7 easy tips on how to talk to teenage boys

Have you ever wondered how best to talk to teenage boys?

‘Not at all’ would probably be have been my son’s reply when he was ‘in the middle of it’. I do vividly remember being a teenager. One scene in particular when doing the dishes with my mum and telling her with deep urgency ‘If you say one more word, I will throw this plate against the wall’. Thank god she listened. Maybe it is because I remember that constant discomfort so well, that I have always been looking forward to being a mum of a teenager myself, despite all the warnings. Now finally having ‘achieved’ that, I do admit it is challenging. But surprisingly, all the warnings about mood and confrontations did not include the parts I so far found the most challenging at an emotional level. We also have to consider that for mums, there is an added layer of not knowing how to be a boy, let alone talk to a teenage boy.

What I wish someone had told me:

  • The fact they suddenly grow soooo much. I kid you not. I do not remember any of the four of us at home growing over a foot in about a year or two. This growth obviously is accompanied by a huge desire for independence. I grieved silently for about a year or even more, for the ‘loss’ of my boy. Even if I was still allowed some hugs once in a while, cuddling a child is nowhere the same as hugging a person the same size as you.
  • The pruning of the brain happening in puberty. Unused connections in the thinking and processing part of a child’s brain (grey matter) are ‘pruned’ away. This process is obviously massively important, after all it is the transition from a child sized brain to an adult one. But why has no one ever talked about the brain in teenage years? Everyone focuses so much on the hormones. Knowing how the brain works and how much its reshaping affects teenage behaviour is now paramount for me as a mum and a conversation I do have regularly with both my kids. After all, allowing them to understand what is happening to them is part of the process..

Communication with teenage boys is not what I would necessary call an easy thing, but can be much more positive once we undertsand a bit more about how they tick.

So here my 7 easy tips on how to talk to teenage boys 

What I have learned is that while my son changes, it is important I stay the same.

If you imagine that going through puberty is a bit like moving house every few months. Not only your body but also your perception is constantly changing (literally, with all that growing!), as well as the way you process things, the way you perceive yourself, your peers, your school context, your priorities, your sexual awakening … So for me, learning while undergoing major brain changes is a bit like living in a house which is still being built. You can kind of function but there is always some stumbling ground and no real idea of the real outcome yet. Most teenager do not know who they are or are going to be. To stay patient can be hard, but really does teenagers to orient themselves in a world where everything changes constantly from the inside.

If I look closely enough, I can find a ‘cycle’, even in boys

This is purely based on my observations, but just like women have their cycle, there seems definitely a teenage cycle, even in boys. I attribute this to a combo of hormones and brain growth. I can regularly observe about a week a month of an increase in tension, annoyance at simple things, an impatience and simple short temperedness. This is accompanied with some baboon like behaviour, an attempt to look and sound bigger and more powerful. At first this behaviour got to me, but then I just assumed this was ‘normal’ for this stage of development and remind my son that I am not his mate and that this behaviour doesn’t really have an effect on me. I have learned to read the cycle and decided to be non-confrontational in that week, knowing that only a few days later some kind of reasoning has been switched back on. It is that memory of me and my mum in the kitchen and that almost flying plate that reminds me how tense I felt so many times. An indescribable tension and irritation, only increased by any confrontation or criticism.

Shall I be honest with my teenager?

Yes! Do you want to be taken seriously regardless what age you are? ‘Of course’ I hear you say. Well I am sure it is the same for everyone. While I think a lot about how to address certain subjects, most of my actual conversations are not pre planned. Partly because it is so much harder to chat. Teenagers can be sparse with words or information, so we have to wait patiently for the next chance to come along to engage, find out and maybe even educate a little. And this will be on their terms, at a time that suits them (not you), maybe when the emotional tank is overflowing or there is something that needs out. So be ready when the moment comes, it might take weeks before it happens again. My personal favourite are car chats, I might as well use my taxiing in a constructive way. And the non-confrontational seating arrangement really helps in opening up.

Be yourself! Find you own way to talk to your teenage boy!

This has helped me the most. I find myself saying things like ‘You have never been a 15y old before. And I have never been the mother of a 15y old either. So here is the thing, it is a process and a learning curve for both of us. The more we can understand each other, the easier it will be to find ways for us both to feel good. And it is important that we both feel good. So we both need to learn to give a little and consider each other’s needs.’ Or ‘Listen, I don’t want to be the crappy mum who keeps on telling you what not to do. After all, this is your body, your future, your decisions. I am simply here to keep you safe and be there for you. So, bare with me while I learn to let go more and more …

Remember your role

If you are the mum, you almost certainly have never been a teenage boy before. Remember that. Boys will get closer to their dad in puberty and look for male role models. Help them find men they can identify with and look up to, maybe even aspire to become like them. But don’t be fooled, mums are still very important. That’s where the ‘staying the same’ and ‘being yourself’ is so important. Allowing our boys to find themselves.. Learning how to deal with women is now even more important. We still have the power to teach them how to respect women and to consider they are built differently. Women are more sensitive by nature (every month we are being brought back to feeling more open hearted and vulnerable). We can teach them to respect that and pave the way to beautiful relationships with women in the future.

Be aware of the teenage tunnel-vision-effect

The massive building work in the teenage brain means the brain behind the forehead called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last parts to mature. This area is responsible for skills like planning, prioritizing and making good decisions. This in an important reminder as to why your child might be feeling like an E.T. to you at times, having reactions that make no sense to you and can come across as self-centred and disrespectful. Their behaviour is more guided by the emotional and reactive amygdala (centre of the primitive brain, responsible for fight/flight/freeze responses). Nothing used to irritate me more than hearing someone say ‘she’s just in puberty’. I understand now that it was not just my perception, it really was that my body was acting in a way that neither the adults nor myself understood, a rather frustrating feeling.

Boys and men often show affection by putting each other down

It took me decades of living with brothers, a husband and now a son to work this out. Interestingly enough, once I suggest these findings to men or teenage boys, they all agree. They are not aware of this behaviour, but recognise it once it has been pointed out. And this is where I suffered the most in the early teenage years as a mother. I took everything personal and was hurt so many times. Since knowing this, I just smile at their behaviour and the fact they obviously like each other enough to take the mickey out of each other. If they forget that I am a female sensitive being, I just speak their language for a moment and we have a laugh together. How much better this feels is insane! If you’d like to find out more on how to talk to teenagers, girls and boys, and what is going on behind the scenes in the teenage brain, join me on my upcoming workshop ‘Helping teenagers build resilience’. For more info and to sign up click here.   If you’d like more ideas on how to deal with your teenage or updates on exciting new neuro science findings, why not sign up to my newsletter here


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About Veronique 

Hi, I’m Veronique Mertes and I’m a fully qualified Solution Focused Hypnotherapist and Clinical Psychotherapist. I trained with the renowned Clifton Practice (CPHT) and award winner Matthew Cahill.

I am a member of the National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) and the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (AfSFH) and I would love to help you to change your life for the better.

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