Teenage Boys Are Agents of Change

Teenage boys are agents of change . . . they seek change . . .

Right. Cannot be. Then why does he keep doing the same stupid things? He knows what’s going to happen. Breaks curfew . . . this is what is going to happen. Takes the car when he’s not supposed to . . . this is what is going to happen . . . doesn’t do his school work or turn in his homework or his grades are poor . . . this is what is going to happen . . . why does he keep doing it over and over again? It defies rational logic.

Yes, it looks that way but it is not true.

One of the truths about teenage boys is that they are masters of disguise. They are masters of deception, masters at game playing. That is what they really are and when they’re playing a game and they draw the grown ups into it, which is what they do all the time, it’s both fun for them (and it is fun for them) and it’s very frightening. Very. Why? Because the change they’re trying to invoke, which they don’t even understand consciously most of the time, does not happen. So all the other dragon qualities: the boredom, the fear, etc just continues on and on.

Truthfully, nonetheless, they are seeking change.

Because they are seeking the next edge. They feel, in their bodies, the sense of absolutely having to grow.

So what do they do? They provoke situations with grown ups, especially in the family, to get something going, to get a row going because, one it has a pay off (the game part), and two, in their inept way they’re trying to provoke a change.

Characteristic of boys, their way of doing it falls flat on its face. He’s just a boy. He does not know how to do it effectively and he’s slowly waking up to his role that he is an agent of the change, but not the leader or effector because he does not have the power to pull it off. That power belongs to the grown ups. So it happens in a boy way: sloppy, messy, ineffective and more often than not misunderstood.


Because, they’re communicating, through their behavior in code. It is a code and we miss it most of the time: fall for it and get embroiled in the game.

When their parents and other grown ups decipher and understand the code, they’re poised to respond to them entirely differently. They can be active and effective to move the change along.

So, from this mirror logic perspective, he is seeking change by forcing struggles with grown ups.

A second aspect of seeking change is they define themselves by what they are not: I’m not a jock, not a geek. not a goth, not my parents, not my brother or sister. It’s like tacking against the wind. He’s “changing” by not being something/someone else. It’s a negative way of identifying himself and of “belonging” which he needs to do. It’s a house on a sand foundation because he does not have a clue to who he really is (and early on in adolescence, he’s not suppose to). Often the best change he can do right out of the gate is an identity of what he is not.

He’ll act it out in all kinds of confrontations and/or withdrawals, especially with parents. It’s all part of seeking change.

A third aspect is his efforts to develop what is uniquely him: his “genius”

This idea sends grown ups over the edge: “I don’t see him doing anything . . .” and “he’s not that bright . . .”

Well, I’m referring to genius, not in its usual context of extraordinary intelligence, but it is classic sense of his unique soul qualities, his unique purpose to be expressed and given through his skills, talents and abilities.

Early on in adolescence, something begins moving inside of him, something generally below the surface, of wanting to do and/or be something that is almost impossible to put into words. It propels him forward. It’s a Truth about himself. Usually, we not only don’t pay attention to it, we don’t even look for it or think it’s there or misunderstand it or judge it incorrectly. It is a kind of passion.

He’ll often try, in some often very awkward way, to express and develop it. Sometimes, he gives up before it can germinate. There is a lot that affects his “genius” and it is generally fragile.

This is actually a critical aspect of a teenage boys growth: he’s propelled forward into the world of manhood where his purpose and meaning is one of the driving forces of his Life. It calls out to get attention at its very inception, its first appearance at the onset of adolescence. It is a change he absolutely needs.

We do not do a stellar job of seeing this, but, I’d be lying to you if I did not tell you it’s there and it is a change he seeks.

Finally, teenage boys seek change by putting pressure on the family: by being a pain in the behind, by being irascible and cunning and clever and annoying and withdrawn and everything else imaginable. He’s awakened to all of the ins and outs of his family and senses where changes are important.

However, he’s virtually useless at affecting the changes or even addressing the changes effectively because he does not have the power and/or skills to pull it off. He doesn’t have the power to be more mature than he actually is and it comes out in game behavior. It is a paradox: he senses the need and importance of changes - pushes for them but in a boy manner that is just about guaranteed to produce more of the same family quality that he’s pushing against. You might say he brings out “the worst” through his efforts giving him more of what he knows should change.

And, the same thing generally then happens for the parents: they end up with more of the same from him and around and around and around it goes. I view that as “stirring the pot.” There is no power . . . no change . . .

When the truth is, change is exactly what the dragon boy is seeking.

Teenage boys are agents of change.

©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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