too much stress, too much, whatever, and drinking and sex and whatever isn’t enough to calm that anxiety.

The message to them in that hierarchy as well, you wanna validate your masculinity, do dominance, and just let that come out sideways at women, at LGBTQ populations, at other ethnicities ethnicities, other races, other religions, other immigration status. So we have a culture that stresses men out to the point where they then vent out at other populations, and this is why man box culture leads to white supremacy, leads to male supremacy, leads to religious violence. So in and understand there are global versions of this playing out right. So in the US it might look like white supremacy, whereas in Asia it may look like religious nationalism. But dominance-based masculinity aligns with whatever the bigotry or bias is locally and leverages that as a way to put men in that system at the top of the hierarchy.

21:20 – Diana (Host)
That was a lot it is a lot, didn’t it? So let’s talk about how. So I have a 12 year old right. How do we break the cycle right as parents raising kids at a time in a country where we are seeing everything you just described exploding?

21:41 – Mark Greene (Guest)

21:41 – Diana (Host)
We’re seeing white supremacy exploding. We’re seeing more mass shootings. We’re seeing, you know, kids become addicted to really hard drugs heroin, there’s an opioid crisis, like just so much, that affects men in particular. So our boys are going to become those men. So how do we break the cycle? What can we do as we’re raising boys and I know that you wrote a book where I think you talk about the relationship, part of parenting- Right.

22:20 – Mark Greene (Guest)
So there’s. I have to tell you, diana, I love this conversation because when we root our observations about man box culture in politics, it’s important, but when we root it in parenting, when we understand the cost that our own families and our own children will pay for not noticing and countering the larger cultural impacts of patriarchy, then it gets personal and we begin to see that we’re being offered a choice, and the choice we’re offered as parents is to either maintain a hierarchical approach to life within the family or to do something different. So, dr Saleh Ababa, my partner and my co-author of a book called the Relational Book for Parenting this book is literally 250 or more games, stories, ideas for kids of all ages that helps them see and understand the importance of creating and caring for relationships. And when we talk about raising children, we’re in a system that arguably hands us a list every day. We got to get all this done every day. We got to get this kid’s lunch made. We got to get this homework done. We got to get him on the bus. We got to teach him what to say and not say in public. We got to. We have all these rules right. So we’re teaching and telling our children constantly, and this is all important work. There are moments when you must teach and tell your children do not step off the curb into traffic, do not do that. We’re not having a heartfelt discussion about that, right. But we also need to make space in the process of raising our children, because how we raise our children, we are, in that process, teaching them how to form relationships.

And one of the things that Sally Hot said which I thought was really beautiful in this book was if we can understand emotionally and intuitively that as we are shaping them, they are shaping us, if we can let them bring that human influence into the family process. What we’re doing in that moment is saying don’t just do what I teach you and tell you to do and don’t just reflect back to me that stuff you know I’m gonna approve of. Bring your whole self and tell me what’s going on for you. We can create a container for our children where they begin to reflect back to us what they’re seeing in the culture of the family and in the culture at larger ways. We can help them begin to think through context. Holding uncertainty, asking questions, listening with curiosity these are all capacities we talk about in the book that result in our children beginning to construct their own belief systems, not about power and about hierarchy, both in the family and outside the family.

Now there are risks. I have a son who’s 18 and many of the ideas in the book we came up with as a way to create conversations in our house that didn’t keep running into the end of who has the authority here right, because we wanted our son to understand that his ideas and his input are co-creating our family. And so we talk about something in the book call. I’ll give you one example of one of the games in the book. It’s called the Caught you Doing Something Right Game, and we did this for him starting at about age six, because I felt myself constantly reminding him of what he needed to do. Right, you get to pick your clothes up.

25:57 – Diana (Host)
I’m guilty, I’m guilty, I do it every day.

26:01 – Mark Greene (Guest)
Well, it’s part of parenting, right. But the Caught you Doing Something Right game is based on an idea called appreciative inquiry, which is a different AI right. Appreciative inquiry basically says what happens in a system, when not only paying attention to what might need to be improved, but you also pay close attention to what’s working and try to grow that. So the Caught you Doing Something Right game works like this Gus is six years old and he’s drawing at the table and he’s come to understand the game because we’ve done it a couple of times. And I come into the room and I say I caught you and he looks up and he’s like what, what you know? And I say I caught you doing something, right, do you know what it is? And he says no, I don’t know. Maybe give me a hint. And I say, well, okay, I’ll give you a hint, but it can only be what room it was in. So he’ll say okay, right. And we go back to back and Saliha gets up from her desk and she’s coming over and like, oh, what’d you catch him doing? And we make a little theatrical moment out of it. And we go into the bathroom and he looks around. He goes oh, I hung my towel up and I’m like, yes, you did Nice work. And we go get a sticker and we have a poster it’s still on our door no stickers have gone on it for a while because he’s 18, but they probably should still and it’s got stickers under Gus, under Saliha and under dad. So these three columns have stickers because everybody in the family can be caught doing something right. And so we go put the sticker up and if he gets 10 stickers, he gets $5 or candy bar, whatever the heck. The payoff is foot rub, whatever we want. And so that’s this really cool game whereby we catch him doing something right. But here’s the kicker A few days later, my six year old son maybe a year later, seven, I don’t remember he comes up to me.

I’m doing some dishes or something, and he says I caught you. And I say oh, okay, and I take on the role, the theatrical moment, and I say what did I do right? What did I do? He goes well, I’ll give you a hint. And I say, okay, I can’t figure it out, I don’t know. Did I? I dried the dishes? What did I do? He says no, dad, that’s not what you did. And I say, okay, I don’t know, then you have to tell me. And my seven year old son says to me dad, I saw you starting to get irritable earlier and then I saw you stop yourself.

And I’m, like this subtle perception, seen right as being human, as having flaws, as having tried to do my best in a moment that was difficult for me. And this is a seven-year-old, and if we think seven-year-olds don’t see every single emotional dynamic in our family, they don’t know when they’re stressed between us and our partner, they see all this. The question is do we create a family culture where those things are part of the dialogue, or do we pretend they don’t exist and are not happening? And when we create it as part of the dialogue, we open a Pandora’s box of conversation. I’ll admit that to anyone, my son. For a while I was like my God, I’m raising a lawyer, you know. And yet it’s in those conversations where we take ownership of that child’s agency that we begin to grow them in a way that the culture of masculinity, which is hierarchical, which is follow the rules, which is don’t ask questions, all that shit that makes men isolated and angry and reactive, they reach a point. My son reached a tipping point where, if you told him now, very good, you’re now a certain number of years old, here’s a sheet of paper with seven rules on it Follow all these and don’t ask any questions. He would be like why would I do that? That’s crazy, I don’t want that. So we have a choice about how we raise our sons and daughters and non-binary kids, because these relational practices that are in the book.

We had another rule, another game in the book called the barking game, and if we were ever having a three-way debate, you know the kids and the parents are having this conversation about something that’s not going well and people’s voices are rising. It’s getting more difficult. We had an understanding that any individual in that conversation could just begin barking and let out the energy without the words, because the words are where people get hung on anger and frustration and in that moment the understanding was this person isn’t disrespecting the conversation. What they’re saying is this is getting really heightened. For me, I’m going to bark out some energy. Everybody else starts barking. We take five minutes and we come back in. We say, okay, maybe we’ll try this differently, whatever. But it breaks the tension of the debate structure. That can sometimes happen.

We have many, many games, many, many ideas in the book that give us options for understanding that we can begin to give agency to our children, even as we guide them into adulthood. We can give them a participatory role in how the family is structured and created. And the end result is my son was 16, 17, 18 years old. He wanted to be in conversation with us.

This idea that kids turn into stoic, silent creatures when they become adolescents is a result of teaching and telling only. It’s the result of hierarchical structures being brought into the family. These kids see the hypocrisy of applying authority 90% of the time when we can’t even truly manage our own challenges as people. It’s only in the back and forth of relating, of connecting, of creating community inside and outside the family that we have the support and resources to handle our own trauma and our own challenges as human beings. And our children are not here to heal us. They’re not here to take care of us. That’s not the point I’m making. The point I’m making is that the relationships create a context in which everyone gets heard and cared for.

32:14 – Diana (Host)
But everything described is very like in the home right, but that child goes outside and they’re going to go to a school system where we still have this dominance of boys are supposed to be ex, and I think that it does reach a point where that starts shifting. I think you said it was 13 when the kids were asked and they talked about loving their best friend, and then it changes. So I guess the question is how do we, how do we make it so that boys don’t ever lose those relationships Like the idea that they have to conform to all these man box rules is broken.

33:10 – Mark Greene (Guest)
Right? Well, two parts to that question, but one is our role as parents in this process of relating. They’re not simply relating with us about how we are in relationship with them. The conversations that get created naturally begin to talk about context, and context is what’s happening at the playground, what’s happening in the school, what’s happening everywhere. Children don’t need a perfect relational world. What they need is a sandbox in which to talk through what they’re seeing, so they can make critical analysis of the larger culture.

Oh, you know, billy pushed Tommy on the playground. Today You’re talking to a five year old child. Wow, that was really, that was mean. Or he pushed me, oh, yeah, well, why do you think Billy did that? Well, I think Billy doesn’t like me. Well, okay, so what do you think? How do you think they talk about pushing at Billy’s house? Well, I don’t know, billy seems really frustrated sometimes and say, yeah, there may be stuff going on for Billy that’s really bigger and maybe it’s not so much about you, but that Billy doesn’t have anybody he can talk to. Oh, you think that’s possible? Yeah, it could be. I don’t know, maybe Billy, you know, maybe Billy’s a person we should try to avoid a little more, but we should also try to think about what’s going on in Billy’s world and in that moment a five year old begins to think in terms of well, okay, a, that’s not a judgment of me in that moment, but also what’s the bigger picture here? And by the time a kid is 12, 14, 16,. You’ve had a million conversations, some not always big, long, sometimes it’s just a few words pass back and forth as you’re walking to soccer, right, but they begin to see them tracking the larger culture so that when the culture comes to them with messages, they can be critical. The other thing I think I want to circle back to here, diana, which is really important, is you.

You said earlier in more erudite language that shits blowing up right, like white supremacy and and all of this aggressive violence in the GOP, all of this MAGA assault on democratic institutions and women’s rights and all that. I would suggest to you that the reason it’s happening is because of the way of the coping mechanism of dominance culture, which is to double down on dominance every single time, and the reason we see such heightened levels of dominance behavior is because they’re having to double down over and over again, because it isn’t working In the 1950s culture, america, the first expression of dominance behavior always worked. So we had this more. We had this softer, more genteel version of dominance culture because women, people of color, lgbtq communities everyone had to play along. There was no, there was no pushback, no organized systemic pushback at that time.

Now what we’re watching is everyone saying you know what? We’re not going to create this safe container for dominance based masculinity, for patriarchy anymore. We’re not going to make a container in which the arguably isolating, health impacting, harmful impacts of dominance based masculine culture are made relatively invisible because everyone around you is enabling you, right, as a white man, to do whatever the fuck you want and we’re all just going. Okay, good, fine, great, that’s over. So if we are looking at a time when it looks like white supremacists and lunatics are about to take over our government and they might an authoritarian revolution might occur in this country, the reason we’re seeing is because they can see the wave of young people coming forward who are already in more connected, meaningful relationships with their parents, especially with their fathers. Fathers are really showing up now and and they’re they’re skewing Democratic Party in a big way and Republicans see those numbers coming through. This is the first year that that boomers aren’t going to be the majority of voters, right? So we have a house where parents are trying to have meaningful conversations about connection and relationship Born out of that, our boys, girls, non-binary kids, who have a much more progressive view of what it means to be a citizen and what it means to be a human being that wave is coming forward.

And the GOP, the MAGA, the oligarchs who fund all of this anti-democratic shit because they want to create an America where the federal government can no longer tax or regulate corporations. That’s their main goal. Senator Whitehouse talks about this in a great presentation that he did back during the Comey Barrett hearings right? So if you haven’t seen Senator Whitehouse taking his 30 minutes to talk about how the SCOTUS has been controlled and now all of their decisions about regulating corporations and taxing corporations have all been pro-corporation lock, stock and barrel, and there’s never been a pattern like that in the history of the SCOTUS ever before. If we don’t see how those guys are driving a culture of authoritarian dominance in America which is running headlong into a culture of meaning and connection that young people are in a huge swell coming forward, then we’re not understanding why things are so volatile right now.

It could be the darkest before the dawn moment for us and as parents, our job is to arm our children to have critical thinking about the culture, and I don’t mean fine, teach them diversity, equity and inclusion.

What we’re really talking about is how does my power as a parent relate to you as a child, and how do I learn to set aside power for relationship with you and create some kind of sense of your growing agency? I don’t just tell you what to do until you’re 18 and then kick you out the door and say good luck now, good luck having some authority, because now you’re an adult. But we grow that sense of agency for them. As children, we create a container where they bring us everything, not just the stuff they think is going to fit for us. Instead, they bring us everything because they want to process it with us. They want to try to work through and understand both the more challenging aspects of who they are but also the things they know won’t fit for us because we’re from a previous generation. Those dialogues are where everything else is born.

39:50 – Diana (Host)
So I was going to ask you what patterns we should be breaking, but I think that you just answered what we should be doing, which is really being in conversation, really building these relationships where your child can come to you and build those critical skills and know that they can come to you, and that is going to set a foundation for them to go to the outside world.

40:14 – Mark Greene (Guest)
How do they deal with power? How do they look at power? As something which they resent and which they can only see as problematic, or do they have a relationship with authority and power where they feel like they have agency in forming what the institutions are going to be? We talk about relational practices, that there are systems and structures, many of which are generations old, many of which are shifting, and it is in our daily relating the back and forth of relationships that inform those systems and structures and shift them a little bit or a lot, and then those systems and structures come back and inform what the next conversation looks like, and it is in this way that is a recursive process between the small conversations in our families and the large institutional, cultural systems that impact our lives. Right, those things are not separate. They are forming each other constantly.

The other thing that I want to say that is really important here is that in the relational book for parenting, the games like the one I described to you are games that we can take on and do, and in doing them we open new channels or new pathways in our brains about what it means to be in relationship, and then we create our own versions of these things in our families that are appropriate culturally and appropriate socially within the context of who we are. So the book is full of little things that you can try to do and in the moment that you do them, you take, you take them. You take ownership of these so-called relational capacities and create your own versions of them. But it is a process by which we step through this barrier between our ideas about what we need to do for parents that scare us. I’m scared to death that my kid is not going to make a living. I’m scared to death my kid is going to end up getting beaten up by the bullies at school. I’m scared to death. I’m scared.

Dominance culture is designed to scare us and make us oh, my kid’s got to become a doctor or a lawyer or he’s doomed. These pressure we put on ourselves to try to avoid the impact of dominance culture, instead of creating an understanding inside the family that that is a paper tiger on many levels and that we actually, by trying to align with it and protect our kids by teaching them some amount of man box culture, we’re actually putting our children in danger. So we have to sort of understand that. I know this all sounds kind of loosey, goosey and new agey and I don’t know what. But if you, if you begin to play games like the, caught you doing something right game with your children, what you’ll come to understand is that there’s all this stuff that’s not based in that, in that teaching and telling reaction to a culture which feels dangerous to our children and instead we empower them to challenge that culture even in their daily, you know, relationships at school and whatever, and, by the way, it’s already happening.

Many of us as parents already do some of the things in this book. We just haven’t intentionally named them. And when we name them in more intentional ways we say, oh, that thing which feels right, that thing which works with my kids, I have a name for it now. Cool, I can that, I can be more intentional about it. I can understand the, the mechanism of these meaningful, connected moments which make me feel my parenting relationship is rich and wonderful.

43:46 – Diana (Host)
The only thing that, as you were speaking, I was kind of thinking about was for some children in some spaces it can. In the in the world that we live in right now, it can be dangerous to bring that kind of like questioning authority and like the systems in place, like I’m thinking specifically of like black boys. You know black in schools where they are not the majority and the people and power. You know like principles and ministry.

They don’t look like them. Yeah, like I worry that that approach is going to put them in harm’s way in the context that we’re living in right now. Not that I’m saying that I totally agree with the relief.

44:34 – Mark Greene (Guest)
No, no you raise a good point and I think what’s the nuance here to understand is my son was never in situations where he always felt empowered to to challenge. But what he did feel empowered to do was to come back and talk to me about that dynamic and I would say, oh yeah, what do you think that’s about? You know what’s going on with that. And I would say you know there’s some aspects of school, gus, where you just have to get it done because that’s how that set up. Well, why is it so good? And I say, well, you know they’re up against a lot of pressure, you know politically to teach to the test and and to get these numbers and this data up. So if you’ll just pay attention to that enough to do reasonably well at it and just let that go because you know that particular system. So he taught him to look at systems and structures and figure out which aspects of them are sort of like.

Well, that’s, that’s the world we live in. You don’t need to push back there, but let’s talk through it here and understand it and and in that way, sometimes helping our children cope in the world goes beyond saying no, that’s just the way to do it and helping them understand why the system’s operating that way a little bit. And I find that children are somewhat generous with their energy if they just get a rational reason for why something’s happening to them Not always a good thing happening to them, but just a rational reason instead of a blanket. This is how it’s done and we know they’re gonna run into that. This is how it’s done energy all the time. But I helped my son cope by talking through what was going on there and even offering him like hey, if you’ll do this over here for me with that system that’s a little funky, I’ll do this over here for you, because I know that’s a thing you’re taking on and I would frame it as this is good for you but also it’s good for our family if you’ll succeed at that.

46:35 – Diana (Host)
Okay, so the idea is that if we create these relationships with our kids where they can come back and talk to us, then that is gonna carry them through as they get older, where they get to be teenagers and they’re still gonna have those relationship skills and come back to us and maybe keep forming those relationships with their peers, versus shutting down.

46:57 – Mark Greene (Guest)
We’re talking about an ongoing conversation that if I believe honestly. I believe if you stay in relational spaces with your children, the conversations will not suddenly dry up, they will not suddenly go away, because children need someone who’s on their side and who genuinely loves them and genuinely cares about what they’re experiencing. Children want to talk through what’s going on in their lives. My son is 18 now. He lives elsewhere, he’s got his own apartment, he’s got a job at Trader Joe’s. He comes to my house and talks through stuff because he’s like this happened both wins for him and areas that are somewhat confusing. But he’s still in relationship with the guys, with his friends from high school, and he’s still doing repair work in those relationships when they blow up or get weird, because he knows how to do that, because he’s been in dialogue through complex situations for a long time. But the goal, above all else, is for our children to want to talk to us.

This is what’s going on for me. This is what I’m feeling, this is what I’m seeing. I don’t think this is fair. I don’t think this is fair in what you’re doing, dad. We have to be willing to take that kind of stuff and talk through it and in that moment, our children will stay in dialogue with us, and conversation is the single most powerful antidote to alienation and isolation. It’s the single most powerful antidote to any of the challenges we face as parents, because it’s in the back and forth of relating that we get shaped and they get shaped and they see us willing to grow with them and change with them. It’s love. It’s what love looks like.

48:34 – Diana (Host)
And those are the relationships and conversations that are going to help us break down this man box culture that we live in right To bring it back man box culture, man box culture is isolating.

48:44 – Mark Greene (Guest)
It’s rules. It’s don’t talk, don’t question, don’t ask. It’s a hierarchical, dominance based system that is antithetical to love, care and connection in the family. That’s why men caught in the man box often say the following my wife doesn’t understand me, I don’t know how to talk to my kids and my coworkers are not happy with me.

So, building, caring for relationships, relational practices, the idea that there’s you and me, and then there’s the relationship. And what am I doing to care for the relationship? Because in that moment that I start caring for the relationship, I’m caring for both of us, but I’m doing it in a way which is much more holistic, which understands that I don’t bring the ideas that’ll make it work and you don’t bring the ideas that will make it work. We co-create them. It emerges out of the back and forth, they’re relating over time, and then it changes and grows and evolves.

This is the case in marriages, it’s in the case in work relationships, it’s the case in parenting, that if I think I’ve got the answer, I’m not caring for the relationship, and so what I do instead is I hold some uncertainty, I engage in the dialogue and I see what emerges, and I stay curious about things that maybe sound unfamiliar to me, because if I’m focused only on my assumptions about the relationship, then that’s all I hear.

It just confirms everything I believe. But if I open my mind up to what’s emerging next, I see the changes in my child, I see what they’re growing into next and I say, hey, tell me about that part right there. That’s really interesting. I’m curious to hear more about that. And they say, well, I just had this idea the other day about my relationship with Bob at school and it seems like this was happening and I go oh, that’s really interesting. I don’t know where the conversation is gonna go. I don’t know what’s gonna happen with Bob in a year from now his friend, I don’t know. But in the emergent process of speaking, your child then arrives at ideas that they don’t feel like they were told to believe. They feel like they grew it themselves. They found their way to that understanding and it’s much stickier and much more real for them.

50:50 – Diana (Host)
This was fascinating. Thank you so much for joining. Thank you so much.

50:54 – Mark Greene (Guest)
I wanna throw down on one more thing from the book while I have two seconds here, diane, because I think that I want people to say, oh, I don’t need the book, I just can do these things. One of the things we did with Gus when he was young we got a big sheet of paper and we drew big buttons and pull chains and stuff and we assigned emotions to each one of those and they weren’t always purely emotions, but there would be happy, sad and daddy, don’t be grumpy. And there were all these little buttons right, and we put it up on the wall and hug was one of them and Gus, when he was little, anytime he wanted he could run over and hit one of the buttons right, and our understanding was okay, I’m gonna do that emotion. It could be hug, it could be don’t be grumpy. Whatever it is, I’m not saying I was grumpy all the time, but that came up twice in this conversation, so I better just own that, unlike sometimes I get cologne or phorone. The point about that game was that we came to understand that our emotional responses are powerful, but they’re also choices. And if your son sees you getting kind of frustrated about something not even him, just a job you’re working on or something and he makes a demonstration and when he hits the hug button you better bet you’re gonna turn around and hug that child and it’s gonna change your energy and they’re gonna see that change and that’s the power of another. One of the games in there was just this big chart and put anything in. My kid figured out what he Gus was putting stuff up there. He was having a great time and that thing hung on the wall for three or four years and got used regularly by every member of the family.

And in the moment that someone says sad, it hits the sad button. Oh God, it’s sad. You get to get some of that out of your system without it being loaded right. You just get to do a little bit. Yeah, we’re all got some sadness every day. I talked to Gus about that when he was little. Say, you hit the sad button. I got a little sadness to get out. Today, let me get some out. Thank you for hitting the sad button Anyway.

52:49 – Diana (Host)
I love that and I think I’m gonna do that and I’m gonna report back to you, Mark.

52:52 – Mark Greene (Guest)
Yeah, come back. The book is on Amazon, it’s available. There’s a sample edition of it that I can share with you, with your listeners. Diana, I know I’m pitching a book, I understand that, but I think having it all in one place is a nice way to sort of, and we wrote fables for it, fables, all kinds of stuff, I mean it’s all in there.

53:13 – Diana (Host)
What keeps you hopeful in this mega-filled world?

53:19 – Mark Greene (Guest)
People like you. People like you, Diana, oh, that’s very sweet we’re making the difference.

No, this stuff we’re doing at the community level, at the granular level, these kinds of conversations are transforming people’s lives in really powerful ways. That and this thing I talked about this demographic wave coming forward of young people leaning toward the Democratic Party, leaning toward more human ideas about how societies should be organized. This is why Republicans are saying, you know, maybe we shouldn’t let kids vote until they’re 25 and maybe we shouldn’t make voting on campuses so they see the wave coming.

53:54 – Diana (Host)
So there’s a lot. It’s funny that you said that because our last guest was a Voto Latino and she talked about the power of the young Latino vote, because there’s so many Latinx youth turning 18. I don’t remember the top of my head, but that falls in line with everything we’ve been talking about, especially as we’re gearing toward 2024. I know you have to run, so run. Thank you so much, everyone. Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe, share and leave a review. And until next time, hope is our superpower. Bye Mark, bye everyone.