Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Sometimes it’s best just to let it be:

When communicating with teenage boys, sometimes it's best to just let it happen in their time.
By Caroline McMahon
Date: June 15 2013
Tags: teenagers,
Editor Rating:

Recently my husband noticed that our 16-year-old son was spending more time in his room when he was at home than usual. Is that possible I pondered?

Checking in on our son one day, my husband commented to him on his observation.  Mr 16 responded to his father with “Mum asks too many questions.” 

As Mr 16 had recently acquired a new girlfriend a little younger than him, damn right I had many questions!

I had thought that I was showing an interest in my son’s life on his rare appearances from his room, and knowing that I only had a five-minute window of opportunity to update with him before he retreated back to his room again.

It turns out that my questioning and showing an interest in him was scaring him back to his room.  I took this information on board, re-thinking my communication strategies with my sons. 

The situation was highlighted when I went to a presentation by Celia Lashlie, author of He’ll Be Ok – Growing  Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men. Celia described this exact scenario and it made perfect sense. I was so glad to pick up this little tip to protect my communication with Mr 16 and be prepared for number two teenage son who still - at this point - talks to me in entire sentences and seeks out my company!

A few weeks later we are having a casual soup in the lounge in front of the television and just chilling out as a family. Mr 16 was mucking around with his iPad. When the sound of a video he was watching competed with the evening news, I asked him to put down the iPad while we finished our meal.   He was quick to comment, as teenage boys are, that I was a poor example as I was reading the paper while finishing my soup.

Even quicker to respond as a mother is, I let him know that I was simply sitting here in silence, waiting for him to engage with me should he wish to do so; that I was being a present and occupied mother.  I pointed out that, by reading the paper I was less likely to ask him questions.

He smiled a quick ‘touché’ smile, and thought for a moment and said: “Mum, carry on reading your paper, I have nothing to tell you right now.”

I learned a valuable lesson from both my son and from Celia Lashlie.

When around teenage boys and men in general, stop and pause. Just be there. Make a comment or a general question, just one and leave it. Let them come back to me with their comments and responses when they have had time to process the information, make a decision then report back to me. 

Another week later, I had to collect Mr 16 from a music camp that he was attending with his school about twenty minutes away from home.  He had been granted a leave pass to attend a sport training session of which selections for the State team were being made.  He was to train, then return immediately to camp.

As arranged, I arrived to the minute at the camp to find Mr 16 waiting for me. I greeted him in the car and left it at that.

Before I could even turn the car around, he had words tumbling out of his mouth at a rate of knots. 

He told me all about his camp,  his inner feelings of stress, his apprehension before attending the training session, as he did not know if he would be selected.  Then he asked, with the lovely manners that I had spent years drumming into him, if I would retrieve something from home that he needed for his return to camp.

I was overwhelmed with the young man in my car sitting next to me.

By closing my mouth, he opened his. Our communication channel had been retuned and restored. 

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