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Healing Shame Based Behavior in Teen Boys

At Sundance Canyon Academy, we work with teen boys who are learning to overcome their past behavior. Many of our students have made serious mistakes and are dealing with the consequences of their actions. They want to move on, but they don’t know how to change their reputation and regain respect. We are writing on the topic of healing shame-based behavior to help parents learn how to address negative teenage behavior without creating more shame.

Teens today are growing up in a different world than the one their parents remember. Sure, high school is still tough. Teens still have to manage their expectations at home and their expectations at school. They’ve got to get all of their chores done, maintain their grades, and figure out how to make friends. It’s quite the balancing act!

Managing social relationships is a whole new ballgame. With the advance of technology, teens today are now balancing their social relationships at all times. They get to interact with their peers face-to-face while they’re at school, but then they interact via cell phone for the rest of the day.

They connect online with their friends, and they connect online with their crushes. These days, teenagers spend a lot of time texting with each other.

Since our worlds are so different now, it can be easy to misconstrue what’s going on and belittle our teens’ interests. This is especially true when they step out of line and do something that upsets us.

When our teen’s behavior doesn’t line up with our expectations, we can unintentionally step into shame based parenting. Unfortunately, shame based parenting can lead to shame based behavior in teen boys.

How does shame based parenting affect teen boys?

Many parents, and other adults in authority, use shame as a tool to get kids to follow the rules. When they don’t follow the rules, we make them feel bad about it.

While feeling guilty about doing something wrong can be beneficial, feeling shame is harmful. There’s a subtle but significant difference between guilt and shame.

Guilt = feeling bad about what you did and recognizing that the behavior was “bad.”

Shame = feeling like a bad person and feeling like you are “bad” because you did the behavior.

Guilt can lead to changed behavior, but shame can lead to self-destructive behavior.

When teens experience shame, they start to internalize that shame. They might begin to feel like they are a failure or that they aren’t worthy of love. These feelings can create a spiral of negative behavior that builds on itself into adulthood.

Though it’s essential to correct our kids when they do something wrong, it’s equally important to make sure they know that they aren’t inherently bad. We all make mistakes, and we’ve got to learn from those mistakes and grow as a person.

Healing shame based behavior

In one way or another, our teens have felt shame about their behavior. When we catch them doing something we don’t like, our reactions play a huge role in healing shame-based behavior. Remember, your kids are going to do things that upset you. That’s just part of raising teenagers. As best as you can, be purposeful in your reactions when you catch them doing something that upsets you.

This is especially true when it comes to sexual behavior in teen boys. You likely have standards in mind for what is and is not acceptable for your teen son as he starts dating. However, he might deviate from your standards.

Today, many parents are shocked when they find out that their teen son has been sexting with his crush. Sexting could include any amount of sexual language, graphic pictures, or graphic videos.

Though you might be upset to find out that your teen is sexting, don’t be too alarmed. Many teens try sexting at some point, and they need to learn what is and is not OK. Again, your reaction will play a significant role in whether they learn from the incident or develop shame about it.

If you catch your teen sexting, have a conversation with them about it. Rather than making it seem “disgusting” or “dirty,” focus on what’s going on. Their hormones have kicked in, and they have sexual feelings now that they didn’t have when they were little. Now, they need to learn how to manage their emotions appropriately.

In most states, sending nude pictures of a minor (even when the recipient is also a minor) is illegal. Make sure your son knows that he legally isn’t allowed to send or receive graphic photos of a minor. Also, sending nude pictures can have serious social ramifications that he may not have considered. Just by sexting with his crush, he could get in major trouble at school or with the law.

By focusing on the real-life implications of his actions, you can help your son learn from his behavior. As he becomes an adult, he needs to know how to handle romantic relationships. If he feels shame about his first forays into romance, he may not know how to proceed in a healthy way.

If you are worried that your teenage son has internalized shame and feels worthless, he may benefit from attending a therapeutic boarding school. While in school, he will receive a personalized treatment plan to help him develop self-worth and realize his value in the world. Contact us today for more information.

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