Ep 45: Troublesome Teenage Boys

Bill Beausay, the author of Teenage Boys!, talks about how to build a strong connection with a tough teen and how to challenge teens to step up and handle their own problems. He also reveals how to teach manners to teens.

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Full show notes

When it comes to parenting today’s teens, our goal is to raise our kids to be able to survive without us. We want to imbue our teens with the ability to adapt to whatever life throws at them. If we can give them the skills to make it as independent individuals, we can relax knowing that they’re well-adjusted, functional members of society.

The trick is finding the right techniques for parenting today’s teens to set them up for a life of adult decision making. We want to guide them and offer a helping hand, but we don’t want to shelter them too much. We want to inform them of the harsh realities of the world, but not expose them too much or too soon. How can we find the right approach to parenting today’s teens that allows us to be nurturing without coddling?

Our guest today is Bill Beausay, author of over 20 books on topics spanning from parenting troubled teenage boys to self-empowerment in the workplace. He’s here to talk about the process of parenting today’s teens, drawing on his parenting knowledge and his experiences as a clinical psychotherapist and counselor. Bill’s tactics provide unique and innovative ideas about parenting today’s teens can guide you as a parent to help teens navigate their transition to adulthood.

The Importance of Vulnerability

Bill takes the stance that teenagers are really adults, just without adult-levels of experience. They have the same needs, wants, and goals, but they’re not always wise or informed when it comes to decision making. They procrastinate, act without thinking, and are overall just messy! That doesn’t mean they’re not trying or not intelligent, they just haven’t learned yet.

When parenting today’s teens, try stepping into their shoes--after all, you were a teenager once too! Let them know that adult life may seem overwhelming, but it’s only a matter of learning and adapting. Share teenage memories of when you messed up or felt that there was something you’d never figure out. This helps your teen relate to you, understand your lesson, and feel at ease with their own decision making trials.

In fact, Bill says being vulnerable with your kids is one of the most beneficial things you can do when parenting today’s teens. Bill emphasizes that a lot of kids today aren’t used to having kind, truthful adults in their lives. He discusses that those parenting today’s teens have certain expectations to be emotionally removed from their children and to set boundaries. This ends up being problematic for both parties, however, because it keeps them from communicating effectively and finding common ground.

Reaching your Teen

Approaching your kids and talking to them with vulnerability can be hard, especially because teens often reject advice from adults. Bill suggests bringing up important topics in casual settings and situations. Instead of sitting them down and creating a lot of nervousness around the discussion, find an activity that the two of you can do together and bring up tricky topics while the two of you bond. If you can, spend some time with your teenager doing something you both enjoy, you’ll be able to find ways to talk about serious concepts without either of you becoming too overwhelmed or intimidated.

Similarly, Bill talks about how, when parenting today’s teens, we often resort to default modes of communication. Some default modes might look like saying no, using the same wording over and over, or repeating modes of communication or discipline to the point where kids just aren’t fazed anymore.

When parenting today’s teens, Bill encourages you to challenge those defaults and find new ways to communicate with your teen in order to really get your ideas through. Maybe you can try writing them a letter when the two of you argue, as a way to express your true feelings. Perhaps you can try texting them regularly as a new way to reach them. Try something new and change the way you communicate in order to remind them that you’re still there for them or to surprise them into really listening to what you have to say.

“You’ll Be Sorry” Technique

Bill emphasizes the importance of ensuring your children know that there are consequences for their actions. He shares a certain technique for parenting today’s teens in which you remind kids that certain decisions will result in feeling sorry about the consequences.

Here’s how it works. Say, for example, your son is refusing to clean the garage, even though he knows it’s his responsibility. Instead of tearing your hair out trying to get him to do it, just let him know that if he doesn’t, he’ll probably be sorry later. Then, later that day, when he asks for a favor or permission to do something, just tell him no. Remind of earlier, when you warned him that he’d be sorry.

This might sound mean, but Bill swears by its effectiveness for parenting today’s teens. It helps kids learn that when they don’t take care of their responsibilities, they miss out on the rewards. Life is unrelenting and requires you to take care of things when they need to be taken care of. Bill wants to teach teens that neglecting to do what is necessary can land you in a bad spot.

Unlike other, more punitive approaches of parenting today’s teens, this approach doesn’t require excessive punishment. It does not require raising your voice, and it doesn’t encourage nagging. Instead, it’s a simple and quick way to make your point and make sure your child understands.

Helping Your Teenager Find Their Purpose

Growing up is hard. Part of that difficulty is considering what you are going to spend your life doing. Many teenagers think they know what they want one minute, yet change their mind as soon as they arrive at a conclusion. Others are entirely lost and unsure, seeing no path forward. As Mark Twain famously said, “I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can't find anybody who can tell me what they want.”

Bill says the important thing is just to start this journey somewhere. For example, he asked his daughter, who was having trouble deciding what to do with her future, to just name one thing––anything––that she wanted out of life. She responded by saying that she wanted to meet Brad Pitt.

Although this isn’t necessarily a concrete life plan by any means, it’s an idea, a push in some direction. In order to meet Brad Pitt, said Bill, his daughter might have to move to California. She then had to consider if that’s something she’d like to do. Regardless of her subsequent choices, Bill got his daughter thinking about her future by asking simple but effective questions.

Bill also had an interesting experience with his son when it came time to help him decide what to do with his future. One day, he and his son were out in the front yard together, doing yard work. They saw a plane overhead, and his son was captivated by its presence. Bill asked his son if they wanted to follow it, so they did, chasing it all the way to the airport. When they got there, Bill’s son was interested in the mechanics of how airports run and how planes get into the air. His son ended up becoming a pilot, a job he still has to this day.

By recognizing your teen’s interests and encouraging them to think about what they want out of life, you can help them discover their true purpose. Even if they seem to have no direction, remind them to ask themselves critical questions about what they enjoy and what makes them curious.

But Wait, There’s More!

All these ideas about parenting today’s teens and more are discussed in this episode. Bill’s got a lot of valuable insight when it comes to raising teens, and listening to his advice can teach us how to get our kids going on successful adult lives!

We cover:
  • The five motivators for young men
  • Why some kids are eager to leave home, while others stick around
  • How you can find a “Nugget of Agreement” in every argument
  • How to help you children find mentors
  • Why it’s harmful to tell kids what they need
Enjoy listening!

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Ep 45: Troublesome Teenage Boys
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