Teenage Boys are Awesome. And Awful.

Teenage boys are awesome.

I was reminded of that fact this morning when I ran across this video online. Take a watch; it is entirely worth 3 minutes of your time.

Isn’t that great?

It’s teen boys at their best. Their talent and ability to cooperate, to work at hard things and to create is clearly apparent. Teen boys can DO things, and do them so very well.

And their sense of humor! Given a chance — in other words, if you give teen boys the freedom to express themselves — teen boys can be incredibly witty. Note the utter lack of seriousness, the silly faces, the kilts, the unexpected singing of a Rick Astley song from the 1980s and the mooning at the end.

This video is everything I love about teen boys, and I was originally going to post it with the simple comment, “Teenage boys are awesome.” Then I remembered how much I hated it when people told me how awesome teens are. Because the truth is, as awesome and fun and inspiring as teenage boys can be, they can also be incredibly infuriating and frustrating.

I was totally unprepared for the reality of raising and parenting a teenage male. Sometime between the ages of 11 and 15, things change. The boy that was previously pretty easy to get along with becomes mercurial. There are emotional explosions. Bouts of rudeness. Lots of stubbornness. And because they are now bigger and stronger, the days of picking them up and putting them in their room when they misbehave are long gone.

Figuring out how to live with and productively parent a teenage boy can be very challenging, and it’s not always pleasant. I wasn’t fully prepared for that reality. I’d bought into the idea that the teenage years don’t have to mean constant conflict between parent and child. I believed it was possible for teens to blossom into more adult versions of themselves and for both teen and parent to revel in this blossoming, if the parent had forged a close bond with said child in the early years and continued to support and nurture that child. I listened to the parents who said, “The teen years don’t have to be horrible! I love teens!”

Listen, I love my children too — always have, always will — but so far, I am not loving the teen years. Parenting teenage boys has challenged me far more than teen boys ever challenged me when I was a young, awkward, hoping-to-impress-a-boy teen. Parenting teenage boys is among the hardest things I’ve ever done.

And when I was in the midst of that — when I was in the middle of an experience that felt far closer to horrible than blessed blossoming — people who told me teenage boys were awesome pissed me off.

Telling me how great teens are when I have no idea what to do with my teen, who has stumped and challenged me beyond belief, when I am completely exhausted and out of ideas and feeling battered, is not helpful at all. If anything, it feels alienating because it denies my experience.

I get the desire to spread the message that parenting teens doesn’t have to be terrible. Teenagers, in general, get a bad rap. Teens are far more complex and capable than our culture gives them credit for. So yeah — they need some good PR.

But don’t whitewash the story.

Teenage boys are awesome. And infuriating.

The teen boys in that video up there? That video shows just one side of them. I guarantee that they are not always that pleasant, that focused and that funny. I guarantee that their parents see another side of those boys at home. And I want you to know that’s normal.

Teenage boys are awesome. And infuriating. It’s OK to be completely frustrated by them. It’s OK to wish this stage away, to not love the teen years. It doesn’t make you a bad parent, nor your kid a bad kid.

If I could give you any advice, though, it would be this: Embrace the good and funny moments whenever you can. Because teenage boys are awesome AND infuriating.

The Building Boys Bulletin

The Building Boys Bulletin Newsletter gives you the facts, encouragement, and inspiration you need to help boys thrive. Written by Jennifer L.W. Fink, mom of four sons and author of Building Boys: Raising Great Guys in a World That Misunderstands Males, Building Boys Bulletin includes:

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“I learned a lot about helping boys thrive over the past 20+ years — most of it the hard way! I’m eager to share what I’ve learned to make your path a little easier.”   – Jennifer

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4 Responses

  1. What a great article!!! Thanks so much for posting it. My son is 17 years old and we have been so close as he was growing up. Some days I don’t even know this young man at my house. But sometimes I get a glimpse of the boy I used to know … he’s still in there and I miss him.

  2. I knew growing up that schools, in general, were breeding grounds for discontent, frustration, and disillusionment, and so home educating my three children was my way of producing old fashioned free-range kids. Our middle child is our son, and we absolutely allowed him to run outside any time he needed (Incidentally, girls need this activity , as well). It may have been 20 minutes of work, and 30 minutes of play, but he did learn. Sometimes I gave him several chapters of history reading to do while I was away, and he read while walking around the house, getting distracted, and eating when he felt like it. Later, he was able to recite every detail of what he read with commentary and with accuracy when I arrived home. You are correct; men learn while doing, and studying is no exception. We sent our son to a private school for two years and he thrived, earning all A’s. At 17, I still see the fun little boy he was, perhaps because he was allowed to be a happy child. I noticed many of the boys in his grade looking like whipped products of schools that forced these kids to conform to their standards of conduct. They pulled all of the life and individuality out of these guys.
    Until there is a school for boys that addresses the very nature of what a boy needs in order to learn and function as a man, I think home educating them is a better way to go. Our son is lauded by many parents as being thoughtful, respectful, and caring, and he has a terrific work ethic and sense of humor. He can also be difficult, but I understand that he needs to get through testing his (and our) limits in order to grow. I am so happy that your boys have a mother who understands their needs. Good job, mom!

  3. I feel like this was written at my home this evening. Had a very interesting conversation while we made dinner together and after we ate he went back up voluntarily to finish writing an essay. But when I checked on him an hour later he was goofing off and hadn’t written a word. The drama that ensued made me want to scream. One minute cooperative, happy, sweet, and funny, then the next minute rude, short tempered and infuriating. Patience is the key and having appropriate expectations.

Building Boys: Raising Great Guys in a World That Misunderstands Males

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