Teen Talk. Talking About Boys...
Teen Talk - Live
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Talking About Boys
Teenage boys are incredibly un-likeable at times. Not only do the adults in their lives find them unpleasant, they often find their own company pretty unbearable too. One minute, surly, argumentative, horny, judgmental and bullying. You wonder if they are made of 100% testosterone, never mind the snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Ten minutes later the same boy is lovingly playing with his little sister and talking like a regular human being. One of the reasons teenage boys hang with each other is the simple fact that they are the only ones who can (almost) put up with each other.
At times it seems that most teen boys are living in families that appear to be nothing but an impediment to their every wish. They find, therefore that they do not belong in the bosom of their own family, and are thus outsiders. They further alienate themselves from the world by alienating any person who cannot guess what they are thinking at any given moment, before that person can alienate them. This leaves their compatriots as the only human contact they can bear, even though their friends are all stupid and or annoying.
They gather in surly huddles not listening to each other, communicating in grunts and angry thought projections. Every now and then one of them will communicate in a more traditional fashion asking what the others want to do. This is greeted by shrugs and sounds that approximate to, "I dunno, what do you want to do."
Boy communication skills are usually abysmal, which the boys then compound by blaming everybody else. Their modus operandi is to have a thought, fail to share it, and then get mad because no one was listening to them. Festering and seething can practically be seen fighting anything rational that might be going on in their heads.
Often these pitiful creatures will rail against slights; real and perceived that are conspiring to make their lives a living hell. The irony being that they are actually making everyone else's life a living hell!
Shouting, stomping and midnight black moods are interspersed with hitting things, such as; pillows and stuffed animals (hopefully), walls and doors (usually), and pets or younger siblings (of concern). These angry outbursts seem to act like a thunderstorm, clearing their heads, and in their rain-washed state they are often remorseful and loving.
Even if they never reach the above fever pitch, most are not averse to throwing in a zinger or two about your faults and shortcomings. Suddenly you no longer know how to cook, or do math, or drive a car, along with, not so subtle implications, that they are in fact better human beings than you are.
Moms are usually exceedingly hurt, and Dads have a tendency to get mad. The adult reactions are fuel to the teen boys fire and the domestic atmosphere quickly becomes toxic.
So, what are we as parents to do? We are poorly equipped in the psychic department, so we find ourselves reacting, often negatively, to situations created by the teen in turmoil.
My first suggestion is to be proactive as a family or parenting team. Make sure there are ground rules for your interactions with each other so that you can come off as united. Clear statements such as "your behavior is unacceptable and hurtful right now. We all need a time out, " is way less inflammatory than, " He's your son, you teach him some manners!"
The key to communicating with the uncommunicative is to make unemotional statements of fact.
"I hate you, you are ruining my life, when met by, "we love you, but hate your attitude right now," won't stop the door slam and the stomp upstairs to his lair, but, you made an important point. The hope that is in the post anger phase, (the rumination period as it were – you know, thinking about stuff in his room), the message is clear. You, we love. The anger/drama/pain we don't.
Boys tend not to be great fans of overt empathy. My experience is that they like clear, logical, certain responses. I think that is because, even if they deny it, they are somehow aware that their world is spinning, so, if the adult world is sure and stable, it provides a much valued (later on, of course), rock to cling to.
Even hokey or hackneyed statements have their place. They provide a level of reassurance, of certainty, at a time when they are very confused. “Have a good day.” “I hope you have a good game.” And “Love you.” May not get responses, but they do reassure that part of their world is normal.
The boy's confusion embraces; self-worth, purpose in life, intellectual ability, sexuality, social skills, athletic prowess, physicality, father-son relationships, how they perceive women, how that matches their feelings to their mother, sister, the list is considerable. It is also a time when boys consider, of all things, their mortality, or their parents mortality.
It can be highly confusing as an adult to witness a spectacular "I hate you" tantrum, and then in the calm after the storm, have your boy crying, and telling you that he does not want you to die.
It would seem that every question, large and small, is thrown into his blender of a brain, and some seemingly trivial event pushes the "stir" button. The result is dramatic, and seemingly devoid of any logic at all.
I believe this is a natural process that needs to take place in the transition from child to adult. Boys hold very strong opinions, right or wrong, and life challenges these strongly held preconceptions at some point. It would appear that they can hold divergent views on everything for a while. (I love baseball/I never want to play baseball again.) But, in the cauldron of this mental turmoil, the "adult" versions of these beliefs are forged.
Right or wrong, this is where men construct their certainty platform, which gives them confidence and courage in their adult life.
And, yes, they need to hear that you love them...even when you really feel that you don't.