Is life easier with teenage boys? Or is it that they just make it seem that way? The old adage that boys are harder to raise as children but a breeze as teens when compared to girls is one that “experienced” parents before us love to impart on unsuspecting new parents and those with pre-teens, with boys and girls alike.
But is it true or is it a case of boys not liking/wanting to talk about their problems and parental “cluelessness” about his problems making him seem “easier” to manage when compared to teenage girls who are happy to explain in detail problems at hand and spark up at parents who don’t understand the issue.
Author and researcher Rosalind Wiseman says parents often make the mistake of believing if a boy doesn’t talk about any problems he is experiencing then he must not have any.
“..we don’t give them a language for talking about their worries and experiences like we do with girls. And we really don’t think enough about what our culture – and ourselves by extension – demands and expects of boys and how it frames their emotional lives, decision-making, self-esteem, and social competence,” Ms Wiseman writes in her book Masterminds and Wingmen.
“When we do notice boys, it’s usually because they’re somehow failing or they’re acting out in ways that appear thoughtless, reckless, disrespectful, threatening, or frightening,” she writes.
She says resulting adolescent male behaviour is seemingly detached and disengaged in relationships – a “slacker” type persona.
Parents reactions can be problematic when teenage boys have this attitude where nothing seems to worry them – including school work, home life and everything else in between.
“…we usually dance between two extremes: getting angry with them because they’re unfocused and ‘lazy’ or dismissing the problem as ‘typical boy behaviour’ i.e. not anything that needs to be addressed.”
Australian psychologist Andrew Greenfield told the Huffington Post in a recent interview there was a divide between teens not necessarily wanting to communicate with their parents and parents “definitely” wanting to.
“I’m all about the fact communication is certainly important for teenagers. It needs to happen. But there also needs to be a right time and right mood…parents can maybe be a little more mindful in having respect for the teenager – respect works both ways,” he said.
He said parents needed to choose the “right time” to try to discuss problems with their teenagers, using activities to diffuse the situation and make it feel less threatening for the child who is facing the problem rather than a face-to-face talk at the dinner table. If this did not work he suggested engaging the help of a trusted third-party – an uncle, friend or grandparent for instance.
He said a big issue parents faced was trying to be a friend to their teenager when they needed a parent instead.
“… a parent trying to be their teenager’s best friend – there’s nothing wrong with being a friend but first and foremost you are a parent and you have to act like one.. in saying that, you want to let your teenager know they can talk to you unconditionally about anything.”
“It doesn’t mean you are going to be enthusiastic about what they say to you, or that there won’t be consequences, but they do need to know they can talk to you about any issue that’s affecting them. Make sure the child knows that they can communicate about whatever it is they want to in an appropriate way, and that you’re willing to listen and have those lines of communication open.”