The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Risking Taking Behaviour in Adolescent Boys

Once your son enters Senior School he is well and truly into his journey of being a teenager. To some degree, the young boy who you use to take to primary/junior and middle school is in the stages of growing up and wanting to  be seen as  young man. He is craving his independence and own identity and is wanting to fit in with all his friends. Part of this new identity is that at some stage, your son may want to engage in risk taking behaviours. For some parents, this is confronting as their boy has previously been a stickler for the rules and has always "done the right thing". However, this change in behaviour is completely normal. The part of the brain (Prefrontal Cortex) used to make rational decisions has not truly developed and will not fully develop until he is 25 years of age. This then results in his Amygdala assisting in these  decision making  tasks. In layman's terms, the Amygdala is part of the brain that  is in charge of  emotions and is associated with impulses. Therefore, it begins to make sense as to why adolescents tend to spike in engaging in risky behaviours.

As parents, there are many things that you can do, to better assist your son during this stage of his life. This includes:

  • Speak to your son about your concerns  – if your son is engaging in risky behaviour, talk to him about this behaviour. When you talk to him about this, do it in a caring and non-lecturing manner. Your son will likely tell you that "Everyone else is doing it ", but  speak with him about these implications and other ways to handle situations to avoid peer pressure and engaging in harmful behaviour.
  • Model desired behaviour –  Engage  in the desired behaviour you wish your son to display. For example, this may mean avoiding regular alcohol consumption. By engaging in alcohol consumption, this exposes teenagers to this behaviour and normalises it. For many teenagers, the reasoning of "I am an adult and you are not" does not sit well with them as they tend to view themselves as mature individuals.
  • Let your son make some healthy risks  – Allow and encourage your son to play contact sports or experience new sports/activities which he may not have normally been interested in.
  • Renegotiation of the relationship  – Allow your son some say in decisions that involve him. Ask to hear his point of view and at times negotiate some of these decisions.
  • Have boundaries  – Although there should be a renegotiation of the relationship, boundaries are still essential. Boys do well with structure and  boundaries, but  do tend to have more of a buy-in if their voice is heard.
  • Offer praise  – Offer your son verbal praise for his efforts over his marks. He is in the point in his life where he is deciding who he is as a person and positive praise for his efforts rather than his marks will benefit his self-esteem.
  • Arrange to do things with each of your children in a one-one situation  – Take your sons out individually (for example, for breakfast) and discuss with them what they would like to do and what has been going on in their life.

Mr Jon Marginis

Senior School Psychologist