Raise Kids With Conversation And Confrontation, Says Author Kara Kinney Cartwright
There is no way to miss a book which has ‘Just Don’t Be an Assh*le’ written on it. It was Kara Kinney Cartwright’s editor who came up with the unmissable title. He was interested in working with a mom who had frontline knowledge of teenage minds. So, they both set at a journey to write a blunt and humorous book, Just Don’t Be an Assh*le: A Surprisingly Necessary Guide to Being a Good Guy. On why she wrote it Kara shares, “When he and I connected, my own two sons were approaching their high school and college graduations, so it was the perfect moment to write down everything I wanted them to know before they went out into the world—and to convince them both to read it.”
Kara has two teenage boys, she lives near Washington, DC and works in legal publishing. She says, “I’m not a doctor, or a therapist, or a parenting expert. I’m a mom with high hopes for how her sons will move through the world as men, and a willingness to embarrass herself to make sure they get the message.”
The author speaks to SheThePeople about her book, motherhood, parenting and much more.
Stay At Home Mum
Like many of us, Kara too decided to take a break from working full-time to raise her kids. She says, “Like many women, I felt judged both ways. When I was working, I felt judged for not prioritizing my children. When I was home, I felt judged for not reaching my potential. But the truth was that, more than anyone, I was the one judging myself.”
I’m a mom with high hopes for how her sons will move through the world as men, and a willingness to embarrass herself to make sure they get the message.
As a mother, she felt that being at home allowed her to say yes to things like the library, field trips, school volunteering, music lessons, and after school sports practices. However, she emphasises, “We don’t talk enough about how hard it is for families to access these opportunities when they don’t have the means to have a parent at home during the day.”
On the lows of staying at home, she says, “Let’s just say there were plenty of days when I thought, “This is not what I imagined when I went to law school.”
Home time with kids can make you feel bored. That doesn’t mean that you love your kids less.
However, not a lot of mothers who feel comfortable talking about it. Kara urges, “YES, please. Let’s all be honest about this! Because staying at home is such a privilege, we tend to keep quiet about how hard it can be, which has an isolating effect.”
When I was working, I felt judged for not prioritizing my children. When I was home, I felt judged for not reaching my potential. But the truth was that, more than anyone, I was the one judging myself.”
Conversations or Confrontations
As kids start growing up they hate taking “no” for an answer. So, when you are a parent can you always sort everything with conversations or confrontations also happen? She says, “I’d be lying if I said my parenting style was all conversation and no confrontation. Sometimes it’s good for our kids to see how passionately we feel that something is right. Other times, a quiet conversation is much more effective. As parents, we have to keep trying to get our message across, over and over, in every way we can think of. When my sons were busy teens, they got a quick shout on the way out the door. “Breasts were not created for your amusement!” Now that they’re grown, I’m sending them texts and Snapchats. Never give up!”
On having Feminist Parents
As the only woman in her household, she was absolutely determined to make sure her sons viewed women as equals. She adds, “Whether I succeeded, or whether they were positively influenced by their peers—I can’t say. But I’m pretty sure the message got through somehow because now they call me out: ‘Oh, I get it, Mom. You’re all equal rights or whatever until you want someone to help you down a hill or get you a waffle.’”
There is no denying that kids today live their lives online, and a lot of social influencers that kids follow may be people who talk trash about women. Kara feels, “Our job is to know what they’re taking in. We need to ask. We need to listen carefully to the answers. And we need to ask more questions: What you think of that? Why do you like that channel? Would it be funny to me? Would it be funny to your girlfriend?”
She adds, “One of the most difficult challenges in parenting teen boys is talking about humor that perpetuates stereotypes. Our sons may see a sexist rant and think it’s hilarious satire, but they need to understand that there are limits to the ‘just a joke’ defense.”
Talking about Consent
On how and when she approached the topic of ‘consent’ with your kids, Kara says, “At about the time they started taking very long showers, combing their hair, and socializing with co-ed groups. It was an embarrassing time for all of us, so I often relied on humor to break the tension and provide a way into important conversations.”
Our sons may see a sexist rant and think it’s hilarious satire, but they need to understand that there are limits to the ‘just a joke’ defense.”
In a time when Black Life Matter has reached every corner of America, we asked her how she is talking about it with her kids. She says, “This is an opportunity for not only my sons, but for me, to listen, learn, and truly take to heart the experience of Black people in America, so that we can use our privilege to make better decisions and move societal change in the right direction. My opinion is that we have a long way to go, so we’d better get moving.”
“A good way to start a conversation with your teens might be by asking some questions to find out where they are in their learning and thinking. So often, our kids are less racist than we are, so be prepared to listen well,” she adds.
Kara signs off by saying, “It’s imperative for kids to understand their privilege. How else can we expect them to develop compassion for others and use their privilege for good? To whom much is given, much is expected.”