This post: 8 things your teenage boy desperately needs you to teach him. (Post updated: 2023)
My son will be leaving for college next fall. As much as I’ve taught him through the years and as dedicated as I’ve tried to be to prepare him for the next phase of his life, my greatest fear is that I’ve fallen short.
Why? Because he’s a boy.
As a mom of three, (two girls and a boy), the one thing I’ve learned about parenting is that boys are very different. Boys (at least most boys I know) are tougher to teach, tougher to communicate with, and they’re tougher to get through to than girls. And, the challenges boys face in life are oftentimes far different than the challenges girls face.
It’s these characteristically different traits that made me realize that preparing my son to “adult” wasn’t going to be quite the cakewalk it was for my girls. (Well… maybe preparing my girls for the real world hasn’t been a total cakewalk, but it sure has seemed easier compared to my son.)
Not only do I need to peel back the societal layers of expectation that seem to rest quietly on every boy’s shoulders, (to act strong, tough, and unbreakable even when they’re not), I need to empower him with a few valuable skills and tidbits of wisdom that hold the power to make him far more content and better equipped to manage life in college and beyond.
Here are a few things I’m determined to teach my son (lessons I feel every boy should learn) before he leaves my tender care.
8 Things Your Teenage Boy Desperately Needs You to Teach Him
1. How to Express Himself
Of all the things your teenage boy desperately needs you to teach him, it’s how to express himself. Teenage boys typically aren’t great communicators. In some cases, it’s sheer genetics or their growing need to pull away which causes them to become less emotionally available. However, oftentimes, it’s simply because boys aren’t socialized to be as expressive as girls.
Help your son become an adept communicator by opening the door to stress-free non-judgmental conversation, being a solid role model for healthy expressions of sadness, frustration, and anger, giving him the freedom to express himself in an acceptable manner, and backing off of gender stereotypical manners of expression.
Don’t box your son’s emotions in. Let him show his sensitive side. Let him shed a tear if life gets the best of him. The more in touch he becomes with his feelings and the more freedom he’s given to express them, the better he’ll be at communicating which will prepare him for future relationships and intimacy in his life.
2. How to Live with Honor
The beauty of living with honor isn’t necessarily in how others will view your son, but how he will view himself as he journeys into adulthood. Set him on a positive, honorable path by developing a core set of family beliefs he can live his life by.
Be a powerful role model and strive to instill values of integrity, morality, loyalty, reliability, and responsibility.
Being honorable yourself, surrounding your son with honorable men and women, and adopting an unbreakable honor code in your family will integrate those steadfast beliefs into your son’s heart and mind.
3. Manners – Maybe Even a Little Chivalry
You spent the better half of your son’s life teaching him basic manners – how to say please and thank you, the importance of not interrupting, using table manners, and perhaps even basic cell phone etiquette. But real manners – the manners that can set our kids apart from the rest – go beyond the basics.
Teach your son how to hold a face-to-face conversation, make eye contact, show genuine gratitude when someone does something for him, how to handle himself in various environments, how to dress appropriately for different occasions, and how to be a gentleman and treat a girl with respect, honor, equality and perhaps even a little chivalry. (Although chivalry is falling by the wayside, there are still plenty of girls who still appreciate a boy who pulls out her chair, opens a door for her, and kills a creepy bug for her.)
4. How to Be His Own Man
Feeling as though they’re part of the crowd and having a sense of camaraderie with friends is very important for teenage boys. They need to feel accepted and included and we should understand and embrace that notion. Still, if our kids don’t learn how to stand on their own two feet while they’re under our roof, when will they?
Teach your son to follow his own passions, values, and beliefs regardless of what his friends or others are doing.
Following the crowd might be perfectly fine in some instances, but when it comes to making decisions about his future, staying true to his own personal principles or morals, or, in some cases, standing up to peer pressure, he needs to learn that just because he’s alone on a particular path in life, doesn’t mean it’s not the right path for him. In fact, sometimes, the best paths are the ones traveled alone.
5. The Guidelines of Sexual Consent
Years of research have proven that open communication at home is the key to preventing teenage boys (and girls) from getting into precarious situations as it relates to sexual consent. Yet, one study found that the vast majority of parents don’t talk to their teens about consent.
Talk to your son about the rules of consent now. Talk to him early, frequently, and honestly. More than simply instilling the lesson that “no means no,” make sure he understands that consent is a very complex issue. When peer pressure, alcohol, and/or drugs come into play, it can drastically change perceptions and make communication more difficult which can muddy the waters of consent. Additionally, it’s important to teach your son that “no” can be conveyed in an unspoken, non-verbal manner. The bottom line is, he has no claim to a girl’s body AND he has every right to stand up and say no as well (sometimes girls are the aggressors).
6. Household Chores and Basic Cooking Skills
Don’t send your son into the world without knowing how to clean a toilet, sweep a floor, or how to cook a few basic recipes.
Even more important, teach your son that running a household, cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping should never erroneously be viewed as a woman’s job.
He may not jump at the chance to sweep the kitchen floor, and chances are you might get a few heavy sighs and eye rolls before he takes the dishes out of the dishwasher, but the greater lesson you’re teaching him, aside from the basic skills of running a household, is the value of working together as a family.
7. That He Can Be Strong and Sensitive
One of the things I love about my son is that he can be tough as nails, but he also has a very sweet, tender side – a quality that I feel will serve him well in life. All too often, boys are taught to be tough, strong, and unbreakable. But showing empathy, kindness, understanding, and sensitivity will hold far more power in life than continually being stoic or tough.
Teach your son to be a great boyfriend, wonderful husband or partner, and compassionate friend and co-worker, by giving him the freedom to be strong and stay connected to his feelings. Instill the belief that he can be a successful go-getter and still be sensitive to the needs of others, he can be sweet (maybe even a little sappy) and strong, tender, and tough.
I used to think that my kids would inherently develop resilience simply by wrangling through a few of life’s hard knocks, which would, in turn, toughen them up. But, I found that’s not always the case. In fact, resilience isn’t necessarily a skill you’re born with and it’s not necessarily a skill you’ll pick up along the way in life. Resilience is a skill that needs to be taught.
Empower your son with the ability to “bounce back” and move full-steam ahead instead of crumbling when things go awry. Help him put life in perspective when things don’t go his way, encourage him to take control of his life and keep moving forward, (even if it’s baby steps), and approach every hurdle methodically with a can-do attitude.
Encourage him also to cut himself a little slack, avoid being a perfectionist and find healthy ways (like sports, hobbies, exercise, and time with friends) to release pent-up frustration and stress. Mostly, give your boy loads of support. Knowing that you have his back, that you’ll be there if and when he fumbles, and that you stand ready with a listening ear will empower him and give him the confidence he needs to tackle life’s challenges head-on.