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My son talks to himself, often in the shower, and stops when I'm aware of it.

He is 17, and in a demanding program in college.

He is elite, he is on the rowing team and the debate club. He doesn't do drugs or alcohol, and signs up for every math, French and every whenever-there-is contest. He keeps his marks high. He taught math for a few years starting when he was 12. He is also attractive. His peers and teachers like him and teachers make reference to his skills and generosity.

He is guarded, rarely telling me or his father anything. He stays in his room but converses with someone (seen from phone records). This talking to himself and the fact he never tells us anything is troubling.

This has been going on for a few years. I think I may also think aloud myself.

Why would he do this?

  • Your last 2 sentences seem to be add odds with each other, don't they? Frankly though he seems like a typical teenager otherwise, and maybe the problem is learning to let him live his life? – Jim W says reinstate Monica Mar 15 '16 at 16:36
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    Just curious about the nature of your question. Are you concerned about his psychological wellbeing? Or simply curious to about his motivations for behaving in a surprising manner? – MealyPotatoes Mar 15 '16 at 16:37
  • @AdamHeeg please remember to be positive and constructive – Acire Mar 15 '16 at 19:53
  • I think "why do we do this" is off-topic with the rest of the post maybe biology.stackexchange.com/questions/14968/… – DnrDevil Mar 22 '16 at 0:38
  • Is he talking to himsef? Or having a conversation with himself? Big difference. – DKNguyen Nov 17 at 17:12
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Holding internal monologues and dialogues is something that I would guess is quite common. Vocalising them too. I do it myself a lot, especially to exercise arguments I have for my opinions. And yes, this I never do when people are around. :D

In fact, I just caught myself reading out this reply quietly to myself as I wrote it. I also found myself matching much else of his "profile" as described by you, save for looks.

I would not worry about this unless you have seen other indicators on unhealth. Talking when alone is not that, at least not on its own.

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Talking to yourself is normal. It's called intrapersonal communication.

Studies suggest that people talk to themselves perform better on some tasks. For example one study found that people were able to find an item quicker when they repeated the name of the item themselves.

So the fact that he talks to himself shouldn't be worrying in himself, and infact might help explain his high level of ability.

On the other hand, he could face social criticism for doing it. On this point, I'd suggest allowing him to adjust himself accordingly, rather than preemptively shaming him for something that isn't a problem.

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    I'm "on the right side of 50" and I still talk to myself. As long as he doesn't interrupt himself to say "eh? What was that? " or have to take a vote on a major decision, he's fine. – pojo-guy Jan 13 '18 at 16:56
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As a person that is "smarter then the average bear" I can tell you right now, that it can be very difficult to talk with normal people. That may be all there is to this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvgrXf3tQAM

So the fact that he has a small set of friends and talks to himself is not that unusual. I still talk to my self all the time.

The troubling part is this:

He is guarded, rarely telling me or his father anything. He stays in his room but converses with someone (seen from phone records). This talking to himself and the fact he never tells us anything is troubling.

Being a teenager this is fairly common, but at the same time you need to keep trying to reach out and have conversations. Try staying away from the "parent" conversations. Instead find another topic to talk about. Talk with him like you would a co-worker. Ask about his feelings on the up coming election, or about city policies. Try a conversations (gossip) about people at work. The idea is to stay away (in the beginning) from all the parent stuff and just have normal adult conversations.

Remember he is only one year away from being an adult. He needs you to transition from parents protecting a kid to adults talking to another adult. The teenage drive for independence can be quite strong, but having those first few conversations as one adult to another you start to build that bond back. This will allow him to ask for opinions with out feeling like he is asking to be grounded.

He basically has to be shown, through example, that he can ask for advise and not permission. Once he feels like your a source for advise and wisdom, instead of just someone that is going to ground him, he will start asking for advise, and sharing more of his life with you.

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Too relevant to be less than a comment:

"rubber ducking" (a bit of psychological phenomenon)

An opinion, that vocally presenting your own counsel leads to more "in tune" outcomes. You already know what needs to be done, but the struggle is real.

"should I do this...or that?". we've all faced this before, and especially when we face very real risk and reward. You've said that this individual is on top of his game, the world is his oyster, and handsome to boot. that's the result of skill, determination, hard work, and dedication, and good grooming (plus a good roll of the dice). Who can he relate to? He gives himself guidance, pep talks, and keeps himself on the right track. He sounds very responsible. He likely stops when approached because, well, since you're asking in concern, of course it seems "weird" to do such a thing. The proof of why he stops is right here. would you continue talking to yourself while others gather?

Why not ask him directly if he is alright, if he needs help with something, and is there anything you can do to assist? (gently). He sounds logical (and I suspect honest), and would likely accept help (maybe emotionally), or just realise on his own that he's dealing with things his own way, and then just by asking, you've helped him move along.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging

In software engineering, rubber duck debugging or rubber ducking is a method of debugging code. The name is a reference to a story in the book The Pragmatic Programmer in which a programmer would carry around a rubber duck and debug their code by forcing themselves to explain it, line-by-line, to the duck.[1] Many other terms exist for this technique, often involving different inanimate objects.

Many programmers have had the experience of explaining a programming problem to someone else, possibly even to someone who knows nothing about programming, and then hitting upon the solution in the process of explaining the problem. In describing what the code is supposed to do and observing what it actually does, any incongruity between these two becomes apparent.[2] More generally, teaching a subject forces its evaluation from different perspectives and can provide a deeper understanding.[3] By using an inanimate object, the programmer can try to accomplish this without having to interrupt anyone else.

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  • to comment on my own answer, sorry, but anecdotally it's a bit of a laugh at work as we frequently rubber duck each other, and the recipient of the speech goes "quack quack" as the speaker leaves apologising for disturbing the recipient. recipient never is able to offer an opinion before the problem is resolved :D – NOP Oct 14 '17 at 19:49
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I'm 50 and I talk to myself all the time. I'm fairly sure I always have, to a certain extent. Sometimes it's laying out an interesting fictional story in my mind if I ever decide to put pen to paper, so to speak. Sometimes it's just mulling over interactions I've had or might have. Sometimes it's stepping through a scenario I'm dealing with, where the verbalization helps me to think about it or more deeply ingrain in my memory what I want to do.

I certainly don't imagine that I'm talking to real people. Since I don't have tons of interaction with people (almost an empty-nester, share custody of my last kid at home) on a social basis, it also substitutes, to a certain degree, for the missing audible dialogue and fills the silence, a bit.

Whether it's related or coincidence, I'm a person who can very smoothly engage in conversation and am known for quick-witted responses. Maybe it's not that I'm quick-witted, as much as I've essentially practiced it, or similar situations, verbally, before. Especially if he's in the debate club, there might be a lot of trying out how a back and forth might sound to hone the skills. I often get into political discussions with friends, and since a lot of the points are pretty commonly used, I'm often prepared to break them down in an effective, to the point way just through this kind of verbal rehearsal.

Whether you should be concerned or not depends on whether he's having angry, violence-laden conversations with himself. The silence and willingness to share could just be more self-consciousness about the habit, than anything more troubling. It might just be an indication of a very vivid and creative imagination at work, so I wouldn't try to stifle it, at all, unless there is some sign of something amiss.

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I’m 44 and still do it on a daily basis throughout the day..I’m perfectly sane, was an A student and am currently very successful in my career. It’s funny because I am online as I was concerned about my 12 y/o daughter who my wife and I have noticed the past 9 months (intro to COVID-19) has been doing a lot of talking to herself. Maybe she has been doing this since she was young but now that we are forced to be in-doors all day, it has came to our attention. I laugh Now because I was worried about my daughter (thinking that I was the ‘exception’ to the rule) but now that I read people’s comments I realize that many other people do the same and they are sane and therefore I am no longer worried about my daughter...who I now realize is just like her dad (me) and therefore intelligent and sane. And I forgot to add she is an A student in the gifted program at school. One day, I’ll let my wife know that I talk to myself as well. :-)

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