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Puberty and emotions -- boy edition

Janie Grace

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My dd has gone through puberty and is well on the other side... deep sigh of relief. But now I am dealing with this transition with a son and I have NO experience, not being male myself or having had brothers. He is 15 but he is a late bloomer. He doesn't have facial hair yet, his voice hasn't changed, and he has yet to have a growth spurt. But he is getting hair elsewhere and some acne... it just feels like we are on the verge of big changes. The thing I was input on is his MOODS. He is driving me crazy. Everything he says seems loud and annoyed/irritated/condescending/contradictory. If he is around, I'm on edge. And the thing that's weird is that I LOVE this kid. He's funny and capable and affectionate. But right now he is just so annoying. 


He has one younger brother whom he seems to despise. :( This brother (age 9) is competitive and emotional, and these two boys just butt heads CONSTANTLY. Older ds can be a bully and younger ds can instigate and then play innocent. It is driving me crazy and it is hard not to feel like it's at least 75% the older son's fault.


He struggles socially at school, too... my dd tells me people think he's annoying; he doesn't respect the upperclassmen as he should (overly familiar) and he doesn't have anyone he gets together with outside of school. He is a smart, athletic, good-looking kid but he is immature compared to all of his age-mates and I feel like he doesn't do himself any favors. Dh is hard on him (I think), maaybe because he is the oldest son and maybe because ds is very smart but can be lazy, and this bugs dh. They also have opposite personalities (dh is easy-going and ds is very structured, type A) so that adds to it.


I guess I am wondering, is all of this normal? Should I be worried about any of these elements? Does this sound like a typical about-to-enter-manhood stuff and if so, how do we survive without killing him? I kid... but really. It's hard.

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Funny/capable/affectionate AND annoying/loud/moody sounds about right.


If it's any consolation, I have a late-bloomer, 15, and an early-ish bloomer, 13, who are in entering/leaving this same stage at the very. same. time. Gaaaaaah!


Youngest ds (11) and eldest can clash...it seems to be a growing up/drive for hierarchy thing for eldest, so I try to find healthy opportunities for him to be a leader/teacher/helper for the younger.


I give a lot of grace and set clear boundaries with both teens: "Hey, cool it. But be patient with yourself, 'cause you're not grown yet." I give very clear and concrete examples of what appropriate behavior looks like. "When you're feeling (whatever), here is what appropriate expression of your feeling or need or opinion looks like."


Hugs. They are careening between feeling all grown up and little and riding the hormone roller coaster while they're at it. They'll even out eventually. Hang in there!

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My middle boys are 14, 15, 16 and 18. I feel like I aged 50 years in the past ten. My 11 year old assures me that I also appear to have aged as much. :thumbup: It's totally the moods. I'm in a cluster of sisters (five of us in eight years) and my sons make our teen years look like we were all Maria Von Trapp dancing in the Alps, arms wide open singing God's praises in perfect tune.


They are moving away from parental/family influence and more towards autonomy, without any real defined road map. It's like flying blind. When I frame it as normal and necessary, it's slightly less difficult to be around. It helps, too, that my parents are generous with the commentary about what a truly hideous teenager I was. So far none of my kids has been a fraction as wretched as I was, but I'm thinking my 11 year old is slotted for that role. Fun times ahead so I try to appreciate what I'm dealing with now.


Being pregnant for so many years helped me handle the older kids' mood swings because I was there in the trenches with them trying to figure out how to rein in my own emotions and to act semi-human. Right now I'm experiencing a really fun stage of hormonal flux and am again fighting alongside my equally hormonally-wrecked kids. We have vowed to take nothing personally between now and 2023. "The hormones made me do it!" is a regular rally cry around here, spoken in jest with hints of truth.


My younger three boys are all 11 months apart and were always inseparable. The past year the 16 year old started picking on the other two, or purposely excluding one to upset the other. He was being a huge jerk to them. I tried to interfere but my older ones said not to unless he was really hurting them. So I backed off and they've mostly worked it out. A lot of that has been in physical ways, rather than cheerful conversation as I'd prefer they have! I address annoying siblings, but at the end of the day I hold the eldest most accountable. One day you'll be a parent or uncle, or employee, and you'll have to hold your $h!t together. It's not easy so you better practice it now. I've been told this will breed resentment between them, but that's a gamble I take. That's how life works, and life is what I'm training them for.


Was he homeschooled before? Three of this group have always attended school, one has always been homeschooled. He tried school and was received the same way as your son - goofy and overly familiar. And he was going to school with kids he knew through sports, scouts, his brothers .... he wasn't new to their social scene, just new to being around them in a school environment. But he lacked awareness of school culture and norms, and didn't really listen to his brothers when they tried coaching him. He came back home at the semester for that and other reasons.


How to survive ... well here's what helps me. I have a picture on my phone of myself as a teenager. It's a visual reminder of what an idiot and self-absorbed person I was at that age - no better or different than my own kids and if anything, way worse. I also have toddler pictures of each kid on my phone. When they piss me off I take a good 5 minutes to just stare at the picture and to remember them as little kids. They're still little kids. I have voice recording for a few of them that I listen to also, which instantly softens my mood and puts me in a better frame of mind to handle their being giant PITAs. Good thing for them I make damn cute babies.

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My oldest is/was a late bloomer.  He's turning 17 in a few months.  His voice finished changing right before his 16th birthday, and he started his "big" growth spurt at 15. I honestly have no idea if he's done growing.  He wasn't my truly moody child, though.  It was mostly forgetful.  He forgot everything -- from parts of speech to what day it was.  School work took forever.  Things started to get much better the middle of last year.  


My soon-to-be 13yo, however is a totally different story.  He is moody.  Highs/lows, thinks if it's funny to him, it must be funny period (no).  He started growing this past year and will soon be taller than me.  His foot is as big as his older brother's.  I just swapped out all of the last of the hand-me-downs.  His next growth "spurt" will most likely mean a whole new wardrobe bought here in Italy (he actually likes Italian fashion).

*He is more likely to develop the "poor me" syndrome (especially when constructive discipline is involved).

*He is not rational when he's upset -- it takes a lot of energy to engage this child and bring him back to earth.

*He usually has to learn lessons the hard way, and have those lessons repeated.


Unlike his older brother, he has zero issues with continuing to learn/retain material.  His hormones have just been messing with his emotional side.  I find the hormones have amplified the dramatic persona that was already there.  I figure I have at least another year or so, at which point I will be completely grey.  About the time he reaches the "other side" Blondie will begin (she is almost as dramatic as he is...so I'm not looking forward to that).


Yesterday was a very hard day.  We started off with swim practice -- and I gave him three opportunities to turn it around, but he just dug into his "I don't want to, this isn't fair, I don't care" attitude, which left him spending an hour sitting on the hot deck by himself, eliminated privileges for the day (gaming), and earned him extra physical chores (work).  I made a list for him when he got home -- #1 on his list was picking up the rotting fruit from underneath the apricot tree (he wore gloves).  He thought that was the absolute worst job (exact words were, "work from hell").  He had a complete meltdown of how no one loved him, and he can never do anything right, and how adults never have any consequences.  I had to walk him through (again), what led up to the consequences (no privileges, extra chores), explain (with specific examples he actually could recall) about horrible, disgusting work his father had to do (those with a septic and a sump pump might have an idea of things one has to do if the sump doesn't work!) An disgusting work I've had to do (we owned a store -- someone had an uncontrollable accident in the bathroom...it was everywhere).  I gave him examples of the consequences dh and I have had to suffer with due to bad decisions -- decisions which impacted where/how we lived (things he remembered).  That as we grew up the consequences had much longer-lasting ramifications.  I also had to explain why certain things were important (exercise was part of his education -- swimming built self discipline, exercise produces endorphines which help one's state of mind, regular exercise would help him focus on school, as it was an outlet for extra energy, it developed good overall health, and when he does well at swim meets, he feels good about himself, because his hard work has helped him achieve tangible success).  Then, we talk about love... what love is and isn't.  Can you guess how many times we have this hour-long conversation?  


It's getting better (6 months or so ago, this kind of thing happened much more frequently -- to the point, I thought surely there must be something really wrong with this child).  Once he got through that last big growth spurt (grew about 6 inches), it went from about once or even twice a week to more like once a month.  


He's a totally different kid than LEGOManiac, needs different strategies, needs a different mode of communication, needs lots of real-life examples, needs more affirmation, he just needs MORE.  After he was done yesterday, we talked about what he learned from the experience, I asked him to write them in his journal.  I have a feeling once he finally reaches the "other side" he will be a very funny guy, still very passionate, but hopefully with the grit and determination to do the "difficult" stuff without giving up.  

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. Everything he says seems loud and annoyed/irritated/condescending/contradictory. If he is around, I'm on edge. And the thing that's weird is that I LOVE this kid. He's funny and capable and affectionate. But right now he is just so annoying. 


Just a tip on this.  I felt the same way, but realized at some point that his voice changing was making him sound more snarky/angry than he was.  I had to take a step back and start really listening to the words, because the other verbal cues were inaccurate.  That alone made a huge difference.


I'll read the other responses and see I have another new thoughts.

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My ds is 18 and was also a late bloomer. His puberty was rough on me. Mood swings like there was no tomorrow. Inability to read social cues: as in being unable to tell when the joke was over and to move on. Annoyed everyone around him. An awful time. In all fairness, he still struggles with when the joke is over and now he is just annoying.

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Your ds sounds exactly like my 15yo ds.  My oldest is on the other side now, but I don't remember this type of moodiness from him.  What might have been different is that my oldest was into a hobby that kept around stable older men (RC Flying) and his personality is very emotionally flat.  My 15yo is nothing like that, and I have to keep reminding him that we have the power to choose our attitude towards others and our circumstances.  


Reading everyone else's experiences is very helpful for me.

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For the friends thing, have him read How to Win Friends and Influence People.  It might not cover his exact problem, but it will get him thinking about other people's perceptions of him, which is at least half the battle.  Being athletic and having the right brand of jeans, sneakers, and workout gear are the other parts in the popularity equation.  If brands seem out of reach, try used stuff on eBay or the goodwill in the priciest neighborhood in town.


Also, can you get him in team sports?  Being on a team and having several hours of hard exercise per day go a long way toward making him too exhausted to bicker much.


Also, if the boys are fighting and you can tell the younger one is instigating, give a consequence to them both.  Younger is old enough to get not being a pest.  Older is old enough to get not falling for it. If they object, say "Too bad, you're both being unpleasant to be around, so you both will reap the consequences of that, or at least keep the bickering out of my presence."


As for the rest, I've found raising one eyebrow and saying, "Excu-u-u-se me?" with a I hope you didn't mean that disrespectful thing the way I think you meant it, because you're about to spend the rest of the day helping me do all my chores until you have more respect for me tone goes a long way towards softening attitude.  But yeah, cracking voices can sound nails-on-a-chalkboard when the poor boy doesn't mean anything by it.


If you're not sure, telling him you can't tell if he's giving you attitude or if it's just the voice changing thing, so what did he mean by that helps too.  I think a lot of times with kids in puberty they're just not aware of all the feelings they are projecting.


ETA:  it sounds like both boys are a little self-absorbed and unaware of how they are coming across to others.  Maybe they should both read that book.

Edited by Katy
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In my boys the loud/physical/aggressive/confrontational shot up. Even in my sweet type-B boy. All natural. They never really displayed it to me but to the brothers and dad. Lots of male jostling for position. Like watching wildlife really. I also think males tend to express almost any emotion as anger-sadness, embarrassment, frustration. I advise lots (lots) of physical exercise, sleep and patience.

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