November 23, 2017

A Parent’s Survival Guide to Teenage Boys

teenage boysBy Bill Schoeffler

Help!  An alien has possessed my sweet little boy! 


Parents are often astonished when their “tweener” grows a foot taller and becomes uncommunicative and sometimes explosive. Welcome to the world of a teenage boy.


The first thing parents need to understand is that this is a natural phase boys go through during their development to adulthood.  The mix of testosterone flowing through their system and a natural need to separate from their parents creates an interesting, yet volatile, mix.


There you are- you look at your son and ask him to do a task.  He bursts out in anger.  His limited verbal skills prevent him from being able to express or explain his emotions. You take this response as a personal attack and some sort of defect in your son.  Take a step back and breathe deep.  This scenario has happened since the first day there were teenage boys.


The stereotypical teenage boy is seen as a rebellious, wild teen that is continually at odds with his parents. Although teenage boys have their emotional ups and downs, they also have a sensible and sensitive side.


The key drive for teenagers is to develop independence. This is manifested in ways that will frustrate parents. A boy that was usually conforming to his parents’ desires will suddenly assert himself and express his opinions. They strongly rebel against their parents’ control and create their own moral code.


Parents need to step back and understand that teenagers (boys and girls) need to develop and create their own life. Do you listen to your children when they are expressing their thoughts and opinions?  Do you allow them to have different thoughts and opinions from yours?  You need to consider their thoughts and opinions as you would with any other adult.  Of course, reasonable parental judgment and intervention is to be expected for dangerous or damaging desires/thoughts.


Talking to Teenage Boys

Communication with teenage boys often takes a huge effort with minimal returns. The monosyllabic replies such as “ok .. no .. yeah .. dunno .. whatever” will frustrate the calmest of parents.  Those simple (non) responses will lead to an escalation to more questions with the intent to have the boy open up or provide more details.  The teenager’s system will respond with a flash of hostility/anger.  He may counter with a look of disgust or an audible sound of angst.


Despite the occasional lack of communication, teenage boys can engage in a flurry of detailed communication in a topic of interest.  Pay attention.  Don’t discount or ignore them when they open up; otherwise you will lose credibility.



Less is more when it comes to communication with a teenage boy. A well-enunciated grunt can take the place of a long sentence. Women need to realize that they are wasting their emotional energy trying to explain things in detail. A teenage boy is only capable of hearing five to ten words.  After that, they shut down.  Cut down any communication to one or two sentences, or even less moms!



Teenage boys need a good adult man to be a role model.  There are many studies on the detriment to boys due to the lack of a father in a boy’s life.  Human males have a programming that needs them to experience a transition from adolescent to adult.  Traditionally, this involves a rite of passage set up by other adult males. A mentor, such as a father, will prepare the adolescent for this rite of passage. Our current society is set up much differently from most of human history.  However, this programming still exists. Today, we do not adequately address this programming need, which contributes to some of today’s societal issues.  


Fathers or male role models need to walk their talk. Dads, get your act together first. Male role models not only need to pass on their wisdom on relationships, money, work, business, life, etc., but also demonstrate it.  Boys learn more by doing than talking.  Dads, your responsibility is to help your sons learn how to be a man.


Physical Activity

Most teenage boys need to keep active. Participation in a sport or other physical activity will let them expend testosterone and socialize. Boys like to be competitive and physically challenge each other. Think of puppies or bear cubs for young male animals- play fighting is a major part of their development.  


Be okay with boys pushing and shoving.  Dads, let your son physically challenge you to wrestling, basketball, mountain biking, etc. Don’t just “let them win,” but instead match their ability.  Continuous defeat will be discouraging. At some point they will deservedly beat you. Appropriate and consistent physical contact is an important bonding technique for parents.


Moms can also engage in physical activities with their sons. It is also okay to give their sons a friendly bump when passing or gentle punch. A back scratch or massage can be a welcomed physical contact with either parent. Let them feel your presence.


Sitting in a chair is a challenge for many boys.  There is a story of a rabbi that taught his male student the Talmud by reciting the verses while taking him on a jog.  Let them move while they learn.  Perhaps they can read while on an exercise bike.


Be Strong

Despite the often lack of communication skills, teenage boys can send out a barrage of nasty words in a parent’s direction. They will seem to hate you one moment and then ask what’s for dinner the next moment. It’s not personal, it’s just hormones.  Come on moms, you know you can relate to that situation.


Be Aware

Keep in mind that the teen years are often a time of experimentation. Sometimes, experimentation includes risky behaviors. Don’t avoid the subjects of sex, or drug, alcohol, and tobacco use.  Discuss these things openly with your son before he has major exposure to them.  This will increase the chance that he will act responsibly when the time comes. Share family values with your teenage boy and talk about what you believe is right and wrong.


Make an effort to know your child’s friends and their friends’ parents. Communication between parents will help create a safe environment for the teenagers.  Parents can help each other keep track of their teenager’s activities, without making the kids feel like little children by personally directing their activities.


Humor and Fun

Teenage boys like to have fun and laugh. The humor might seem juvenile to adults –well, it is. Let them be silly. You might cringe what you hear teenage boys laugh about.  Give them a quick reminder on appropriateness and move on.


Keep in mind a hearty laugh can be an appropriate response to a teenager’s automatic response to a parent’s request. Let them know their negative response does not always need a serious and dramatic reply.  Sometime a good tickle and a smile will help quell bad feelings.


Put Yourself in Their Place

When things start to fall off track, stop and ask where they are coming from.  Keep in mind they have different feelings, opinions, fears, desires, etc.  They are going to see the situation differently from you. Get their perspective before things move to the next level.  You may want them to wear different clothes. Be open to the fact that they have their own reasons to wear something different.  If your position is important, stand your ground after you hear them out. Be open to compromise if the situation allows flexibility.


Pick Your Battles

Parents and teenage boys will butt heads.  It is important to differentiate between critical issues and minor issues. Critical issues are ones that will impact your son or family in a significant way. Minor issues are ones that will pose a temporary setback.  Be firm on the critical issues and flexible on the minor issues.


When there is a dispute, talk it out.  Get their opinion. Share your opinion.  Clarify the pros and the cons.  In other words, treat them as an adult when discussing the issue.  Be a parent when making a decision.


Set Expectations

In general, children need to have set boundaries. Teens will be able to have a more elaborate argument when there is resistance.  Underneath the resistance is an understanding if the expectations are logical.


As young adults, it is important to have them participate in the creation of expectations. Open up a dialogue and get their feedback on setting parameters on school grades, behavior, chores, etc.  When they help set the rules, they are more apt to follow them. Without reasonable expectations, your teenage boy might feel he is on his own or you do not care as a parent.


Without this sure knowledge of what to expect, they can be insecure and will keep testing you to find where the real boundaries are located in their world. For boys to be content, they needs to know who is in charge, what are the rules, and what the consequences are for disobeying the rules. 


Respect Your Teenage Boy’s Privacy

For some parents it might be difficult to accept the concept of privacy for their children because they feel that anything their kids do is their business. However, to help your teenage boy become a young adult, it is critical to grant some privacy. If there are critical warning signs of trouble, then it is acceptable to invade your child’s privacy. But otherwise, it’s a good idea to back off.


What this means is that your teenager’s room, texts, e-mails, and phone calls should be private. Don’t expect your son to share all his thoughts or activities with you. For social sites like Facebook, require your son to put you on their friend list.  This allows parent to see in general what they are posting and saying to others.


Naturally, for safety reasons, you should always know where teens are going, when they will be returning, what they are doing, and with whom.  Keep it general- you do not need to know every detail of their activity. That request will only create resistance.


The whole concept is to first start with trust. Let your teenage boy know that you trust him until he proves otherwise. If the trust gets broken, make sure he understands that he will be allowed fewer freedoms until he earns the trust back.


Keep the Faith

By definition, the teenage years are only seven years long, between 13 and 19.  As a parent you survived an infant screaming through the night, the terrible twos, potty training, kindergarten and another seven or so years of typical childhood trials and tribulations. Raising a teenager might seem like a setback for your previous parenting skills. Instead, it is a test of your adult training skills. Your teenage boy should not be treated as a child.  Instead, become his mentor to adulthood.


Bill Schoeffler is a father of two teenagers. He is a business consultant and personal coach with 20 years of experience helping people change and reach their success. He is a Certified NLP Master Practitioner  (Neuro Lingustic Programming). He can be reached at You can find out more at


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