How to Deal With Pre-Teen Boys

Preteen boys crave peer acceptance and want to experience new freedoms so they can start making decisions for themselves. Even though they often feel vulnerable, they want others to think they are confident and secure. You can help your preteen gain a healthy self-image by allowing him to hang out with peers who encourage positive behavior. Maintaining open lines of communication will remind him that you're still there when he needs you.

Fragile Egos

During the preteen years, boys start to develop a personal identity. They seek approval from peers and desperately want to fit it in, according to clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Stephanie Newman for Psychology Today. They often want cutting-edge electronics, sports gear and tennis shoes that are well-respected by their friends. When dealing with preteen boys, help protect their fragile egos by allowing them to exert their preferences and make some decisions when possible. They need to express self-assurance. Let your son choose his music, bedroom posters, clothing, video games and cell phone, as long as they are age-appropriate and meet your budget.


Puberty in boys starts earlier than it did several decades ago. Studies show that the onset of puberty in white and Hispanic boys occurs around age 10, and around age 9 in African-American boys, according to WebMD. As a result, boys develop sexual feelings at a younger age. When dealing with your preteen son, encourage open and honest conversations about puberty, girls, dating, sex, birth control and abstinence. Assure him that puberty-related changes are normal and he shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed by them.

New Emotions

As boys transition from childhood into their preteen years, they often experience new emotions and feelings, such as fatigue, stress, irritability, and anxiety, according to Kelly Curtis, school counselor and author of "Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things," writing for These unfamiliar emotions can lead to reactions that are insensitive and disrespectful. For example, a male child might get grumpy and pout if he doesn't get his way, but a preteen boy might say, "Whatever," walk away and slam the door. These new emotional responses are part of growing up, so don't panic if your adolescent suddenly seems aloof or agitated. Hold him to family standards and don't condone disrespectful behavior, but address your concerns calmly. Be supportive and give him a little personal space to work through the roller coaster of emotions.


Preteens don't respond well to authoritarian power-based punishments and might even refuse to follow disciplinary actions if they don't have a strong relationship with their parents, according to clinical psychologist Laura Markham, writing for Aha! An effective approach to discipline is to set reasonable standards, such as no cell phones, video games, Internet or television past 10 p.m. on school nights, and consistently enforce those rules. Preteen boys will likely test the limits, so be firm and fair with rewards and consequences.