Pop culture often depicts teen boys in various states of anti-social behavior, whether driving recklessly, unleashing surly comments at the dinner table or retreating to their dark, smelly bedrooms for video game marathons. Truthfully, the teenage years are challenging for young men learning to adjust their childhood behaviors and interact within society in positive, meaningful ways. Helping teen boys with social behavior takes patience, but it can help pave the way for a healthier and happier adolescent experience.
Shyness can be a major social affliction for teen boys. Unsure of how to interact with the elderly lady next door, a mother’s colleague or an older brother’s girlfriend, teenage boys may turn stonily silent or awkwardly leave the room rather than attempt to talk their way out of discomfort. Coach shy teen boys to incorporate a few basic conversational statements, such as asking the neighbor about the weather or the older brother’s girlfriend about her college classes. After a short exchange, the bashful gentleman can make a polite excuse, such as needing to work on homework, before bolting for the door. As the teen becomes more comfortable with making basic adult conversation, he may choose to participate in longer discussions.
Teen boys attempting to harness their changing hormones may also face challenges related to aggression. Fighting at school, a fascination with violent movies or video games or excessive cursing may signal that the teenager is struggling with aggression issues, or even something deeper. Enrolling a teen in high-energy, physically taxing activities such as martial arts, boxing, football or swimming can help funnel aggressive tendencies into positive social experiences with peers. Limiting access to violent movies and video games can encourage in-person interaction with others. Frank discussions about the negative consequences of physical aggression in the real world can serve as a reality check.
Some teen boys enter the social world of dating with tremendous gusto; others may be more reserved. Parents should keep a watchful eye over dating activities to help enforce propriety. Keeping teen boys accountable for their time spent with romantic interests will help curb inappropriate behaviors, and it’s not inappropriate to communicate any concerns with the parents of dates. Have an honest discussion with the teenager about the possible repercussions of sexual activity, including sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, date rape or the potential for gossip or violence.
Teen boys often face expectations of “masculinity” that seem unrealistic or completely opposed to their natural personalities. They may face social pressure to participate in sports, date, drink alcohol or use macho language in order to “fit in” with peers. Talking with a teenager about self-acceptance can help build self-confidence, as can looking at media portrayals of masculinity, machismo or “manliness” and discussing the effects of these images. Whether a teenage boy collects soccer trophies or travel postcards, he can be encouraged to reject media-projected stereotypes.
Although some social behavior issues among teenage boys can be addressed by families involved, it’s possible that professional therapy or counseling is needed. You can always pursue an initial session and then discontinue services if counseling later seems unwarranted.