What Makes a Teenage Boy Unable to Make Decisions?

By Damon Verial
Whether a boy acts morally is often up to the family.
Whether a boy acts morally is often up to the family.

Behind all action -- and inaction -- is a decision. Whether it’s a decision to act morally or a decision to give into peer pressure, it’s one made in the mind of your teenage boy. But not all action stems from the mind. Your teenage boy’s education, family life and role models all play a part in shaping his internal decision-making computer.

Education Isn’t All Books

Teens might look like adults but they lack the experience and knowledge of adults. This lack of knowledge can often lead them down the wrong path, making poor and often dangerous decisions. Note that many poor decisions are equivalent to a lack of decision: Hanging out with a bad group of kids and not interjecting or telling an adult when he witnesses acts of violence, vandalism or other abuse doesn’t make your boy innocent in the eyes of a judge. And as boys are more prone to risk than girls, you should make sure your teenage boy has all the pertinent information on the risky decisions he’ll be making in the future. Discuss the possible dangers your teen might get into before he gets into it. Though it might be an embarrassing conversation for some families, such education pays off in the long run.

Practice Makes Perfect -- As Perfect As a Teenage Boy Can Get, Anyway

Many teenage boys are poor decision makers simply because they lack practice. As family social science professor Jodi Dworkin mentions, most teenagers get their basic decision-making training in the family environment. If a teenage boy seems to be indecisive or poor at decision-making, it’s possible his parents aren’t giving him enough opportunities to take the initiative. Practice decision making in the family by giving your teenage boy the background information needed while letting him actually verbalize the decision himself. For example, objectively outline the dangers of drug use and ask him to make a conclusion about it. Eventually, you’ll get him to draw stronger and stronger conclusions, moving from “Drugs are dangerous” to “We shouldn’t do drugs.”

Family Interaction: My Anti-Drug

Family isn’t just important in training teenage boys to make good decisions, it’s also important in how it offers emotional support and warmth to teen boys. The importance of a family is a complex and dynamic subject. Nevertheless, the research on how a family affects teenage boys couldn’t be clearer. For example, the Father Involvement Research Alliance has found that boys without a father present in the household tend to make poorer decisions in all respects, from being more susceptible to peer pressure to engaging in individual anti-social acts. This research’s conclusion is that teenage boys learn their morals primarily from their parents. And without moral parents, teenage boys will find it difficult to make moral decisions.

No Decision is a Decision

Indecisiveness and decisive inaction are sometimes different things. An active decision not to act is a sign of strong decision-making. This is certainly true in teenage boys, whose hormones can drive them to the occasional burst of violence or rebellion. John Gottman, the developmental psychologist and author of “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,” points out that teenage boys often copy the decisions of their male role models, such as their fathers, teachers or idols. A teenage boy who appears to be indecisive might be acting like his lazy, indecisive role model, or he might be copying someone who just wants to stay out of trouble. Either way, a teenage boy who doesn’t act out on all his emotions is showing some self-restraint, demonstrating an ability to make the decision, “I won’t do anything.”

About the Author

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.