Adapting to the mysterious teen male mind

Written by Harriet Fagan. Posted in Featured

Published on February 08, 2012 with No Comments

Who would guess that, for the most part, teenaged boys are looking for relationships more than sex and that that their brains don’t reach full development until nearly 30 years of age? Well, maybe you’ve had suspicions about the possible validity of the latter part of that statement if you have a young adult male in your life. Now, however, five years of research by the National Institute of Health (NIH) has confirmed the length of time needed to reach male maturity.

The first part of the statement, on the other hand, is supported by a State University of New York survey of 10th grade boys. More than 80 percent of the boys responded that their primary motivation for dating was that they really liked the person. Physical attraction and wanting to get to know someone better were the second most popular answers.

“Although some of them are just looking for sex, most boys are looking for a genuine relationship. They are generally interested in dating and getting to know their partners,” the study’s author, Professor (first name to come) Smiler, said.

But, Smiler adds, “Very few parents really talk to their sons about relationships.” Yet, his data strongly suggests that teenage boys will be receptive to parents’ messages about the importance of getting to know a girl and about respect within relationships.

These two studies seem worthy of serious parental consideration. Another piece of research indicates that boys are faring less well than ever before, many exhibiting fragile self-esteem, and that the rates of depression and suicide among teen boys are increasing at an alarmingly high rate. Boys need relationship-positive messages and help with making good decisions. Male adolescents obviously need more than they’ve been receiving.

But how do you help someone who tends to brood about his problems silently or hides out behind closed doors in his room?

Your son needs alone time in his room to relax and enjoy the security his surroundings provide.  It is important to give him some space. When he comes out, however, one researcher suggests using “action talk.” This involves having the adolescent’s hands engaged in an activity. The idea is that while he’s fishing, cooking, waxing the car, trimming the hedges, etc. with you, he’ll feel free to open up about his feelings, worries, and troubles. Listening actively and respectfully and validating his feelings will help him, too.

Often, the male teen doesn’t speak because he fears appearing weak. He’s been cast into a situation where he’s expected to live up to huge new levels of responsibility. He’s told to “man up.” He is to take risks, succeed in the working world, be physically strong, and initiate dating relationships. The challenges can become overwhelming. That’s why it’s important for you to make an effort to stay connected with him daily. Having dinner together as a family offers a good time for connection.

Now, about those relationships.  You have to talk with him about those uncomfortable subjects—sex, drugs, and drinking and driving. He needs to clearly understand what your values are.  And, of course, he’ll be watching to see how you live those values out yourself.

He will learn to be sensitive and open to females as equals and partners if he sees the females in his home being treated as such. If you verbally emphasizes respect for females but then allow him to celebrate his birthday at a strip joint, you will be sending the opposite message.

As with all of your children, you’ll need to set boundaries for your adolescent male, decide on the consequences of pushing the limits, and stick with them. Consistency is paramount. If he becomes disrespectful, walk away or let him know that the conversation is over and you’ll talk with him when he’s ready to act respectfully.

Hopefully, your son has a dad in his life. If not, find a good male role model or mentor for him. Churches and clubs have carefully screened and trained men who want to help your son to manhood.

Above all, remember: boys will be boys—for a long time. One day, though, they will become mature men.

And, by the way, the NIH research found that young women “reach full maturity in terms of brain development between 21 and 22 years of age.” But that’s a subject for another time.

Share This Article

About Harriet Fagan

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Harriet Fagan is a mother, grandmother, freelance writer and former educator; she creates this column under the auspices of A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH, Inc.).

Browse Archived Articles by

No Comments

There are currently no comments on Adapting to the mysterious teen male mind. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.