Teenage Boys Will Avoid Losing At All Costs

Teenage boys will avoid losing at all costs. To them, everything is a win/lose game. And, they will avoid losing at all costs.

This totally confounds parents and other grown ups. They just do not get it. Their boy is told to turn off the TV or get off the computer and come to dinner. Does he come to dinner? Absolutely not. Pick up his clothes from his bedroom floor? Doesn’t happen. Get the garbage cans from the curb? There they remain in all of their glory. I’m sure you have your own stories.

And so he loses “privileges” or gets “grounded.” His cell phone is taken away, he can’t take the car or some other punishment intended to teach him a lesson and correct his behavior.

He blows a gasket and expresses his “feelings” about it and about them and in no uncertain terms skulks off to his room or storms out of the house or some other action certain to leave the situation messier and uglier than before.

Or he goes into silent mode and stares at you with an absolutely blank look on his face or maybe more with a look like “boy, you are strange.” Maybe you get a “whatever” out of his mouth before he turns back to whatever he was doing before you “interrupted” him or just walks off.

“Why does he do this,” you ask? Just about every grown up says to me, “I don’t get it. If he would just do what I tell him to do he’d have everything.”

Same thing with “trying to get him to” do something: you fill in the blank as in trying to get him turn in his homework or put his clothes away or empty the dishwasher. And it does not happen - period. And so he does not have everything and the grown ups go “I just don’t get it.”

Of course, how could the grown ups “get it?” There is nothing wrong with their expectations. I mean, what could possibly be wrong with a teenage boy bringing up the garbage cans once a week, a task taking a few minutes max. Or emptying the dishwasher: another strenuous job requiring 5 minutes of effort. Parents think, “just get with the program Jack”

What’s so difficult?

Look at the trade-off: 5 minutes here bringing up the cans and 5 minutes there emptying the dishwasher, joining the family for dinner and putting his clothes away. Maybe 15 to 20 minutes of activity.

In exchange for a cellphone, access to a car, all of the household amenities (television with cable or satellite), high speed Internet (all of the social networks), a computer (or 2 or 3), video game console (you know, X-box, Playstation, Wii), iPod and the list goes on.

Not a bad deal, right?

So, why doesn’t he just do it they ask?

It’s simple. If he comes to dinner, picks up his clothes, brings up the cans, or anything else the grown ups tell him to do, they win - he loses.

That’s not going to happen. He’s a teenage boy. Teenage boys will avoid losing at all costs: period.

©2012 Ted Braude

Related: Issues, Books

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Youth is wholly experimental. - Robert Louis Stevenson


Ted Braude is an expert on boys: known as “the dragon tamer” and the “boy whisperer.” A mentor, a martial artist, a musician, a writer and a counselor, he brings boys into young manhood. No small feat. He serves their interests, goals and desires, helping them become who they want to be. He’s kind of a “dream wizard.” As a mentor/counselor, he’s served boys in their quest for manhood for 30 years. As a martial artist, he is a second degree black belt in the Japanese martial art Aikido, training with the internationally known Ki master Katsumi Niikura Sensei. As a musician, he has been a professional and amateur multi-instrumentalist and singer since he was six years old. As a writer, he is a former columnist for The Detroit Free Press and The Daily Tribune newspapers and a host of journals & publications. He is the local point man for Boys to Men Mentoring Network in Michigan, a remarkable program that joins boys and men together in a community bringing the boys into young manhood and he is the Director of the BoysWork Project. Royal Oak, Michigan. Contact Ted at E-Mail or or 586-825-6483. An audio version of this column is available at

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