Editor's Note: Accuracy is not guaranteed; you can help us get better by highlighting mistakes and suggesting edits! Please fill out this survey if you wish to learn more about us and our mission or send me an email. Further note: this transcript and its audio are misaligned due to some external factor.
Welcome to go ask Ali, a production of Sean Dolan audio in partnership with I Heart Radio. Hi, I'm Ali Wentworth, and you're listening to go ask Ali where this season I'm asking the question, how do you grow a teenager in a pandemic?
I am very eager to jump into today's topic, decoding teenage boys into pandemic boys are something I know nothing about. I have two teenage girls and my husband, George Stephanopoulos, which I guess you could call a teenage boy. But as a parent myself, I know that we're all curious about how all of our children are adjusting to the new normal. We've talked a lot in previous episodes about teenage girls, so I'm excited today to talk about the boys.
I don't know what they're thinking, what they're doing. And I know there's a lot of stuff that has to do with the penis before we dive in.
We have a very, very, very special guest coming in at the beginning of my podcast, my gorgeous 18 year old girl, Elliott Stephanopoulos. Yes, she was in the studio for another episode and she has a few things to say about teenage boys to get off her chest. I feel really secure in who I am as a person, like I know I'm a good person, I know I'm a loyal friend, I know I'm a good daughter. I feel safe in that, whereas in my exterior, I don't feel as comfortable and secure.
And what is it going to take for you to feel comfortable and secure in your. Oh, no, I'm I do not know.
But I'm not part of being a teenage girl is your body's changing and girls get security insecure about certain things like only girls.
Boys are super insecure. I always never knew that teenage boys were insecure until I was a teenage girl who knew teenage boys and teenage boys are just as insecure as teenage girls about their bodies.
I'm sure about their height. Right heights. A big thing for boys with acne, that kind of stuff, right? No.
Yeah. Height, acne, hair, abs, arms, legs, physical, like all those things. But like, just for me, like I'm insecure about my facial features, a guy is just as insecure about his facial features of this teenage boy. I feel people don't understand that. It's also hard to be a teenage boy does the same amount of insecurity as we do and the same stress as we do. It's just different. Elliot, thank you for stopping by, I always appreciate your incredible insight, and if you're listening to this podcast, write your college essay now to get to an expert opinion.
I'm speaking today with Karen Patterson. She is a pediatrician, consultant and New York Times best selling author of numerous puberty and parenting books, including my absolute favorite Decoding Boy's Car. Thank you for being on the show today.
So what I want to do with you is break down teenage boys in general and then figure out how we deal with some of these aspects of these guys in a pandemic. OK, so let's start with one thing I can say about my girls is that they're very they're very social. They need to be close. The whole idea of girlfriends is a very big deal to them. But teenage boys, not so much. I mean, they don't get as close and verbal as girls, right?
As a society, I think we sometimes gender things that don't deserve gender. I think so. Boys definitely get close with one another, no question about it. It's the verbal peace that's the part that the average girl is chattier when she goes into puberty than the average boy. Doesn't mean it doesn't go the other way for some kids. But the need for connection and the social peace of all of this and the transformation of body and and world during puberty, those are really very similar boys.
Well, you know, I my daughters had a book in school. And it was sort of a cartooned sex education book called Practically Normal, I think it was called, and it was all pictures of like genitalia and all the differences. And and I you know, I'd have to read to my daughters from this book because it was mandated by the school and it was always pictured that the girls were much more self aware but self-conscious, like they're always looking in the mirror, brushing their hair or hiding their breasts.
And the boys were always depicted as just kind of like out there literally with their dicks hanging out. So do you find that to be true?
I find it to be true in every book in real life. No, because you have a teenage girl and a teenage boy.
I do. I have a just 17 year old girl. Me, too. And a 15 year old boy. I have a 15 year old girl. So there you go. And it is so so these stereotypes of all for a reason, but they're old and they're dated. Let's just sort of turn back time by about 20 to 30 years and think about how when we were growing up, no one talked openly to us about puberty bodies. No one talked about periods, you know, in large group settings.
It wasn't a whole wear your heart on your sleeve situation for girls that has really evolved in the last couple of decades. Right. Why? I think it has a lot to do with women finding voice. I think this book series that I'm involved with, they preceded me. The care and keeping of you came out in 1998. It became a voice for middle school girls to own what was happening in a very friendly and warm way. Social media me to there all of these things that layer up to make girls feel like they should take the voice that they're coming into in puberty and use it.
Not for boys. Right. We are still in twenty twenty where we were in nineteen eighty four boys where boys go into puberty, they get a little quieter, parents go, oh he's in puberty, let's let him shut the door and lock the world out. That's just what they do. Or you know, I don't want to know what goes on behind that door. That's the other part. But either way they let their boys shut down and and shut up, literally.
And so I think me, too, really taught us as parents that girls and boys need language, that the thing that is going to protect you most in your transition from adolescence to adulthood is being able to articulate your experience and what didn't didn't happen and why, and talking to someone about what is and isn't. OK, we know we have to give our girls that language. How are we not giving our boys that language? So that's a turning point.
It's so interesting because with my two girls, particularly at this moment, I feel like there's a whole new vernacular for them. And I find that the conversations I have with them, whether they're about masturbation or their periods or whatever, is much more advanced and much more open than it was when I was a teenager. Even how they how they change the language of like my daughter will say, you don't say you you lose your virginity, mom. It's not something to lose or it's not something to give.
I'm not giving. I wouldn't give somebody my virginity, you know, very, you know, has a feminist bent to it. And they're very conscious of that. Yeah, I do know that now boys, teenage boys are having to learn all kinds of new agendas and words like consent. And I have friends with teenage boys who are terrified because, you know, they're afraid to make a wrong move or say the wrong thing. And this is a whole new landscape for teenage boys, right?
And I write a lot about consent because I think it's the best example of why we need to talk to our sons. We talk to our daughters when my daughter shuts the door on me. When your daughter shut the door on you. Yeah, you go in there and you have that conversation, right. My job, I think when I talk about boys and parenting boys is to connect the dots for parents from what is happening in your home now to that exact scenario of consent when they are not in your house and going, OK, how can I make sure that my sons are protected in that scenario?
Oh, oh, I teach them how to talk. I teach them how to have conversation, how to ask questions and how to articulate what they want to buy.
Because you think that we lived in this old model of, you know, it's almost like you have to protect the girls. So we talk to them. It's all about protecting, protecting and with the boys, it was always, well, boys will be boys like there was, you know, just bananas.
Yes, bananas. Yeah. So let's take let's take the hormones. And let's take the video games, let's take all the stuff that kind of if I made a painting of a teenage boy, these are all the things I would show and let's put it in a pandemic. So since we're starting to talk a little bit, really bad picture. Yeah, it's Friday the 13th. Let's talk about kind of the hormones and the sexual stuff first, because I would imagine right now for teenage boys, they're starting to socialize and have parties again, but their hormones must be raging.
I mean, they must be losing their minds.
OK, so how about if we do a minute on hormones and a minute on brain development and talk about the intersection of those two things? Because that is exactly what you're getting at, right? Almost everything. So here we go. Sixty seconds of everything, girl. Puberty is driven by a bunch of hormones, but estrogen is the the lead, right? All these hormones, they circulate both above and below the neck. So they are responsible for all the body changes.
But they also impact mood and and the way you interact with people in the way your brain works. So estrogen for girls, by the way, girl, puberty on average starts between ages eight and nine. Now, this is very different than why why so early?
Because of the changes in the new puberty, which is a book that is now actually like three or four years old. Fantastic book that basically says we're trying to figure it out. And and they are the scientists all over trying to figure it out. But it's two full years earlier than when we were going through puberty. But puberty takes twice as long now to puberty for girls. Estrogen driven and estrogen has a whole set of impacts on the brain. Puberty for boys, testosterone driven and puberty for boys on average starts between ages nine and 10.
Everyone thinks boys are not in puberty until they're 12, 13, 14. Some aren't, but the vast majority are. That's just the first couple of years of puberty for boys. All that's happening is their testicles are growing because that's the testosterone machine. Their testicles are where you make testosterone.
So it's so it's not the first time you see pubic hair on a hair has nothing to do actually with the ability to reproduce. It is on a totally different hormonal pass. So a lot of parents will see pubic hair or underarm hair and they think they're kids in puberty. Technically, they're not. It's complicated.
No, I've found that out with my eldest because we thought she was going through puberty early because she had hair. And then our sweet pediatrician said, no, it's ethnic, she's half Greek.
And yeah, there you go. I mean, right. It's just hair down there has nothing to do with being able to have to to reproduce at any point. So that's the hormone pills. And yes, testosterone can make boys feel horny in the same way that estrogen and all the other female hormones can make girls feel horny. But that's not what is at the crux of the pandemic piece. What's at the crux of the pandemic piece is the maturation of the brain.
So the brain matures very slowly and very linearly from the time you're born until you're about thirty. And what happens is two things. The brain grows and shrinks and grows and shrinks. You use some parts, you lose other parts that you don't use. It's called pruning. That's one piece of brain development. The other piece of brain development is called myelination, and that's the installation of the neurons in the brain. Why does myelination matter? Because an insulated neuron sends a message much, much faster.
It's like if you plug your phone into a charger and there was none of the white plastic coating on the outside, you could charge your phone to take forever. So that's what happens in your brain when you have a myelinated nerve. Signals travels really fast and when you have an unmitigated nerve, it travels really slowly. The part of the brain that is last to mature last to Milind eight is the prefrontal cortex. That's significant because that's the part of the brain that makes smart, long term consequential decisions.
The part of the brain that makes risky and bad decisions is fully developed by the time you're in about fourth or fifth grade. And the part of the brain that can override it and be smart is not going to get there till you're almost thirty. And that's your teenager who's trying to run out the front door and have sex with someone as soon as the the gates are lifted and pandemic. Right. Or whatever it is or they are, you know, you can fill in any any activity you want.
So that's the issue with with the brain development is it's an imbalance in the brain. And girls have it, too. By the way, we all know the kids who can access their prefrontal cortex very easily. Right. They're the ones who are always making a good decision. They're the ones who you never have to worry about that girl. Right. Why? Well, those kids have taught themselves to wait a second. The message can get to that part of that brain.
It exists. It just takes more time and they have taught themselves to access that part of their brain to make the smarter decisions. So when you have teenagers in pandemic, you have the intersection of raging hormones and undeveloped prefrontal cortices, and that combination makes for really dumb decisions.
So what are some of those dumb decisions? I'm just curious. They're dumb decisions that have been made for centuries, right? Yeah, it's not just specific to this time, but in this time where we know we have to wear masks and we know we have to keep six feet of distance and we know we need to wash our hands, that we know we need to, you know, limit the number of people were around. When freedom is allowed in a different way, when some of the rules are lifted, it's very hard to turn down that these brain stimulation you get from a peer group, the limbic system, the emotional part of the brain is just on fire when kids are around and it feels so good.
It's a dopamine hit. It feels great to have your friends around. And so then they take the masks off and then they get closer than six feet and then someone starts drinking and then you really lose your inhibitions and then, you know, all bets are off. But it's the first bad decision in pandemic that starts at all. We're going to take a short break and we'll be right back. Welcome back with more go ask Ali. So how could they how could colleges possibly think that they could open when we know that these are teenagers whose brain hasn't fully developed and that when they are in this situation, they're going to want to do everything you just said?
Yeah, I have not understood the decision for colleges to open other than being a financial decision. I have not understood that decision from day one. It makes no sense, only very small colleges that can essentially create a sort of an island of screening, but they're not impenetrable to small.
And what are what should we say to our teenage girls and our teenage boys right now when they're in states that are slowly opening up? I mean, how do you speak to the teenage brain when it's not that receptive to being to hearing you have to keep your face mask on?
Well, what's so interesting is it is receptive. I mean, people say to me all the time, my kid doesn't want to listen to anything I have to say. My two answers to that are as follows. First of all, they do is we do not, as we say. So you want your kid to wear a mask, put on a mask. You want your kid to keep distance, you keep distance. Your kid to not go out with friends, with friends yourself.
Right. This is like a no brainer. It's like when they were to. Right. You don't want your kid to cross the street without going to a crosswalk and looking both ways. You're not going to jaywalk with your kid. It's all the same rights of parenting one on one. So that piece, I think, is really important to remind parents of because it really empowers the kids to make the right decision. But the other probably the the most important parenting advice that I give across the board is explain your rationale.
Always answer every limit with why. And you're not apologizing. You're not saying I'm so sorry, I'm setting this role or I'm so you're saying, hey, I don't want you going to a party because. And tell them why? Because it feels impossible to me that you can really follow all of these rules and you're living in a house with people who could get really sick and die from covid. And it's my job to help protect everyone who lives under this roof.
How can I send to talk to them like rational human beings? They are really, really smart. They most of them are connected to the world in ways that we do not appreciate. They have news sources that may not be our news sources, but they are solid news sources and they know a lot about a lot. And if you don't talk to them as if they know a lot about a lot, they feel patronized, they feel caged. And then it is their job to test the limit.
Right. It's I had spoken in an earlier podcast about social media and girls, but particularly during the pandemic, there's a lot of sexualization and a lot of bored girls doing bikini shots and and sexting and whatever. What are boys doing when in lockdown or when they're they're in quarantine? Is all that energy going into a fortnight to video games? Because I can't imagine they're on social media as much as girls. All right.
We give boys the pass on all the stuff that we're afraid of our girls doing, like the nudes and all that. They do not get the pass. Let me tell you, they are taking just as many pictures of themselves. They're engaging in all the same stuff. The girls are there again, dopamine, dopamine in their brain. So they are just as turned on by it. Sort of neurochemically as the girls are. The biggest difference between the way girls and boys exchange images and sexualize themselves is that girls are almost always identifiable in their sexualized imagery.
Even if it's a a nude shot, then they're lifting their shirt. They almost always cut a piece of their chin or their neck or a necklace they always wear. There's always some sort of identifier. When boys are going that far down that road, they're aiming camera down. You don't know that it's you know, Johnny's left toe that you're seeing right. There is no identifying feature in a nude for a boy. So boys get the pass on a set of behaviors the girls don't because the boys are as identifiable.
And I think it's a big mistake we make as parents to not recognize that the boys are just as engaged in these activities. The boys are also on social media a ton, whether it's for shopping, socializing, wherever we we assume girls are. The girls are there, too. They're there. They are also gaining and they are using gaming platforms as social networks. They tend to out game girls, meaning there are more boys on those platforms than girls.
But we should not kid ourselves either in that direction, pull any girls are on them.
And so what are the boys doing in a pandemic when it comes to it? Has there been a rise of sexting or dick pics or all that kind of stuff? The data we have on sexting and all of it, it's like twenty seventeen is the most recent data, right? So everything we talk about as new research is already so stale, it's three iPhones ago and that's part of the issue. I will tell you, though, my experience in my own house has been very similar to a number of the parents that I've talked to across the country.
So my son was multisyllabic for about two years. I mean, just a grunt and a nothing. Right. And it was ridiculous. It was like central casting. And I knew all the tools and I did all the stuff and did it. And it's still, you know, it's really hard to bring them out of their shell. You know, it brings them out of their shell pandemic because suddenly they can't leave the house. There is no other human being around them.
Engaging with them in real life was not so bad. Maybe I'll talk to her about her more than a grunt. And this is what I have heard from so many of the other boy parents that I know, which is it's not that they've become as chatty as the girls, but chattier. Yes. Are they opening their doors more? Yes. As pandemic lightens up and the restrictions lighten up, are we seeing them go back to their quieter ways?
Yes. Yes, we are.
It's so interesting. So that's a that's kind of a positive thing out of a very negative situation.
It's a great thing. Yeah, it's a great thing. I mean, it has it's been great for families in general. And I think it's in a lot of ways been great for for teenage girls. But it's it's interesting to hear that about the. But the teenage boys. Yeah.
I mean, for families that have not faced tremendous loss, it's been amazing. It's been such a bifurcated experience for families that face loss and hardship. There is you know, it's it's truly unimaginable to the families who haven't faced that. There's no way of understanding what this is like for them, for the families who have simply had a retreat experience. It's been, I think, by and large, positive. I mean, sometimes kids don't get along and that's rough.
And that that really does that really does happen.
I have to ask this, because this is such an antiquated notion, but do you think that the viewing of pornography with teenage boys has escalated tremendously during this time? So I would imagine so, first of all, boys, what a lot of poor girls do, too. By the way, the boys, depending upon what study you believe, that about 50 percent of all boys have seen online porn by the time they're anywhere from 11 to 13 years old.
So by the time boys graduate from middle school, far more than half of them have seen online porn. And it's not a nude picture. It's not boobs. It's not it is hardcore online porn, violent, aggressive, hardcore, not the sexual narrative you want to be handing your son, right.
It's not the Playboy magazines that our husbands used to sneak, right?
No, it is not. And and you can't rewrite the story for them. You can't help them unsee it. And most parents are at their head so far in the sand because it's so upsetting to even think about. They don't have any clue what their kids are seeing. So I get a lot of calls about it. When boys stumble onto it, the pornographers, they are on social media sites, getting your kids eyeballs onto their porn sites. They are giving it to your kids for free.
It is one click away. It is makes very good sense. They are taking a brain that is not yet mature and they are saying to that brain, let these images basically hardwire a path in your brain that makes your brain feel good so that you will become a paying customer one day. Right. Very good business strategy. So, yeah, I think they're all the ones who are exposed to it are all vulnerable to a pandemic.
And what should parents how do parents talk to a teenage boy about pornography? This is how it goes in my house. It's like this, hey, can you pass the salad? And by the way, let's talk about porn again, right? It's I mean, it's just a nothing burger. It's like, did you put sunscreen on. Let's talk about porn. Eight hundred thousand different times over the course of their adolescence. You need to be talking about.
You see a bus drive by with a really creepy ad on it. Talk about it. You see you hear about a movie and it's you know, it's supposed to be really salacious. Talk about it. You listen to the lyrics of any number of songs that any kid listens to, that sort of describing. You know, we all want our kids to have healthy sexual lives when they grow up. That's the goal. So if you're listening to to music that is telling our boys how to beat up on women, talk about like don't just turn it off.
Listen to the words and the talk about it. Everything's a teachable moment. So. All right.
Well, you to walk me through this a little bit just because I'm very curious. So I have a son and I go through his history on his computer and I see that he's been watching a lot of porn. I'm afraid if I say anything, he's just going to recoil and say, like, I do not shut up. So how do I start the conversation and what are the points that I'm trying to make? Besides, it's dirty and unchristian, right?
OK, so let me I want to take you back to your premise. Let's start with I go through his history. Any parent who's going through their kid's computer history without their kids knowledge is already starting in a really tricky spot because then the fight is about how you violated my privacy. So you have to stop and think as a parent, how am I going to approach their safety without creating a new issue that will take us down a rabbit hole? We don't need to go down.
Right. So in my house, the devices, you know, if we bought them there are porn is the most it's the most successful online industry by far. So there are a lot of people who work really hard to get you on their site. So it's not about me not trusting you. It's about knowing what goes on out there. OK, so let's just begin with that premise. If you're going through their history, you need to have a plan for how you're going to address that.
You're going through their history. OK, I always recommend that you say to your kids, let's look together. OK, then you're not snooping and they together at your computer history. Yeah, let's look at your screen time. Let's look at your phone history. Let's look at your computer history. By the way, kids who are really addicted to porn, they are on laptops looking at it and stuff. But kids who are not addicted and kids who are just catching glimpses of it are often just on phones.
So don't don't go to the laptop thinking you're going to find you're going to strike gold on the laptop and forget about the phone, which is really their entry level device. So, you know, in in your home, one thing you may want to do, and it doesn't matter if you've never done it before, you set a new kind of standard. Hey, I'd love to understand where you go on your device. I feel like that's a way that I can parent you better and I can understand a little bit more about what you're seeing and what you're learning.
So I'd like to look with you that in some homes is a major negotiation and it may take time to get there, but it is worth the investment of those conversations. So now you get the history and now you can have a productive conversation. He's not in trouble, by the way, no matter how you set it up, no child to be in trouble for having looked at porn. It is not their fault. They did not ask to go look at a gang rape.
I'm telling you, they did not want to see it either. They ended up there because the pornographers are really good at getting their eyeballs. So don't ever approach it in a shaming way because they already feel ashamed. So if you find it or when you find that the conversation is not, oh my God, oh, my God. Oh, my God, you did this. The conversation is I'm sorry that this is the sex that you're seeing.
You know, I want you to have a really healthy sex life when you're older. And this is not modeling that for you. And so I'm really sad that this is what you're looking at and that's what I want to talk about.
And then do you break it down for them? Do you say like this? Do you see this woman? She's actually not that happy or she's it depends how old the boy is or the girl.
It depends what your what your temperament is, what his temperament is. It depends on life experience. I mean, for an eleven year old. Yeah, you bet. You have to walk them through it for a sixteen year old. I'm not sure that will help the dynamic. I'm not sure that's productive. It just depends upon everything that goes into it. But the most important thing is as the parent you constantly put on the lens of I'm not shaming you, I'm not mad at you.
And the other thing is it's not one conversation. So when you discover the porn, usually the conversation is over. That's really a big thing. And both of you probably need to sit with it for a little bit. You can have lots of conversations over time and you can think about it and he can think about it. But if you just think it's going to be a one and done, forget about it. Now, a quick word from our sponsors.
Welcome back to go ask Ali. Let's get back to the discussion. What are you hearing from parents of teenage boys during this time? I mean, you've been getting calls. What are what are you feeling is a a predominant issue right now?
Depression and anxiety was really the big one early on. It has gone away. It has subsided a bit. Now, I anticipate we will see it rear its head big time in the winter, because unless this virus doesn't behave the way almost every virus behaves, we're going to get another surge of it when the weather gets cold. And that will drive more isolation, depression, anxiety. I think there's also a middle and high school. Our times when kids very normally will grapple with issues around mortality.
Right. There are these peaks that happened mid middle school and mid high school, where it becomes very real. And when you're living in the middle of a pandemic and you turn on the news, there are death tolls on the news. You get what this is, bananas. And my brain can handle it. I know where to file that. Your brain can handle it, but I'm not sure my 15 year old's brain puts a death toll in the same spot and manages it in the same way.
So I think that's not depression, anxiety. That is sort of this realization of mortality and fear that go along with it that I think we're going to see more of as as we continue to normalize what is happening. I mean, that's really I think that's so true.
I mean, you know, my two teenage girls are kind of my guinea pigs. And I've noticed that, you know, the anxiety and the depression was definitely there at the beginning. And still it's still an undercurrent now. But I think that the idea that people were dying really affected them in different ways. But my youngest, my 15 year old, it it scared her in a way. That we had to kind of soothe her, you know, kind of waking up at 3:00 in the morning and and, you know, almost what had happened before when she learned what the Taliban was.
And it's it's almost like when a kid is young and they read about evil in fairytales and they go, what is this evil that everyone's talking about? Who is this mean queen? For her it was, oh, my God, people are dying that I could die. You could die, you know, and that she had a kind of sense of, you know, people close to her could potentially die. And that was something I wasn't really expecting.
You know, I was so focused on their isolation that I didn't realize and I'm married to a journalist. So, like, the news is on all the time. And it never occurred to me that the mortality factor of all this was having such an effect.
Yeah. And and and when you layer on top of that, that there are now hundreds of thousands of families that are being devastated by loss, you know, family members who get sick and go to the hospital, you can't visit the family members who die. Think about it. Your eight, your 10 or 12, it's an invisible virus. I'm not sure where I got it. And it could take my mother or father because it took her mother and it took his father.
And in communities that are devastated, communities that are financially unstable, communities where there's no health equity and no access to health care, those kids are literally living a nightmare as a country, I think it's high time for us to come together. And maybe it's as a unified group of parents to say, God, we have got to help all of our kids. And that begins with the kids who are literally on the front lines because they're front line parents are gone.
How do we support them? What do we do? And how do we just like our kids, do as we do with a mask? And if we put it on, they put it on. How do we model the behavior of taking care of others and of emphasizing true empathy is the key, I think is really, truly the key to raising children who will then help shift the world in the right direction, which may help with the very fortunate kids with their depression and their anxiety.
One hundred percent. Hundred percent, right. Yes. But rather than to two. Four. Yes, I think I think that's important. Are you trying to create such a movement? So my kids always tell me that I can't create any of this. It has to come authentically from them, but I try to model it and tell you I loved this company during a pandemic and it was supposed to launch with Broz for tween and teen girls. And they're so comfortable.
But we launched. I wonder where oh my God, I do this. And but we launched with masks and and, you know, from day one, we've always sent masks into areas that have no access to mask. I mean, to, you know, and who they're not the only one. There are thousands of me who are trying to make and donate masks. You know, let's all pull together. Let's all just model the behavior.
I completely agree. Looking outside in at the life of a teenage boy and as you perfectly put it, decoding boys, how do you talk to teenage boys about anything that's uncomfortable, whether it's pornography or or vaping or whatever we kind of sweat about before we knock on the door, go in, fill in the blank horror topic?
Yeah. So one of the very best tricks is not making eye contact with your child.
That's so funny because it goes against what my intuition would be to. I know I'd want to connect with the eyes.
You want to look them in the eye and have the moment. Right. But think about it. You're asking them a question or calling them out on something that is so embarrassing or awkward or shameful or or just they want to lalala their way through it. Right. So how do you manage that as a parent? Well, if you don't look at them right, then they get to be alone with their thoughts and they they're not as embarrassed. They're not as awkward.
I mean, think about it this way. When your girls were little and you would turn off the lights at night. Isn't that when the conversations would start? Right. Or when I was driving the car 100 percent, they forgot I was there because I wasn't making eye contact. That's right. So it's like an all in there. Yeah.
So it's like an old Freudian psychoanalysis. Blueprint, lie on the couch, I'll sit behind you, you can't see me, and soon you'll be confessing. That's right.
I mean, I will tell you that with boys in puberty in particular, if there is a quiet boy and the vast majority are quiet for a long time and if they shut their door, which the vast majority do, and you don't know how to get in that door, you know, if you do sit on the other side of the door and just start talking. Right. That works wonders. So I have had times with my son where something has gone down and I need to talk to him.
And I know if I look at him, he will either start to cry because he's such a sweet boy. Of course he is calm. He's the best. Yeah, he better not. Look, I don't ever humiliate I don't write about puberty, but, you know, he'll either he'll either get upset or emotional or he'll to shut down. And so if I stay on the other side of the closed door and just sit on the floor and I say to him, hey, I got to talk to you about something and I'm just going to stay out here for a second.
And I just want to run this by you. And I am not even physically in his space. It's a game changer. It's a game changer. But you get you got to get to the point where you can look each other in the eye. You don't want like you don't have to shut the door to have a conversation.
So what are the what are these teenage boys doing in their rooms when they close the door?
Everyone thinks all they're doing is masturbating all day long. And they may very well be masturbating a lot in there. I don't know. I mean, I, I always get calls from parents, like, what's with the half hour shower? And I really need to go. Yeah, we know. Yeah, I know what that is exactly. But what are they doing. They are just taking a break from the world. I mean think about this.
Last January, January twenty twenty before pandemic, a boy and a girl come home from school. They've been gone all day long. They've been socializing with their friends. They both performing for their teachers. Maybe they've done an extracurricular sport or activity after hours and hours and hours. They're home. What do they want to do? The stereotypical girl wants to download a debrief and tell you about it, and the stereotypical boy wants to just shut it out and go have some time of quiet that that sort of caricature exist for a reason.
I believe it's hormonally driven. There's no data that shows that testosterone makes you want to shut out the world. But I don't think anyone's ever done that study because I can't find one. So if someone listening has done that study, send it my way. So they just they just want to be still because.
Yeah, my girls are just chatting. Chit chat. Yes. Yes. I would love to have a boy that was just cool.
I was going to throw you having one of each. Yeah. Yes, yes I know. Yeah. Right. You want to touch her tat with your girl can get everything up right up but then you're done. That's what I mean the way before Super Tuesday and. Right. So yeah.
Yes, yes. Because teenage girls think that whatever is going on in their life is the most important thing and that I'm riveted by the drama on. Can't believe you're saying they're not hooked up with you or, you know, whatever happened. But do you think that there's going to be some kind of stunted growth with this whole generation of teenagers during this pandemic?
I don't you know, I think it's different growth. If cell phones didn't exist, I might have a very different answer to that. But they are connected. They are socializing. It just doesn't feel familiar to us and it's not filling their need. Don't get me wrong, they need the in-person connection. But there's enough connectivity that exists. This is not everyone retreating to their secret space and no one interacting with anyone right now. Only children have it much harder.
I do think they have it much harder.
Well, yeah, they're so lonely. I know. Yeah. And I just wonder about learning social cues and empathy, like you said, and just having the normal experiences of do I kiss him, do I kiss her, all that stuff. Apparently that's what talks for.
Oh well then I don't know what I've been doing. I should get on tick tock right away now. But you are right. I mean I will say I'm totally banking on my kids not listening to this. My daughter is just at that age where she reads every old 18th and 19th century romance novel. She watches every rom com, like all she wants is that experience. And she is very rational. And she knows in pandemic that experience is a ways off.
And that is just a bummer. Right? Right. So those things, those needs not being met, that's where we started the conversation at this point of are they running out to have sex or hang out or party or do whatever with each other. And the answer. Yeah, yeah. That's human nature. Yes, they are. And that's why we got to get a vaccine and a therapy really, really fast so our kids can go so my daughters can get pregnant.
Yeah. That's exactly what I said. Yes. Oh, God. Thank you so much. I now I really wish I had a boy just because I always heard the the boys love their mother so much, but they talk that their go to their room and their quiet is just heaven to me.
They smell really bad, Ali. They smell really. I know. I know. But I mean, I can't believe that my door hasn't knocked 15 times during doing this podcast. I have to talk to you. I have drama. I have tea, mom. I have tea.
Anyway, spilling the tea. My God, that's all we do. I know everything about every teenager in the tri state area. And I don't want to do book called Spilling the puberty, but I was like, no, you cannot write that. So you have to write that. You have to write that book.
Thank you for your time. Thank you so much for for talking. And it is very enlightening. I love it.
I do want to end this podcast by dispelling one myth. It's not just teenage boys that stink. Spend an hour in the bathroom with my two teenage girls. Remember, subscribe to go ask Gallion if you like what you heard, go to my social media. Twitter is Ali Wentworth and Instagram is the real Ali Wentworth.