How to Communicate with Your Teenage Son

Teenage Boy Using Cell PhoneOnce upon a time, I was a young and foolish mother who thought that I could treat my son the exact same way I treated his two older sisters. This included the way I communicated with him. Holy crumpets, was I in for a rude awakening.

Turns out sons do not communicate the same way as daughters.

Who knew? This single mom sure didn’t!

Allow me to share my lessons learned with you. If I can save one mother from Communicating with Teenage Boys Hell, then my struggles will not have been in vain.

We will start with a typical conversation. First with a teenage daughter.

Mom: Daughter, please go tidy up your room.

Daughter: okay, in a minute.

Mom: Hey hon, I really need you to pick up your room please, we are having company tonight and I want the house to look nice.

Daughter, rolling her eyes and heaving a sigh: Fine.

Off she trots to tidy up her room.

Now let’s take the exact same request, but this time with a teenage son.

Mom: Son, please go tidy up your room.

Nothing. Not even an acknowledgement that you have spoken. He remains engrossed in his electronic device.

Mom: Hey, I’m talking to you.

Son looks up in shock to discover you standing there. A look of suspicion creeps over his face. Chances are pretty good he’s going to be asked to do something.

Son : What?

Mom: I need you to …

Son’s eyes start to glaze over.

Mom: …tidy up your room …

Son’s eyes start to drift back to electronic device.

Mom: .. because we are having company …

And you’ve lost him.

This type of conversation went on between my son and I on a regular basis. It would end with me yelling and him storming out of the room convinced his mother was a hysterical idiot.

One day the conversation went like this:

Mom, very sharply: Son! Go tidy up your room!

Son: Why?

Mom: Because I freakin’ said so.

Son: Okay.

Off he went to tidy up his room, while I stood there in shock. Why on earth had I not done this years ago?

Once I figured out how simple it was, I saved myself a whole bucket load of grief.

Here are my key lessons learned for communicating with your teenage son:

  1. Never ask; tell. As soon as you ask a teenage boy to do something you are opening the door for him to argue.  He will fling that door wide open and barge on through. And whatever you do, never provide a reason for your request. Trust me, they will poke holes in your logic, and they will win. After all, you did not raise a stupid boy.
  2. Use as few words as possible. Teenage boys have the attention span of a gnat. Once you go past three words, you run a risk of losing them. Over five words and you’ve lost them for sure. Just bark out orders like a drill sergeant and it’s all good.
  3. 3. Never look them in the eyes if you actually want to have a meaningful conversation. Eye contact makes teenage males uncomfortable. They like to think they are in control, and direct eye contact makes you the alpha. If you really want to know what is going on in their lives, talk to them in the car when they are sitting beside you or behind you. Throw out a question then feign total indifference. Do NOT look at them. It might take a moment or two, but they will talk. Don’t interrupt; just grunt every once in awhile.

This style flows naturally between most father and sons. In other words, moms, you have to think like a male when dealing with a male. Do that even part time, and you are well on your way to successfully communicating with your teenage son.

Eliza Fayle is the author of Silver & Grace, a blog dedicated to aging gracefully, be it physical or spiritual. Having achieved empty nest syndrome in her early forties, she will soon be back to ‘thinking like a male’ as her step-son enters his teens.

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  1. Oh my gosh, I would think you were speaking specifically about my son, if I didn’t know better!! He’s 21 now, and I just read this to him. His first response was “have you seen my room?” (he keeps it spotless now). I told him that wasn’t the point, and he said “yeah, and it’s way too true.”

    The part about not providing a reason because they will argue and win!! Absolutely, positively, dead-on my son!!