I think teen boys and hygiene can go one of two ways: obsessive use of deodorant and bathroom monopolisation. Or utter filth. There is no in-between.
I’m not going to tell you which category my teenage boy falls into… he may or may not circulate a single pair of undies in a week. He may or may not care not one jot for the 1000 blackheads festering across his forehead. Or perhaps he goes through two cans of deodorant a week and is obsessed with Lynx after-shave balm, even though he is not yet shaving. Perhaps he changes t-shirts five times on a Saturday because he needs to be runway ready.
We’ll never know the type of teen boy I’m sheltering. But I’ll be you recognise him one way or the other. Probably “the other”.
The majority of teenage boys definitely fall into the ‘feral’ category. You can often trick them by asking them if they used soap in the shower and they get all cranky and scoff, ‘Of course I did, MUM. What do you think I am?’ and you have to say, ‘I don’t want to answer that, sonshine. It’s just that I removed the soap before your shower because I love the way you lie.’ At least, I hear that can happen…
One good thing about teen boys and hygiene: there’s a lot less washing involved. These boys can make a pair of shorts last a good couple of weeks. A t-shirt can be worn the right way, inside out, back to front, inside out and back-to-front. Underpants are optional.
It ain’t pretty, is it? If you’re struggling with both the whiff-factor and the small-vom-in-the-mouth factor, here are some tips for getting your lad into the shower, with soap, head to toe, back to front, sideways, pleeeease…
This might be handy too: 16 very helpful books about raising boys
Teen boy, meet Hygiene
1. Appeal to their social side
Remind them that we often can’t smell ourselves, but others sure can. If they fail to wash properly with soap and deodorise every day, they will pretty quickly learn that others find them offensive and downright disgusting. If that message fails to get through (and, sadly, for many it will not be enough), you may need to wait until they want a love life. Boys quickly turn ultra-clean once they’ve got their eye on someone.
2. Scare tactics may be necessary
We know that personal hygiene is not just for freshness (though, lord knows, freshness is enough). If the idea of being pleasant to be around isn’t enough for your lad, try the ‘hideous diseases killed by soap’ approach. You can list such things as: flu, colds, staph, dandruff, Shigillosis, diarrhoea, hand-foot, Hepatitis A, Giardiasis… need we go on?
3. Dad in charge
Sometimes, for whatever reason, maybe because they are male, boys fail to learn how to clean themselves properly. I mean, they’ve only been having a bath a night for 13+ years, but still they really don’t have a clue about the basics. Take it seriously and get his dad (or yourself, if that’s what it takes) to show him from head to foot the best way to wash himself. Hair wash and condition, back of the neck, behind the ears and a little swipe around them too, under the arms and down we go until between the toes are sparkling. Sometimes a boy just needs a little refresher.
4. Write it down
Like all things in life, what we write down it’s more likely to happen. A list of daily rituals means your teen boy is 100% clear on what you expect from him. A small note on the back of his door with an ‘AM’ and ‘PM’ followed by the rituals expected works wonders. It might look something like:
Wash face and hands
Use face scrub in shower every 3rd night
Brush teeth for at least 2 minutes
5. Help him win the war
There are a lot of hormones flying around in a teen boy and this can make staying clean rather difficult. Ahem. Your lad may well need a shower before bed and a little freshener in the morning too. Two short showers a day will help him stay on top of his hygiene and may solve a lot of the stinky issues.
6. Spoil him a little
Get him his own body wash, deodorant and any other sprays or balms he feels he may need. A blackhead scrub, face wash and simple moisturiser (we use plain old Cetaphil at our place) may be required too. His own exclusive creams and unctions means you can also easily keep an eye on how much he’s using in any given week. Sneaky, huh?
7. Make it non-negotiable
Stinky fellows don’t get fed. End of story. If he’s not washed properly for breakfast, lunch or dinner, then he needs to go back in there and clean up properly. Offer to give him a tutorial if he’s not paying enough attention – he’ll quickly learn to come out squeaky clean. I use the same approach for bed sheet washing (often another pain point with teen boys and hygiene!): if the sheets aren’t brought out for the wash, he has to go to bed early until they are.
Best of luck!
Does your teen boy stay clean?
Image by Oliver Ragfelt