Every day, Angie O. watches her son disappear a little more. “Eric was such a great kid,” she says. “Always open and smiling, always positive. But now, he’s just not there. He doesn’t talk. He never smiles. He flat-out refuses to do chores he used to do without complaining. And if I let him, he would stay in his room all day and just stare at the ceiling, or sleep the day away.”
Kimberly H. has an even bigger problem: her 16-year-old, Tim, has wrecked three cars, broken bones, and risked jail with dangerous driving. Kimberly suspects he’s also into binge drinking. “It seemed to happen overnight,” she says. “This new kid, Jeremy, started at his school and before I knew it, Tim came home with a black eye smelling of beer. And he thinks it’s funny when I get mad.” She realizes that Tim is living in the land of the “Four I’s,” —acting as if he is “Invulnerable, Invincible, Immortal, and Infertile”—and he is taking huge risks on a daily basis.
Why It Happens When It Happens
Tim and Eric are reacting in very different ways to the same set of sudden challenges that confront all teenage boys. The most common problem parents see is withdrawal—emotional, social, and physical. Clinical psychologist and author Anthony E. Wolf says that, “Once adolescence begins, teenage boys go to their rooms, close the doors, turn on the stereo, and come out four years later.” He wants parents to be reassured: it’s not anything they’re doing wrong, it’s just a natural (and annoying) part of a boy’s adolescence.
All too often, however, teenage boys are changing in far more serious ways, including drinking and drugs, reckless driving, aggressive behavior, and more.