New to this series? Start with post one.
In my first post on parenting teen boys, I mentioned that just before a boy turns the corner into his teen years, he can tend to be disinterested in most pursuits, scatterbrained, lacking any practical goals, and generally lazy. My answer to the question of what to do about a boy in this lackadaisical stage is actually the first of three main points I'll hit in this series:
1. Let Him Backslide
Shocking? Perhaps. But stick with me, because this is going somewhere positive.
I know that encouraging a kid (or, at the very least, allowing a kid) to backslide sounds contrary to everything we responsible parents believe in, but I’ve learned to hone in on the most important things. For us, as home educators, the most important things looked a little like this:
The Most Important Things
Yes, son, you need to continue doing your math because we’ve got to stay on top of that during the high school years. Yes, you need to keep writing and reading and paying attention when I teach you about the Huns or he rise of Nationalism or the fall of the Roman Empire. Yes, you might look back and wonder what the heck all of that algebra was for, but you will be a better thinker and processor and guy for all that struggle. And yes, we want you involved in some sort of faith community.
But the things that weren’t imperative or core subjects, for the sake of relationships, I am willing to let go.
Hair styles? Not important enough to make an issue out of. Shoe choices? Nope. Sleeping until 11? Not if the required responsibilities are met. You can keep odd hours as long as you respect the rest of the family, but they don't have to be 9-5 around here.
A messy bedroom, some time on the computer, eating weird/unhealthy/vegetarian/gluten-filled/whatever just isn't important enough to me to jeopardize a relationship with my son. Even energy drinks, which in my opinion, are up there with arsenic. Yep. Even those. And, dare I say it? Even if you stop reading your Bible on your own time. I'm just not going to legislate your relationship with God, because that rather misses the whole point of you growing in your faith, doesn't it?
What Are the Most Important Things?
And so the question becomes: What are the hills you are willing to die on? What is of tantamount importance in your home? What is a life-changing, life-altering, earth-shattering precept upon which you will stand and require your son to stand in these early teen years?
For us, the guideline is that if it isn't illegal or unbiblical, it's allowable. That should give you a wide berth.
We Majored on the Most Important Things, and Then Something Happened
Then something happened: Around the age of 15, our oldest son discovered a love for filmmaking. He began by making short movies at home, studied filmmaking with his dad and online, and worked on his bachelor's degree in fits and starts.
He found his passion, and it drove his choices. Incidentally, guess how he makes his living as a 24-year-old? Yep. Filmmaking.
Around the age of 16, our second son discovered that he was extremely motivated by a lifeguarding job. He worked summers at that community pool and by the time he left for college, he was managing the pool and making good money. He is a hard worker, married, and making solid life choices.
What about our third son? The son who told me to back off the goals since he was "only 14 and didn't have to think about that yet"? When he was 16 he transferred to a high school that was just starting a basketball program, and because it was brand new, he got on the team as a junior. Basketball became the surprise sport that motivated the rest of his high school career. He's a self-proclaimed non-academic who has been promoted at his salaried job with full benefits, in a setting he loves in a city a state away from us. He's forged a life there and tells us he's exactly where God wants him to be.
What more could we ask for?
Parenting Teen Boys, Part 3