Boys do not process information the same way that girls do, especially as teenagers. Parents are all too familiar with the scenario: trying to talk to a teenage boy who seems to listen, only to realize they have heard nothing. Teenage boys are more prone to tuning out voices to which they have become habituated. Quite literally, with teenage boys, what goes in one ear can go right out the other. Making communication stick with teenage boys is important for communication overall. One way to do this is to engage multiple senses at once instead of solely relying on listening. Bad habits of communication developed in teenage years can stick for a lifetime. Through family therapy and engagement in the recovery process, you can work with your teenager on communication skills, styles, and tools. Make eye contact: Eye contact in communication is important for teenagers and adults alike. We unknowingly emphasize the importance of eye contact when we notice that our teenage boys refuse to engage in it with us. “Look me in the eyes,” we warn them, before asking them to tell us the truth about something. Maintaining eye contact breaks the attention barrier. When we listen but do not look into the eyes of someone speaking, we are not forced to pay full attention to what is being said. By looking our boys in the eyes and holding their eye contact, we can better guarantee that information is being consumed. Make physical contact: Physical contact helps break the barrier as well. In communication, a slight physical touch indicates intention and direction. People who receive a slight touch are immediately informed that there is care, compassion, and intention directed toward them in the conversation. Teenage boys can be particularly aggressive and reactionary if physical contact comes after difficult words begin. Initiating physical contact first helps break the barrier and engage boys in conversation. Ask for a feedback loop: To make sure information doesn’t go missing, ask boys to repeat what has been said. Avoid doing so in a condescending tone which indicates you don’t think they heard you. Instead, ask them to reflect what you said, then ask them to respond. Create room for response: Teenage boys can only handle so much verbal stimulation at one time. Rather than carry on your side of the conversation in its entirety, then ask teenage boys to respond in kind, it is better to cut the conversation into pieces, asking boys to respond intermittently. That way, boys feel an equal amount of respect and presence in a conversation, without facing scrutiny and criticism at the end of a conversation.
Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center is a private residential treatment program in Mississippi, serving adolescent and teenage boys with foundation building, life-cleansing programming for recovery. If addiction has found its way into the life your loved child, call us today for information on our clinical and academic support: 662-598-4214