It is natural for boys to test boundaries and they do so across all developmental stages. When they are young, they don’t always understand the potential for negative outcomes or consequences, especially when they get swept up in the moment, driven by adrenaline and encouraged by their friends.
Discussing risks and consequences with your son is something you will need to do on a regular basis – from the early years when he may test his physical capabilities – to the teenage years when he will explore his independence. Unmanaged risk-taking can lead to dangerous behaviours including binge drinking, smoking, drug taking, aggressive driving and aggressive behaviour.
Research shows that the parts of the brain that handle planning and impulse control don’t completely mature until boys reach the age of 25. This means that young boys and teenagers are prone to making impulsive decisions without thinking through the consequences.
It is normal for boys to look for new and exciting experiences. We just want them to know the implications of their behaviour and how it can have potentially negative consequences.
At the same time, we do not want to be ‘helicopter parents.’ Boys need to stretch their wings, test boundaries and learn from their mistakes. It is a fine line that can be stressful for parents to navigate. Rest assured, you are not alone.
Below we offer some ideas for discussing risks and consequences with your son.
Keep the lines of communication open at all times. From early childhood to adulthood, encourage your son to be honest and open about his life. This may mean you hear things you do not like, but at least your son will be opening up to you, giving you the opportunity to provide guidance and different points of view. By carefully listening and guiding your son, your relationship will benefit. Your son will trust you and be more likely to be open about his activities and mistakes.
2. Encourage participation in co-curricular activities
One of the best ways to manage risk taking behaviour is to keep him busy. Encourage your son to find activities he enjoys and provide opportunities for him to practise. Swimming, rowing, coding or music; whatever it is, encourage your son to attend training sessions or rehearsals on a regular basis.
3. Talk about his reasons for taking risks
Peer pressure, self-esteem, boredom, thrill-seeking, rebelling against authority or a healthy optimism that ‘it won’t happen to me’ are just some of the reasons boys take risks. Try to ascertain why your son is taking certain risks and discuss it with him. If, for example, he is feeling pressure from his peers, discuss the importance of being assertive and confident in who he is.
While we don’t want boys to feel as though they can’t chase after their dreams, it is important that you support your son to take risks in ways that allow him to safely have a go at new and challenging experiences, particularly during his early adolescence.
4. Provide or source reliable information
Make your son aware of the kinds of risks he may encounter along with the consequences. This will involve providing reliable information about injuries, drugs and alcohol, online safety and relationships. By making him aware of the consequences you will encourage him to think twice before engaging in unnecessarily risky behaviour.
5. Set boundaries
Have clear rules and boundaries that your son knows and understands. Make your son aware of not only the consequences of breaking the rules, but also the reasons why the behaviour is unacceptable.
6. Be a good role model
Children learn from their parents. Your son will learn how to behave by observing you and other adults around him - be honest when you have slipped up and your son is likely to do the same.
7. Get support when needed
Finally, if you feel that things are spiralling out of control, ask for support. Talk to friends, family, the school or mental health professionals.
Help your son to consider his actions and the potential consequences. Give him space to take appropriate risks and make the occasional mistake as failure can be a good teacher. By allowing your son the freedom to learn and try new things, you are setting him up with coping mechanisms to deal the challenges he will inevitably encounter in life.
Trinity Grammar School is fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with high levels of individual student attention. We aim to know, understand and nurture every student to help them realise their potential, passion and purpose.
To learn about the Trinity difference and how we help Year 7 boys to cope with new responsibilities and freedom, download our Year 7 Pastoral Care and Life Skills information.