Parenting: The art of communicating effectively with adolescent boys |30 March 2022
For the caregivers of adolescent boys, Seychelles NATION shares with you the advice of Enda Gilbert about communicating more effectively with adolescent boys.
Enda is the founder of Enda Gilbert Coaching and Consultancy which supports caregivers of adolescents to authentically connect and build strong, nurturing bonds with their children. She also supports caregivers to prevent or overcome burnout by applying research-proven strategies and resources during her coaching sessions and workshops.
Enda is a Certified Parental Burnout Practitioner, Life Coach for Parents and Educator with a Bachelor's and Master's Degree, and over 20 years of experience working with adolescents and their caregivers as Pastoral Care and Well-Being coordinator, Programme Manager and Deputy Principal.
Seychelles NATION: When we contacted you and asked you to choose a pertinent topic, you chose to share advice about communicating with adolescent boys. Why did you choose this topic?
Enda Gilbert: Common questions that seem to come up most of the time during my mediations sessions with parents and adolescents are "what happened to my loving, chatty and respectful son?" Some even ask, "where did I go wrong? or "how can I fix this?".
Hear this, mamas and papas; your boy doesn't need fixing. There is nothing wrong with him, though; it seems like you're living with a stranger. So I get you when you tell me that suddenly, all the mirrors in your house have become his best friend. In many ways, this constant "mirror check" expresses what he is going through inside. His body is changing, and he feels different, so maybe if he keeps tab on his outer appearance, this might help him understand what is happening inside him.
It is crucial for you, as the parents, to understand that it is well beyond his control to 'snap out' of forgetfulness, increased testosterone level, misinterpreting social situations and emotions, fear of rejection, feeling misunderstood, and many more developmental changes he has to put up with.
So, telling him to 'grow up' will only exacerbate his behaviour and alienate him. It is a challenging and frustrating season for you as the parents. I get you, and I hear you, but this is the time when he needs you more than ever.
Your communication with him should be caring and empowering at all times, no matter how frustrated, confused and enraged you are with him. The less threatening and the safer the place is where the conversations or mediations are taking place, the more likely your boy will feel open enough to at least hear the words being spoken.
Seychelles NATION: Can you share with us your top five tips for caregivers to communicate more effectively with adolescent boys?
Enda Gilbert: While I never portray myself as a parenting expert or a guru, however, throughout my 25 years of working with adolescent boys, I've found the tips I am going to share with you are practical and effective when communicating with them.
Eye contact can be threatening
As parents, we prefer direct eye contact when interacting with our children; however, many boys can find eye contact threatening. Insisting that your boy maintain eye contact with you more than likely puts him in a threat position, automatically making him block everything you're saying, instead focusing on his safety in case he needs to run or protect himself. So don't insist on direct eye contact.
Your positioning is crucial
Instead of standing in front of him with your hands on your hips or very close to him, consider having a conversation sitting beside him on a couch, bed, leaning together on a balcony or in the car while driving. This will lower the threat level in the conversation and make him more relaxed.
Be mindful of your tone
Now, this is a big one! The tone of your voice is enormously important if you want to communicate meaningfully. For so many adolescents, raised voices, sarcasm, and shaming mean they have done something wrong or upsetting and are about to be punished. Be mindful that 90% of the time, your teen boy will misread your tone. Avoid using his name with a harsh tone; instead, try less threatening ways to address him like "boy" or "buddy".
Get moving while talking
Combining conversations with movement works really well with boys. For example, try chatting while you're walking the dog, strolling on the beach, shooting a basketball together or throwing a ball at each other. The movement helps him feel calm and more open, especially if he feels confident no one else will hear the conversation.
Timing is everything
Never try to talk when you're angry or in the heat of the moment, straight after school, when he's just woken up or hungry. Avoid addressing issues in front of his friends or other people and when he is on the screen. Ask him when is a good time to have a chat. Yes, check-in with him before so that he won't feel ambushed. Just before it's chat time, gently remind him. Building a rapport is incredibly important when conversing with adolescents.
Communication starts with being heard and understood, and every adolescent struggles with this. However, the more you practise the above tips, the easier it becomes to cope with these really challenging situations. If you need more support and encouragement on this fulfiling journey of parenting a teenager, join my online community. Together we will learn and grow. You don't have to do this alone.
For more information:
- Email: email@example.com
- Follow Instagram account: @endagilbert_ and Facebook page: Enda Gilbert Coaching and Consultancy
Compiled by F.P.
Photo sources: Enda Gilbert