How to Understand Teen Boys

Three Parts:Understanding Teen Boys as a ParentUnderstanding Teen Boys as a GirlfriendUnderstanding Teen Boys as a Teacher

Teen boys. Eesh. To women the world over (and a few dads, too), they'll never make sense. Half the time their eyes are glazed over in a trip to Lalaland and the other half their mood swings are so bad you'd swear they were pregnant. What are they going through? Get started with Step 1 below or check out the sections listed above for more specific help.

Part 1
Understanding Teen Boys as a Parent

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    Account for his hormones affecting his communication ability. Remember back in the day when that certain someone brushed your shoulder and you couldn't stop thinking about it for hours? Days, even? That's his level of distraction, 24/7. His life is going from "Leave it To Beaver" to "The Real World" and he's in the midst of dealing with it. That doesn't leave a lot of time for talk.
    • What once was a life full of video games, friends, and the occasional basketball practice, is now a life of grades, sports, video games, finding an image, friends, experiencing new things, and girls. Basically, he's got a lot on his plate. If he's terse and uncommunicative (but everything else is okay), he's probably just dealing. He's not upset with you or starting a rebellious phase; he's just getting accustomed to this new train of thought that's going a zillion miles an hour.
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    Let him be "cool." There comes an unfortunate time in everyone's life when they realize that the outside world exists and there are games one must play to keep up. He'll be desperately seeking validation from his peers, telling him that he meets their arbitrary requirements. While you see that this is pointless, he does not -- and he won't be able to see it, even if you point it out. Instead of giving him some lecture on the pitfalls of society, steer him in a productive, safe, direction (without him realizing it).
    • Be one of the people that shows him the world, helping him develop his personality and what "cool" really is. Introducing him to your world is a good place to start. Make sure he knows some of your friends and sees examples of the adult world. Show him different sports, forms of art and expression, outside activities, different foods, pastimes, and new people and places. When he starts getting a sense of self, maybe it can be from you -- instead of, well, an Eddie Haskell, a Cheech, or a Kimmy Gibbler.
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    Don't dismiss his feelings. If your son actually takes the time to open up to you about how the cutest girl at school snubbed him, don't look at him like the naive, inexperienced kid that he is. Sure, in the long run, you know this is probably no big deal, but he doesn't. It won't be no big deal to him for another decade. Whatever he's feeling, let him know that at least a part of you gets it. After all, you were in the same boat years ago.
    • He's going to have to make mistakes in order to grow up. Keeping him from making them is just prolonging the inevitable. Encourage him to explore his feelings -- give him advice on girls (or boys), have the sex (and porn) talk, and be a rock he can lean on. He may not come to you for the fun stuff anymore, but you can be there to pick him up when he falls to the bottom.
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    Expect that he'll be finding his sexual self. Odds are, your son will explore the world of porn. Recent research says over 70% of adolescent males are on websites frequently -- and 90% have explored it at least once, usually while doing homework.[1] This isn't alarming. In fact, it's the opposite of alarming; it's normal.
    • Though it is so normal, it doesn't mean you should let it take its own course. Do initiate a conversation on the topic, letting him know that what he's seeing isn't realistic and inform him of the real world he's embarking upon. Ground him in reality, preventing the Internet and his friends forming a world that's impossible to keep up with.
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    Help him explore his maturity. If you treat him like an adult at home, he won't feel the need as much to prove himself around you and, hopefully, his friends. Raise your expectations of him and help him meet them. Let him be a part of plans, problems, and "adult" issues.
    • Reward him accordingly! Does he want a cup of coffee or glass of wine after dinner? Great. Does he want to pitch in for the next vacation -- and where does he want to go and why?
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    Help him earn his "manhood." Odds are there will come a time when your son starts viewing himself as an adult. He's using more foul language, addressing you differently, and demanding more independence. Okay, two can play at that game. If he wants so desperately to be a grown up, give him responsibility. You'll only tolerate that behavior if he can pull his weight.
    • If working around the house isn't enough, insist that he gets a part-time job. Otherwise, you can up his household responsibilities -- in addition to his maintaining good grades. If he can handle it all with flying colors, then bravo. Maybe he has a good grasp on it. If he can't, then his grown-up attitude shouldn't be tolerated.
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    Meet his friends. It's going to be a challenge to enforce a literal open-door policy. Demanding that you be a part of his business when he's at home is just going to drive him out of it. Instead of sticking your nose where he refuses to allow it, get into his world by meeting his friends. Tell him they can come over (it's all part of your mischievous plan!) and scope 'em out. If there are ones you like and ones you don't, you can try your darnedest to steer him one way or the other.
    • Get involved at his school. This is the simplest way to see the environment that he's in when he's not at home. You'll see who he's hanging out with and get a chance to talk to those parents. They're probably going through the same thing!
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    Know that he probably feels immortal. When Simba says, "I laugh in the face of danger," in the Lion King, it could be your son's mantra. And that's a decent analogy. Whatever is forbidden (be it an elephant graveyard or weekend house parties), he's gonna wanna do it, and he's not going to see the consequences. To channel this, encourage him to be daring, but not dangerous.
    • Encourage some of the more dangerous of "normal" physical activities. Expose him to mountain biking, wrestling, off-roading, camping (in the true sense), and parkour.
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    Stay open and set a good example. If you're an enigma to him, he has no reason not to be an enigma to you. Talking on your cell phone at the dinner table is telling him to talk on his cell phone at the dinner table. Even though his world his getting a thousand times bigger, you're still example numero uno.
    • If he's an involved part of your life, you'll have to, by definition, be a part of his. Keep your door open at night. Set aside a time to eat together, watch TV, or do an activity. You may feel like he's not paying attention to you, but he is. He's noting your behavior for an example of what being an adult is like -- something he desperately wants to be.
    • Initiate meaningful conversation. He's going through a lot of things right now that he straight up doesn't understand. Ask him what's going on in his body, if he feels emotions that he can't explain, and if he notices his thought patterns changing. Even if he can't give you a good answer, you'll get him thinking about it, open the lines of communication, and let him know that it's all normal.
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    Know what's cause for alarm and what's not. If your teen wants to dye his hair blue, well, that's unfortunate -- but it's not the end of the world. Otherwise, he could be entirely mentally sound. After all, remember that flannel jumpsuit you begged your mom to buy you? It's the same thing, but decades later. However, if your child is showing negative signs that are out of character, you may need to take action. Look for the following symptoms:[2]
    • Extreme weight gain or loss
    • Sleeping problems
    • Drastic changes in personality
    • Sudden change in friends
    • Skipping school continually
    • Falling grades
    • Talk or jokes about suicide
      • If you notice any of these, contact a local counselor or psychologist. These are warning signs to a bigger problem. But again, if your A student gets a B-, that's one thing -- it's when your A student gets a load of Cs and Ds and is found at the McDonald's every Tuesday morning when it becomes an issue.

Part 2
Understanding Teen Boys as a Girlfriend

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    Understand that many boys don't show as much emotion as girls. In our society, many boys are brought up to think that showing emotion is only a girl thing. Even if they're feeling it, they won't show it. So just because he's not showing that he's upset, doesn't mean he actually isn't. Don't get even more upset when he doesn't get angry -- he's just processing it a different way.
    • Research shows that boys process emotion more slowly, too. If a girl wants to talk about a problem the next day, the boy may not be ready. He'll want to talk about it in a few days or a week. It's just how his brain works.
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    Know that he might feel like he's stuck in an awkward stage. Girls generally run a few years ahead of boys when it comes to the growing-up route. That's why you'll notice that lots of girls are taller and more mature-looking earlier, while the boy still look like, well, boys. He's probably super aware of all the changes he's going through, and it's making him self-conscious.
    • Right now, his voice is dropping (and breaking!), his body is changing, he might be getting acne, and, on top of that, he's dealing with friends and school. It's possible that he doesn't feel confident enough to interact with you the way he wants.
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    Don't be afraid to tell him what you're feeling. Dropping hints is not the way to get a guy to do something -- they can be completely oblivious! What's more, being direct is something he'll probably appreciate. Girls often speak in a code where they're trying to get something across without actually saying it. However, for his mind, you may need to just spill. He's not a mind reader!
    • Girls have a remarkable ability to see a situation different than it really is and get upset over nothing. If you tell him you feel a certain way and he thinks you're being ridiculous, try to see it from his point of view. Relationships are all about compromise.
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    Be accepting of him. If he goes into a rant about sports, listen to him. If he has a bad day, comfort him. He's in the process of turning into a man and finding what it is that drives him. Be a part of it! If he opens up to you, great! How can you get in on the action?
    • It's very possible that his interests will change quickly. One minute he wants to be a doctor and the next he's going to become a famous musician. Aren't your interests doing the same thing? Just make sure the person he's becoming is the person you still want to date.
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    Know that not all teen boys are alike. Just because a previous boyfriend acted one way, doesn't mean all guys act that way. One will pull the moon down from the sky for you while the other forgets to call. So if you find one bad egg, don't write them all off.
    • Some will be a lot more mature than others. The more immature they are, the more they'll be thinking about themselves. Research says that true, intimate relationships can't really be had till 17.[3] If you're younger than that, cut the both of you some slack. It's just a growing up process.
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    Remember that guys act differently around their friends. If it's just the two of you, he's probably super sweet and affectionate. In walks a buddy of his and BAM! He's Mr. Ice Man. Odds are he's probably really concerned about how "cool" his friends think he is. This has less to do with you and more to do with him. It's super important to remember that!
    • He needs some time to be one of the guys. And you need time to be one of the girls! His exercising his manliness is part of the transition from boy to man. They all go through it. So while he's doing his thing, you go do yours. Guys sometimes are selfish but they trying five them a chance.
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    Know that teen boys are often naturally thinking about sexual subjects. When a boy hits a certain age, he starts thinking about sex. His body is doing things that he can't control and his mind is all over the place. If he seems distracted, that might be why!
    • Don't be pressured into having sex until you are absolutely sure. This issue can be avoided by setting your limits firmly. He can take care of himself -- this is not your job. Don't feel guilty for asserting yourself. If he doesn't want to deal, he's not worth it.
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    Keep the lines of communication open. Ask about his hobbies and other interests. He may or may not want you to be involved in certain activities and that's fine! You have your own life, too. However, if you truly have interests and/or skills in his activities, be sure to voice your thoughts on these subjects and offer to participate. Don't be afraid to beat him!
    • If you get in a fight, he may not always come to you. You might have to initiate communication if he insists on being stubborn. While this shouldn't always be your duty, if you want the relationship to succeed, work is required. Staying open and honest with each other is the quickest road to making it last.

Part 3
Understanding Teen Boys as a Teacher

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    Know that the brain is still forming. Accidents are the number one cause of death for teens. Research says this is because the brain has not yet formed the centers that deal with logic and safety.[4] So when the group of them are acting like neanderthals, that's why. Dangerous behavior doesn't register as dangerous to them.
    • The only thing you can really do when a tough situation arises is to try to make the lesson learned memorable. Because their brains are still forming, you can literally get in on their eventual personality. Establish consequences and make everything as straightforward as possible. Anything else will probably be lost on them.
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    Turn discoveries into learning opportunities. The last thing most teenage boys have on their minds is the afternoon's lecture. They're on iPads, talking sports, looking at girls, and figuring out how to be as cool as possible. If you see something not-so-school related, try not to write it off right away. How can you incorporate it into your lesson? How can you teach them more about it and aid in their discovery?
    • This goes for the negative stuff, too. For every erection that's had, for every zit that pops up, for every quintessential teenage thing you come across, do what you can to make it an opportunity to learn (while keeping it not shameful). All this stuff is normal -- let them know it's normal. They might not be getting the information at home.
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    Ask parents meaningful questions. If you have a particular teen that's an enigma, it's time to bring in his parents. It's possible the second you meet them a giant light bulb will go off on top of your head and everything will suddenly make sense. Up until now, the parents have been shaping these kids. Get to the parent, see the formation of the child.
    • If it's not so obvious as to why a particular boy is acting out or not acting at all, get the parents take on it. It'll cue you as to your next move -- that is, whether or not a counselor is necessary.
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    Know that they'll spend the majority of the time trying to prove something. If it's in English class, most of them will probably be proving that they're too cool for school and trying to exercise their dominance by scribbling on their desk. If it's gym, they'll be dying to get picked first and being the cause for glory. For the outliers, they'll probably be trying to prove that their outlier-ness doesn't bother them (and, rather, that it defines them).
    • It's in your best interest to work with this, instead of against it. If you notice a few boys that are particularly image driven, try to turn academics into an opportunity to assert themselves. You may find they're more cooperative if they see an advantage for them in what you're having them do.
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    Recognize the pressures he's up against. It's easy to focus on girls and see the myriad pressures society is bombarding them with. It completely stinks to be a teenage girl. Unfortunately, boys don't have it much easier -- and this often gets ignored. They're forced to become "men" -- but what definition of "a man" is still viable today? Breadwinner? Not necessarily. Strong and silent? Nope. Aggressive? Hope not. What's a boy to do?
    • All these boys are in the process of becoming just that -- something they have only a loose grasp on. This whole thing is very intimidating. If and when you can, try to give him a sense of being viable in society. How can he help? How can he get physically involved? Where can he see concrete results? Can he set the goals and objectives?
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    Take note of the social hierarchy. If you thought it was just girls, you'd be wrong. The boys will form their own cliques, too, it just might be manifested differently. When you note the hierarchy, you can tap into their roles. You can also help out those that fall lower on the totem pole.
    • This hierarchy is a huge thing for them -- it makes up their entire lives at the moment, actually. When you start seeing this, it'll be easier to predict how things will play out and what to expect from certain individuals. What's more, you should be able to have a little fun yourself! There's no harm in picking on the head honcho and beefing up the underdog -- the class may enjoy the camaraderie, too.
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    Look for changes. You're gonna have boys that are athletic and extroverted and you're gonna have boys that couldn't be paid a million dollars not to be an underachieving wallflower. This is normal. It's when you start seeing sudden, drastic changes that it's cause for alarm. If you witness something like this, know that they're probably going through something larger than losing a game of World of Warcraft or being grounded. You may need to take action.
    • Being a teen is hard. You remember it, don't you? Don't be quick to judge one on their outfits or their hairstyle -- but take in the entire package. Again -- sudden changes are what to look for here. If a formerly good student is slipping to the back of the pack consistently, it's your place to do something. All teens need a good mentor. It could be you.


  • Every teen is different. Each person matures at a different rate. Listen to your gut when it comes to issues.

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Categories: Crushes on Boys | Social Interactions for Youth