There are a variety of reasons why your defiant teenage son may refuse to talk to you and chances are it’s not personal. It can feel like he may never let you in or that he resents you for caring too much about wanting him to trust you and that it is a reflection of your relationship. As hard as it can be, remember: your child’s behavior is a reflection of him – not you. Trying to figure out what is behind the behavior may reveal why he is hesitant to open up to you and how you can best support him.
1. He’s avoiding his own problems
It is important to differentiate between whether he doesn’t want to talk to you about personal problems or if he is intentionally giving you the silent treatment. If he just avoids certain topics or seems to be hiding something, the underlying issue could be shame, sadness, guilt, or fear of judgment rather than anger towards you. He may not want to admit that he is struggling with something or not think you are the appropriate person to reach out to. His preferred style of coping may just be shutting down and isolating.
2. He doesn’t trust you
Whether it is because he doesn’t want you to know what he’s hiding or because he is scared you might tell another family member or your friends, he might not feel like he can trust you. Trust is a two-way street and it is possible you haven’t shown trustworthiness in the past. He may worry about your intentions for wanting him to tell you about things: if you really want to know or if you really want to be trusted.
You have to make it clear to him that you understand confidentiality and that you’ll respect it under certain terms. Discuss those terms together. It’s your job to create a space where he feels comfortable enough to come to you.
3. He expects a negative reaction
Depending on your history, you may have rejected his previous attempts to reach out by “overreacting” or passing judgment about the quality of his choices. It’s easy to fall into a hole where you only recognize when he does something wrong and ignore when he does something right. This can make him feel as if he can’t come to you when he has an issue because you’ll just have a bad reaction.
To possibly get around this, I would ask him how he thinks you might react. You might either choose to validate his concern that you might not handle it appropriately and respect his space or try to convince him that you will try to actively listen and let him explain as much as he feels comfortable.
4. He may feel suffocated
When you try your best and your defiant teenage son still doesn’t open up, it’s normal to feel defeated. Many parents will push harder in this situation–but this just pushes him away further. You have to give them the time and space to decide if they want to talk–you can’t force it.
All you can do is make sure they have a safe, supportive option if they want to open up–otherwise, give it time. If your defiant teenage son is getting involved in risky behavior, such as drug use or violence, and avoiding intervention, you may have to reach out for help in confronting the problem, if he won’t be responsive to your attempts to reach out.
5. Talking doesn’t feel like the solution
It might not be you, it might not be him, and it might not even be your relationship. For some problems, talking through them isn’t always the most effective solution. Many teenager boys have a hard time sharing emotions with others, let alone wanting to get in touch with them alone. At Equinox RTC, we recognize gender differences in traditional therapy and integrate alternative techniques to help teen boys address their emotions and rebuild relationships. This includes a greater focus on physical fitness, adventure therapy, and experiential learning.
See the Equinox Difference
We strive to help students develop healthy habits and lead themselves back onto a path of success through meaningful therapy and a nurturing environment. We help defiant teens work towards building accountability, respect, and a solution-oriented approach to solving their challenges. As a relationship-based program, we encourage students to develop vulnerability and trust within the community and with their families.
For more information about how we can help your defiant teenage son at Equinox, contact us today at 877-279-8925.