It’s natural as a parent of two boys, 12 and 11 years old, to wonder what it would be like with girls.
I have a good buddy with two daughters and therefore get to see a few times of year the differences between the boys and girls for extended periods of time. When the kids are young, the differences are insignificant. Sure, there are natural personality differences present at times, but generally they were more alike than not in their approaches to life while young.
Nowadays, with my oldest son about to turn 13 soon, the differences seem to be vast between boys and girls. Though I am sure there are exceptions, it’s clear to me boys at his age are much quieter. The tween in my house acts like an undercover CIA agent when his mom or I ask him questions about anything. He seems either completely disinterested, feigns hearing issues, claims exhaustion or makes privacy invasion accusations.
For example, there was an unfortunate situation at our house in the backyard involving some kids a couple weeks back. We heard several different accounts of the situation from our kid, other boys around and even a few parents. Each version of the story was different. We were unaware of the true facts until we spoke with a girl who was at our house. She clearly laid out what transpired in incredible detail. She cited first and last names of the kids and what school they attend and their grade levels. We learned more from her in five minutes than we had from talking to our son and his friends six different times.
Communication issues arise constantly with our son. It’s tough to handle because he was once a verbose child who was clear with his emotions and expressed every thought in his head. I do find comfort in talking with other parents who say their kids of similar ages are the same way. One parent recently told me I was lucky my kid shares some of his thoughts because all her tween son shares with her is “nothing” and “I don’t know.”
Along these lines, an article on raisingteenstoday.com, headlined ‘Boys: The Communication Barrier,” took a deep dive on this topic.
Case in point. When my daughter used to come home from middle school it went something like this:
Me: “Hey hon, how was your day?”
My daughter: “Hey, mom! What’s up? You won’t believe what happened today! Brandon threw up in the lunchroom which totally grossed everyone out! Melissa broke up with Dillon – you know, the boy I was telling you about who was caught drinking in his parent’s basement last weekend? Oh, and my math teacher, Mrs. Sanders – well, she got engaged! Can you believe it? Everybody’s talking about it! Anyway… are you making meatloaf for dinner? I love meatloaf… but don’t put carrots in it – I really hate carrots. Oh, and I’m so mad! My ELA teacher gave us a huge assignment and only gave us two days to finish it! Like really? Like two days? Is that crazy or what?”
Me: “Wow, you had an action-packed day!”
When my son walked in the door, however, the conversation was completely different. It typically went something like this:
Me: “Hey, sweetie! How are ya? How was school today?”
My son: “Umm…It was ok.” Me: “How did you like your lunch? I put those good chips in there that you like.” My son: “They were good, thanks.” Me: “Do you have a lot of homework?” My son: “Yeah. Some.” Me: “Whatever happened to that friend of yours who got caught cheating last week?” My son: “I dunno.” Me: Did you find out what grade you got on the history project? You really did a great job on that.” My son: “Not yet.” Me: “Ok…. well then…I’m so glad you had a good day!” My son: “Yeah… I’m gonna go to my bedroom for a bit.” Me: “OK babe… meatloaf for dinner!” My son: “OK.”
… It’s literally like pulling teeth to get boys to communicate. And, for parents of teen boys, it can be hugely frustrating. It’s all too easy to take their behavior and lack of interaction personally.
… Typically speaking, boys simply don’t process information as quickly as girls. In fact, one study showed that it takes boys on average, seven hours longer to process “hard emotive data.” The book goes on to say that boys often feel totally overwhelmed when their mom asks a ton of questions. And, if they have sisters who are chatty and contribute to the “noise” in the room, it only makes matters worse for them.
Boys need time to step away to their “cave” to get away from the stimulation which, if you think about it, explains why at 10 o’clock at night, (approximately seven hours later), when you’re totally exhausted and ready for bed, your boy comes to you ready to talk about his day. (Of course, when he does, we’re so excited and eager to hear what he has to say that we listen, hanging onto his every word trying not to fall asleep!)
Communicating with teen boys can be a challenge. But, once you understand why they react and communicate the way they do and better understand how they communicate, you’ll be far better equipped to break through the communication barrier. Above all, understand that your boy is learning how to communicate. Give him the freedom to express himself in his own way at his own pace. With a little patience, understanding, and guidance your son will eventually learn the art of communication.