For Teenage Boys: Everything Is A Game
Teenage boys are boys and therefore everything is a game
Im going to repeat that: for teenage boys everything is a game.
This can be really confusing for grown ups, especially when the boys are being a big pain. Theyre thinking, whats the game with him being . . . and you fill in the blank for his behavior.
To get a grasp on everything is a game, its necessary to take a look at boys before theyre teens.
For little boys, everything is about play and strength. They are constantly playing at something: they play with each other, they play by themselves, and they play in relationship with other people, including grown ups . . . play . . . play . . . play.
As boys, the fun is in the play: playing the game. They want to win. They really dont want to lose. But if they do, they tend to move on because the game is always re-starting
Now there is a special game called getting his way, but thats a topic for another time.
As I said, this reality that in a boys world everything is play that life is a game, can be hard for grown ups to grasp because their view is theyre trying to accomplish a task, like get him dressed and off to school or his clothes or toys picked up and put away or his homework done or him get ready for bed.
Their world view is getting him to do something.
His world view is entirely different. Getting the task done is not on his radar screen. He does not live in a world of tasks. Hes playing (whatever hes playing) and his playing is integral to everything he is doing. So if hes getting something done, hes at the very least trying to play through it.
For boys the games are about strength & power: whos strong . . . who isnt . . . whos winning . . . whos losing . . . whos in control of whats going on . . . whos not . . . and whos getting what he wants . . . and whos not.
Why? Because hes learning the fundamentals of strength & power and of human interactions & relationships. Its a game for him . . . because he is a boy.
Once a boy has entered teenage-dom, hes learned everything there is to learn from the whos strong . . . whos not game and all of the family interactions that revolve around it. Hes got it down.
So that virtually every interaction with someone in the family, especially his parents, is an expression of the game (its true with other grown ups as well).
. . . the reaction he expects
Its a game and as far as hes concerned hes in charge of the rules and like all teenage boys, when a game goes as predicted, when the outcome is expected, three things are going to happen.
. . . hes going to get bored
. . . hes going to try and change it (and fail)
. . . and hes going to do it again . . . and again . . . and again
Its a hold over from boyhood this invisible element of winning and losing to everything he does. Hes playing . . . its a game . . . hes a boy . . . and thats what boys do . . . play games
He starts exercising his game skills to upset the apple cart, to challenge the rule of law and the order of power and exploit the weaknesses in the other players. He does it so masterfully that the grown ups are more often than not either brought to their knees in frustration, or to a state of explosive chaos experiencing a loss of control that drives them nuts.
And they just cannot figure out, why does he do that? . . . fill in the blank for the that.
Its because it is a game and at this point hes the master of the game.
Firstly, an important clarification about games. Because the word has been part of our popular psychology culture since the mid-1960s, it has taken on a negative, judgmental flavor. When we think someone is playing a game with us, there is bad intentions involved: hes consciously, purposely trying to do something to us.
In general, I am not using games in that popular psychology way. I am using game in a similar but simpler sense. As a boy, everything is about play and play is a game and the game has this simple format for him: who does what . . . when . . . where . . . and how.
Because he has been around you his whole life, he has studied who you are and what you do absorbing it all into his world of play and games. His behavior and his interaction with you have a game quality for him. Like all games there are rules, essentially unwritten (and unconscious). It has a beginning . . . a middle . . . and an end. The pay-off is an exchange of energy or attention and the learned and expected outcome.
There is, in my many years of experience, more often than not, no malice or ill-intent. Hes a boy. Boys play games.
The purpose of this column is to alert you to his reality - the world of boys and games so you can firstly understand it and secondly begin to become more effective in interacting with him instead of suffering in ignorance.
©2012 Ted Braude
Youth is wholly experimental. - Robert Louis Stevenson