This post: How Teen Boys Talk To Each Other: Is the Constant “Razzing” Normal?
Written By: Jessica Manning
If I were you, I’d say something like, “Are you trying to hurt my feelings? Because it’s working.” My oldest son scoffed at my suggestion, as his younger brother simultaneously said, “Gross,” under his breath.
Gross? Really? THAT’S the response I get to my sincere suggestion?
My oldest had been telling me about a friend of his who was giving him the silent treatment and trying to rally their other friends to do the same. The friend was angry because my son was planning to hang out with his girlfriend instead of their guy friends after the upcoming school dance. Sounds high school-like, right?
Basically, I was role-playing what my son should say to this life-long friend of his.
“Gross,” is what his younger brother thought of my suggestion to share that his feelings were hurt. And my oldest was right there with him, “Mom, no one talks like that,” he said, – a phrase I often hear from him when I’m giving advice on how to communicate.
How Teen Boys Talk To Each Other: Is the Constant “Razzing” Normal?
According to my sons, I’m apparently not as adept at speaking “teen boy” as I think I am. But can’t I just toot my own horn for a second and say that I’m a pretty good communicator?
I can articulate my emotions and ideas, and I’m not afraid to have difficult conversations, unlike my boys who so often are. Thus, the thought of them judging my suggestions is rather comical. I’m not the one internalizing, ignoring, sitting in conflict, or not speaking my mind, and I have good, healthy relationships because of it.
However, in their defense, teen boys seem to have their own language. I remember one time I was driving my son and his team to a game while I listened in silence to the conversation they were having in the back seat. Is there a more appropriate phrase for, “pissing match?” Sorry to sound crude, but that’s exactly what it was.
They were one-upping (maybe that’s the better phrase) each others’ athletic feats, and they were certainly not afraid to call one another out on their fails. I asked my husband, “Is this normal?” because all I could think about the rest of the drive were the life lessons that I was going to teach my son when we got home – let’s be humble, for one. But it was normal, according to my husband, so I questioned whether I should refrain from broaching the topic later – as if I could stop myself.
I understand that males and females typically communicate differently, but sometimes I wonder if we’re excusing how boys speak to each other under the blanket of “boys being boys.”
In addition to the need to “one-up” each other, it bothers me that teen boys feel like they have to tread lightly with everything they do because otherwise they’ll get “flamed,” as my students say.
Heaven forbid they share an opinion, do their hair differently, wear a new pair of shoes, or post a picture with a girl… no matter what they do, their buddies will surely have a comment.
They’re constantly teasing each other and taking jabs to the point where it all too often crosses the line from funny to downright hurtful.
I do believe the digs lessen with maturity. But for teens, it can be an exhausting way to exist. I empathize with the boys who don’t dish it out but take the punches (figuratively speaking, that is) from their friends.
It’s just how guys talk shouldn’t excuse the incessant badgering. I’m sure many boys would say it’s not that big of a deal, but it has to get old.
And, the most concerning part for our boys is that their fear of being viewed as vulnerable by their friends can lead them to avoid expressing any form of deep emotion which can translate into surface-level friendships.
Furthermore, the constant teasing can take its toll on boys’ self-esteem and self-worth.
They might have a great time together creating fun memories with their friends while still not feeling emotionally close. But doesn’t everyone, including teen boys, crave deep connections?
I’m talking about the type of connection that derives from being vulnerable, honest and open, yet accepted. In my own experience working with teens, the boys who struggle the most after a breakup are the ones who felt their girlfriend was the only one they could talk to about life. What keeps them from confiding their feelings to their male friends?
I genuinely wonder what adult men would think of my thoughts on this topic. Would they also say, “Gross” to my suggestions? Am I thinking solely from a female perspective? I certainly know not all teenage boys communicate like this; even the ones who do show enough gestures of good friendship that they are still considered “good friends.”
Hopefully, your sons have found a group of friends (or groups) who don’t have this unspoken acceptance of talking to each other disrespectfully. But I do believe it’s worthwhile for parents to ask their sons how their friends communicate and whether they can relate to this one-upping and razzing. I know several teen boys who have many friends yet feel like they don’t have any real ones because of it.
Just so you know, I took many great pictures of my son and his best friend before the dance that night. The silent treatment lasted 24 hours, and all was well by the night of the dance. Maybe my boys were right that it would have made things worse to address it, let alone to admit hurt feelings.
But I refuse to believe that teen boys can’t learn a thing or two about good communication from positive role-playing. I will keep making suggestions with my boys (and likely getting rebuked) because I’m certain there is a part of them that is listening and wants to hone in on the skills to develop deep and meaningful relationships with their guy friends.
About Jessica Manning
Jessica is a high school counselor with over 20 years of experience working with teenagers. She earned an M.A. in school counseling and a B.A. in English and secondary education. Jessica is married to a high school principal and has three teenage boys; her current life revolves around all things teen. When not working or following her sons’ sporting events, Jessica appreciates any opportunity she gets to veg at home with her family and her dog, Phyllis.