Are Parents Becoming Afraid of Their Teenage Sons?
Michael Carr-Gregg and Elly Robinson have penned a new book “The Prince Boofhead Syndrome” where they argue that the trouble with boys is that they have been brought up to see the world as one giant, personalised, all-singing, all-dancing, 24/7 catering service – exclusively for them.
And he cites the perfect example when he describes an incident he witnessed first-hand a few years ago:
“A FEW years ago I was standing outside my son’s school, when a four-wheel-drive pulled up and woman got out, clutching a folder.
She stood a few metres away from me, pulled out a mobile and tapped out a text message. A few moments later a short, skinny boy in school uniform ran up to her. “Hello Simon, here it is, darling,” the woman said, proffering the folder to the boy.
The schoolboy, not more than 13 years of age, took one look at the folder and said loudly, “That’s the wrong one, you stupid cow! I needed my maths folder! Now I’m up s**t creek and it’s all your fault.”
The woman looked close to tears as she stuttered, “But Simon, I thought you said bring me the English folder. I did tell you to check your bag before you got in the car. I had to cancel an appointment to get this to you.”
Simon regarded his mother with an expression of utter contempt and said, “You are just hopeless”. No word of thanks, he simply turned on his heels and walked away.
Up until this point, she had not even noticed that I was standing there, but now she realised that this rather unpleasant exchange had transpired in front of an audience of one — me. I still don’t know if she knew I was a child and adolescent psychologist, but she looked mortified and said to me apologetically, “It’s fine, really, he’s been under a lot of stress lately.” She then returned to her SUV and drove off.”
Now I don’t know how many of you out there have teenage boys but this is in no way an isolated incident. I have quite a few friends with teenage boys and the utter disrespect and contempt with which they treat their parents can be mind-blowing.
I have borne witness more than once to these teenagers making demands for anything from a lift (while mum and dad are at our place visiting and not in a position to do so) to being brought food and a whole host of other things. And when I say demands I’m not exaggerating. Angry phone calls and texts insisting they be prioritised and when they don’t get their way immediately, the results are yelling, cursing and hanging up the phone.
How did this happen? How did our offspring decide it was OK to take charge and how did parents decide that this was OK???
Any regular viewer of Dr. Phil will have seen countless episodes featuring parents at their wit’s end trying to deal with their unruly children who are making their lives a living hell and when I say children, a lot of these ‘kids’ are now in their 20’s, still living at home, unemployed while they have their parents running after them; cleaning their rooms, cooking their meals, doing their laundry and paying their bills.
A clear lack of boundaries laid out in the first instance and then failure to follow through when they break these boundaries with 100% predictable consequences.
Kids, especially boys, have brains programmed to push boundaries. It’s part of finding their identity and becoming a man. We have to expect them to not just push the boundaries but to break them. And it’s tough to enforce consequences.
Any parent of a teenage boy (and girls too) knows it’s going to get ugly. Whether those consequences are confiscating a phone, a PlayStation or grounding them, the resentment factor goes up ten-fold. And when you have an already sullen 15 year old that spends the majority of his time grunting, sulking and slamming bedroom doors when things are “good” well – you can imagine what happens when you take away some of those privileges.
There’s real anger. And sometimes it can be scary. Girls may become vitriolic with their words but boys can get physical; punching walls, throwing things and worse. And yes, it is probably easier to just back down and let it go rather than deal with what’s happening in front of you in the moment.
But are you doing them a favor long-term?
Absolutely not. As Dr. Phil loves to say – we teach people how to treat us.
There is absolutely no way that Simon should have been allowed to speak to his mother that way. No excuse ever. Further, Simon’s mother should have let him deal with the consequences of having forgotten his text book rather than automatically coming to his rescue.
“Continually giving in to your teenager only contributes to them becoming a self-absorbed, lazy, entitled, spoiled brat, aka Prince Boofhead”, says Michael. “We have become too terrified to say no, to set limits and enforce consequences in case we damage our children’s self-esteem”.
“We are oblivious to the fact that by not allowing our children to learn from their own stuff-ups and develop resilience and self-respect, we are creating rudderless, disconnected, bitter and resentful boys who feel they can treat their parents (and other authority figures) in precisely the way Simon treated his mother.”