Parenting Teen Boys, Or How a Mom Can Actually Have a Relationship With Her Son, Part 4
I'm going to get a little philosophical with you, and then I'm going to tell you a story. Here's the philosophy part:
3. Mom, It's time for your role to change.
If you haven't already changed how you are relating to your son, it's time for you to go from mom/parent/authoritarian to mom/cheerleader/sister in Christ/number one fan.
There is an alternative, of course. If a mom continues to hold her son under her thumb, a young man will either go toe-to-toe with her, or he will retreat into his shell and quietly ignore her. I've had both kinds of sons.
Our firstborn was extremely logical, and he intuitively found every single loophole. Incidentally, he's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as an adult, and so there was a lot of extreme emotional and behavioral fluctuation thrown into the mix during his teen years. I tell you this so that those of you parenting young men with chemical imbalances can relate and take heart.
One day I woke up from the fog of emotionalism and told my husband Fletch that I would not argue with our son anymore. Instead, I would tell him, “Go take that up with Dad. I’m not going to argue with you anymore.” We have a healthy, supportive, teamwork marriage, so this works for us. Men have a built-in need for and natural respect thing that works in this scenario — as you well know, women don’t tend to operate this way.
Our growing sons crave receiving and showing respect, but they will crumble, flee, or retreat under a mother who is still operating as parent/authoritarian.
That's an important thing to remember: Our growing sons crave receiving and showing respect, but they will crumble, flee, or retreat under a mother who is still operating as parent/authoritarian.
But what if you don’t have a husband to turn a son to? Is there a trusted male in your life whom your son does respect?
The story of Nate and Gramps
Our second son Nate was ready for college by the time he hit his junior year of high school. He applied to several schools, but his heart was set on one particular California Christian college, and when he was accepted, he pretty much packed his suitcase that afternoon.
There was only one problem: The school in question cost over $42,000 per year, and Nate did not qualify for scholarships. As we explained that our finances would not allow for us to pay for his education outright, and as he was majoring in education, we didn't feel the debt he would incur was wise. He stubbornly resisted all of our attempts to persuade him otherwise.
Finally, Fletch said to Nate, "Is there a man in your life whose wisdom regarding finances you respect?" Nate replied that, yes, he would be willing to talk to his grandfather, my dad.
One summer evening, my dad drove the hour-and-a-half to our home and sat on the back porch with Nate. He patiently laid out the reality of what it would mean for Nate to take on that amount of school debt, and by the end of their conversation, Nate had made the decision not to go to the school he was dreaming of.
In the end, he took a gap year and worked, saving a nice amount of money for himself. He met and began dating the girl who eventually became his wife. He applied to a different school that offered him financial incentive, and he absolutely loved his years on campus there. Looking back, he sees how God redirected him toward what was going to be a much, much better fit for him.
The point to this story, of course, is not that Nate's narrative turned out to be overwhelmingly positive. The point is that he didn't have the ears to hear what his dad and I were telling him, but he would listen to the man he respected the most on the topic of finances and life direction. Sometimes you have to bring in the big guns, and in the meantime, be humble enough to know when to back off and let God use someone else in the life of your son.
In the midst of it all, my role, my job, my relationship with Nate was as his mom, cheerleader, sister in Christ, and number one fan.
We’ll wrap this series up next time, so stay tuned. You’re a good mom!