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Bobbi Wegner Psy.D.

Parenting in the Age of Harvey Weinstein

How to raise conscious boys in a modern day world.

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

As it did during many pre-dinner hours, NPR played in the kitchen as I cooked and my six-year-old son played Minecraft on the floor. Tom Ashbrook and Terry Gross often feel like invisible, well-informed family members who constantly chat in the background while I take care of home tasks and fade in and out of listening. It could be argued that I should pay more attention to the content when my kids are around, but for me, NPR often helps prompt important conversations about topical matters that otherwise don’t naturally come up when talking with my kids. I am their translator for the ugliness of the world outside, and the vehicle through which they learn to understand and interpret what they inevitably hear.

A few months ago, the story of Harvey Weinstein came to light. The prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace was unearthed and NPR dove head in debating how and why it happened. As the details emerged over our speakers, I quickly shuffled to turn down the radio, but then I caught myself. I thought about how important it is to teach my son about sexual responsibility and feminism. Instead of pulling away and avoiding (like we typically do as a culture), I moved toward the difficult subject.

So began our conversation. I started with something like “Ty, this man they are talking about is a famous movie guy and he got in trouble for saying inappropriate things and touching women when they didn’t want to be touched. Now he lost his job and might go to jail.” I was surprised that he responded without hesitation and said, “Why is he in trouble? Didn’t President Trump do that?” Ugh.

My heart sank. Where did he get this from? How does he know about that? And I can’t believe he might think this is permissible in some way because the president modeled that.

I imagined Ty would be uncomfortable or even distraught at this idea. But no: He was already exposed to impactful and damaging news, unbeknownst to me. Messaging had already settled into his young brain. This just reaffirmed how important it is to have this conversation and not to avoid uncomfortable topics under the guise of "The kids are too young, the topics are too mature, and they can’t handle it," because information is out there. Our kids are listening.

I gathered my emotions and said, “Yes, Trump said inappropriate things and that is not okay, either. It makes people feel unsafe and uncomfortable.” I waited. I asked if he had any questions. And then we moved on.

For me, the topic is weighty, important, and intense. For him, it is a moment in time that he and his mom are talking about something on the radio, learning about topics he doesn’t yet know will hopefully help him keep himself and others safe in the future.

These are the moments where education happens. It doesn’t have to be a huge serious conversation; it is a constant modeling and speaking of values that resonate with our family. These are opportunities to provide an alternate view at an important stage of moral development. Ty barely looked up from the iPad, and we moved on to the most important topic for a six-year-old – what’s for dinner.

I am an imperfect Mom living in an imperfect world doing the best I can to impart values and beliefs that sing true to our family. For us, these are important topics and worth finding the moments in the day to process them with my quickly developing, young boys who one day will (hopefully) go out into the world as respectful allies and advocates for all people. Maybe one of these conversations with Mom will resonate and float to the surface when they inevitably are in a situation where choices around words and actions matter deeply. That is my goal.


About the Author

Bobbi Wegner, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist at Boston Behavioral Medicine, an adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.