Raising teenage sons isn’t easy. The teenage years can be particularly challenging, both for you and your son.
Age 14 is a time of huge change for boys. They’re getting a glimpse of adulthood and the freedom that comes with it, but they’re not mature enough yet to handle it. Their hormones are changing, their friends’ influence is stronger than ever, and they don’t want to talk to you about anything. They may be moody, secretive, or openly defiant and disrespectful.
If you are experiencing failed attempts at communication and endless fights and wondering why your boy is so rebellious, rest assured that you are not alone. Dealing with a 14-year-old son requires patience, empathy, and compassion.
What causes the “attitude” in teenage boys?
A 14-year-old boy’s behavior is by and large controlled by the hormonal and neurobiological changes that occur during puberty. On top of that, there is peer pressure, self-doubt, and the growing need for acceptance.
Your teenage son’s brain is also still developing. The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for judgment, decision-making, reasoning, managing emotions, and controlling impulses, doesn’t fully mature until a boy reaches his mid-20s. That’s why your 14-year-old son gets easily frustrated with themselves and others, which may be expressed in emotional outbursts, impulsivity, and mood swings.
At this age, boys are also struggling for independence, and their friends becoming their trusted advisers, not their parents. This may cause your 14-year-old son to rebel against authority, including you. They may want to hide things from you and expect you not to interfere.
Strategies for dealing with your 14-year-old son
So how do you deal with your 14-year-old son? The following strategies may help.
- Give advice, but don’t overdo it. Most teenagers, especially boys, hate it when parents try to push things too forcefully. Communicate clearly, but keep it short and sweet.
- Respect his need for independence. Becoming more independent is a natural part of your boy’s transition from childhood to adulthood. Within reason, give him the space to have his own ideas, express himself, and figure things out for himself.
- Don’t force your opinion. Accept the fact that your son’s opinion may differ from yours. What may be wrong for you might seem right for him. Instead of forcing your opinion on him, try to listen to his reasoning and have a meaningful conversation about it.
- Be patient. After you have made your point about a negative behavior, give him time to mull it over. He may eventually resolve the behavior on his own. Avoid ignoring him.
- Stay calm. Yelling or arguing will only escalate the situation. Calmly and firmly let him know that you will not tolerate misbehavior, and resist the urge to shout.
- Distract them. Try teaching them valuable lessons while you are engaged in a physical activity. Involve them in projects around the house or do household chores together where you can talk while they are somewhat distracted.
- Use humor. Humor can help break the ice or help diffuse an intense argument. It may help you and your son look at a problem from each other’s perspectives. Be careful not to mock or ridicule, because it can make things worse.
- Show appreciation. Praise helps build self-confidence and creates a positive bond between you and your son. Whenever your son performs well in a task, give them genuine praise.
- Address his need for attention. Sometimes, disrespectful behavior is a way to get attention and may be a sign that their emotional needs are not being met.
- Spend time together. Spend quality time with your son, no matter how busy you are. Spend some time each day asking about his life, his friends, and his feelings. Be there for him during school events. If you notice that he looks sad or disturbed, take him out for a walk and try to ask him about it casually.
- Be a good role model. The best thing a parent can do is model the kind of behavior they want to see in their son. Be respectful to your spouse, your kids, and others outside your family. You can also surround your son with good influences.
- Overlook mild disrespect. Disrespectful behavior is common in teenagers and a part of growing up. Mild disrespectful behavior, such as shrugging shoulders, rolling eyes, feigning boredom, or muttering can be ignored. However, severe disrespect and blatant rudeness should not be tolerated.
- Set clear and consistent rules. Set clear rules and boundaries and apply them consistently. When you aren’t consistent, your teen will notice it right away and it will only contribute to disrespectful behavior.
- Follow through with consequences. If you have set consequences for bad behavior, it’s important to follow through. Remove privileges or assign additional responsibilities when necessary.
- Focus on his behavior, not his person. Talk about disrespectful behavior and how you feel about it. Avoid comments about his personality or character.
- Problem-solve together. Work together to teach your son how to address and solve their problems. Teach them to identify the good from bad.
What to avoid when dealing with your 14-year-old
- Pick your battles. Arguments over something minor can quickly escalate and get out of control. Pick your battles and don’t allow your son to get you into a power struggle just for the sake of it.
- Be aware of timing. If now is not a good time to discuss something, whether he’s with his friends or just in a bad mood, agree on a time and discuss the issue later.
- Don’t overdo eye contact. Eye contact can be uncomfortable for teenage boys, and it may overwhelm or intimidate him. Try talking to him while driving in a car together
- Don’t lecture. Lecturing your teenager is a sure way to get him to stop listening. Try actively listening to him and having back-and-forth conversation.
- Don’t be sarcastic. Sarcasm or mocking tones can create resentment and increase the distance between you and your son.
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Kids Health. A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Teen Years. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/adolescence.html
Robinson L, Segal J. Help for Parents of Troubled Teens. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/parenting-family/helping-troubled-teens.htm
The Center for Parenting Education. Child Development by Age. https://centerforparentingeducation.org/library-of-articles/child-development/child-development-by-age/
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