5 Shame-Proof Tips to Help Your Son Learn Hygiene Skills

Let’s just say it: Teenage boys are sometimes kind of gross. Once puberty hits, they turn, almost overnight, from our beloved freckle-faced boys to teenagers, with all the lanky hair, greasy skin, and stinky gym bags to go with it. Unfortunately, compounding this problem is the fact that they’re still in the hygiene routines from childhood, which may mean a shower every couple of days and a complete lack of deodorant. It takes time for teenage boys to learn the new hygiene skills they need as they become men and to establish new habits. They’re going to make some stumbles on the way. As parents, we need to be ready to help them learn the skills they need without making them ashamed of their mistakes. If you find yourself in that position, here are 5 shame-proof tips to help your teenage son develop good hygiene.

1.) Start with an Honest Conversation

Open and honest communication is the key to any relationship, and it’s especially important when dealing with teenagers. The rest of this post will do you little good if you aren’t first willing to have a discussion with your son about the new importance of hygiene in his life. Now that he’s a teenager, he’ll be able to tell if you’re beating around the bush about something, and he’s bound to rebel against your hints if he feels like you’re not willing to address your concerns with him in a straightforward manner.

Keep in mind that you can be straightforward without being accusatory. Go into the conversation with a plan to discuss the facts. Name your observations without judgment, and offer to help without sounding superior. Here’s a sample script to get you started:

“Son, I’ve noticed lately that your body is taking on fewer characteristics of boyhood and more characteristics of being a man. Now that you’re older, your body has different needs than it used to, and there are new skills and habits that you’ll need to learn to take care of it properly. You’ll need to start showering more often, you’ll need to wear deodorant, and you may need to start shaving. It can take some time to learn these new skills and make them a habit, and that’s okay. I’m going to help remind you for a little bit while you’re making this transition. Feel free to let me know when you have these new habits mastered and don’t need my help anymore.”

A conversation like this explains that this is a new phase of life that every young man goes through at some point, and takes the need for embarrassment out of the equation. It also puts you in a position to offer gentle reminders, like “have you put on deodorant today?”, in a way that is helpful rather than nagging.

2.) Time Your Reminders

Once you’ve had the conversation with your son outlined above, you need to follow through and offer reminders for things like putting on deodorant and taking showers more often. However, for these reminders to be seen in a positive light, you want to time them carefully. Teenagers are hard-wired to want to look good in front of their friends, for example, and even the best-intentioned reminders won’t be taken well if they’re offered in front of friends, so you want to plan your reminders out so that they can be given in private.

One good choice is to make reminders first thing in the morning before your son heads to school. Knock on his door while he’s getting ready and say something like, “Don’t forget deodorant this morning, and remember to take a shower after gym class.”

If you know your son will be heading into a situation where hygiene skills will be needed, address them ahead of time rather than trying to address them after. Say something like, “You have that big soccer game tomorrow, and then there’s going to be an after party. You may want to pack a change of clothes and a towel so you can shower before heading into public with your friends.”

3.) Give Him the Tools for Success 

Not only do daily habits change when your teenage son hits puberty, but the daily care items he needs also change. He may not know exactly what he needs now that he has reached puberty. Though he may eventually choose his own favorite brands and scents, start off by putting together a small care package for him. The care package could include any or all of the following:

You may even want to put together two care packages for him: One for home and one for his locker at school. That not only gives him the tools he needs for success, but reminds him that it’s okay to re-up midway through the day, and gives him an opportunity to correct his mistake if he forgets something like deodorant at the beginning of the day.

4.) Teach Him How to Use His Tools

With items like shampoo and conditioner, which your son has been using his entire life, he won’t need a new lesson in applying the items—he just needs to switch from the cotton-candy scented variety to a more adult scent. There are, however, other things that your son may need to learn to use for the first time. Simply offering your son cologne, for example, does not show him how to use it appropriately. Without proper instruction, he may leave the house smelling as if he bathed in his cologne rather than gently applied it in key locations. Shaving is another area in which he may need some instruction. Taking the time to teach your son how to use his new hygiene tools can give him confidence and make him more keen to use them at all.

5.) Help Him Learn to Take Charge

You can’t hold your son’s hand forever. Ultimately, the goal is for him to master his hygiene skills and take responsibility for them himself. Talk to your son about ways to work his new skills into his morning and evening routines so that they become second nature to him. If he is having difficulty with it, suggest ways for him to focus, such as making a morning routine checklist or setting an alarm on his phone to remind him to take a shower. While these may seem unnecessary to you, it’s important to remember that these are brand new habits for him and that it takes anyone some time and energy to make new habits stick.

Teenage boys can be gross—but they don’t have to be. Help your teenage son learn to take responsibility for his hygiene and pride in his appearance. The most important aspect is to make this a shame-free experience. No teenager wants to feel embarrassed by their parents, and often when we embarrass our children—even inadvertently—their response is to pull further away from us and from any guidance we may have to offer. Following these tips can help you avoid potholes when helping your son address his hygiene.