Parenting Teen Boys, Or How a Mom Can Actually Have a Relationship With Her Son, Conclusion

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So now what? Now that we recognize that we've been nit-picking our sons to distraction, now that we realize what terrific micro-managers we are, what is the next step?

Now we stop nit-picking. We stop micro-managing. We start praying! We start trusting that the Holy Spirit is a far better teacher than we will ever be in the lives of our sons.

Do we still take the opportunity to speak into their lives? Absolutely yes. But we cannot be the only voice, and we need to make more deposits into their emotional "banks" than withdrawals.

I don’t like the color of his tennis shoes? I have to let it go.

I don’t like the project he chose to work on for his English class? I have to let it go.

I don’t like the music he’s currently listening to? If it’s not a moral issue, I have to let it go.

Choose your battles carefully and become an expert in tongue biting over the non-essentials. You will lose that son if you are constantly micro-managing him.

One day when our oldest son was about 14, I remember him yelling in frustration at me,  “I can never do anything right!” And he was absolutely correct. He couldn't do anything right because I was making every little thing a big deal — the clothes he wore, the music he chose, the food he would or wouldn't eat, the books he checked out from the library . . . In it all, he knew that I was never even giving him the benefit of the doubt. My heart sank.

Let the non-essentials go. It's time. Remember: Your role begins to change now from mom/parent/authoritarian to mom/cheerleader/Sister in Christ/number one fan.

Instead of looking for all the ways I can correct, all the things he’s doing wrong, all of my opinions that I feel he must know and absorb, I’m instead looking for ways to say, “Hey, that’s awesome! Good for you! You did a really good job there!”

Some of us have kids who dream outrageously. I had one of those, too. He used to tell me all about the penthouse he was going to purchase for himself after he made millions. He wanted to move to Manhattan and drive a Porsche and live the high life. Of course, as the older, wiser human in the conversation, my mental response was, "Uh-huh. Sure."

But listen to how this response to the outrageous dream might feel to a young man who's got one foot in childhood and one dipping a toe into manhood: “You are going to live in a penthouse and have a chauffeur? Great idea! Do that to the glory of God.” I could have said, “That’s the dumbest idea in the world. Do you know how expensive a penthouse is?”, but what’s the point? Life itself will teach him those things in time. Or maybe he'll actually own a penthouse in Manhattan. Either way, be his number one fan.

Life will teach him those things. Be his biggest fan.

Think of how being his cheerleader changes the trajectory for a kid growing up in your home. Instead of telling him, “I could have told you you were going to lose that soccer match. You didn’t get enough sleep, you didn’t work hard enough, and you were lazy all week”, say, “You know what, you got out there and it was hard and did you learn some things from that?”

And here’s that beautiful moment when we can be their humble Sister in Christ who says, “You know what, I’m still learning stuff in my life, too.”

If we are the final word, the one who makes the best choices for them, the one who knows how and what they should be doing, then we’ve just replaced the need for the Holy Spirit in their lives. We lose the opportunity to point them to Jesus when we set ourselves up in His place in their lives.

Finally, if I've learned anything as the mom of five sons, it's that I am a really lousy substitute for the power of God in the life of my sons. I'm a much better cheerleader than team owner. They don't need me to own the team anyway. They need to know that I believe in them, and that I am praying every day for God's glory to shine in their lives!

Did you know that Kendra speaks on the topic of Moms and Teen Boys at churches, retreats, and conferences? You can learn more about how to book her here.

Parenting Teen Boys, Or How a Mom Can Actually Have a Relationship With Her Son, Part 2

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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, Or How a Mom Can Actually Have a Relationship With Her Son


I am the mom of five sons: three adults, one 10-year-old, and one intellectually disabled 9-year-old. This does not make me an expert; it means I am experienced and tired and middle-aged. We started young. I was just 22 when we had our firstborn. In my 20's and 30's, I possessed boundless energy for the parenting of the three little boys who soon shared our home, and I loved being the mom of those exuberant, funny, and often plain-crazy boys.

Life was pretty simple. The floors were strewn with Legos, the appetites were boy-sized, and there were varying degrees of homeschool love and hate, depending on the boy, the subject, the weather, the mood, the time of year.

And Then They Became Teens

Then something unexpected happened. I mean, not totally unexpected; I had been a teen and had teen brothers and had oft been warned by strangers in the grocery check-out line, "Just wait until they're teeeeeenagers." But this undetectable switch was flipped in their brains and suddenly the boys who were interested in historical war stories and world domination through Minecraft and seeing who could eat the most jalapeños, weren't. 

It wasn't just the academic stuff, either. Laundry? Why? Clean teeth? What's the point? Video games? Well, yes. All day, every day, if given the option.

I began to see a lot of foot dragging, and because we homeschool, there began the season of pretending to do school work. “Is your math done?” — emphatic nodding — "Yep!" And then of course they'd bring me their math book and nothing had been done for weeks. (Before the homeschool naysayers load their guns, here's the deal: We'd gone through a period of excellent self-motivation prior to this 12-year-old transformation thing. I had no reason to doubt their integrity up to this point. Think: kid pretending to do homework. Same thing.)

And Then They Have Exactly Zero Goals

I also noticed in one of our boys that there were absolutely no life goals, short term or long. Apparently, spending the rest of your life on a Nintendo is a perfectly viable goal. Rather, not having the goal of spending one's life doing anything was the goal. I think. 

One afternoon I was driving down a long country road with our third son, Jack. By number three, I was a seasoned pro at this unmotivated teenage boy gig, and I was recognizing the signs. I thought maybe it was time to light a fire, at least mentally. "Hey Jack. What do you want to do with your life?” At the time, he had been learning to play golf and was out on the course at least once a week. "Do you want to be a professional golfer?" Whatever is pausier than a pause, that's how Jack responded. Dead silence. And then he spoke.

“Mom, I’m only 13. I don’t have to think about that.”

If he had been able to communicate what was really going through his brain at the time, it was likely more in line with "I don't know, I don't care. I get up, I eat breakfast, I go back to bed, I disappear. This is working for me."

I've learned now how to move through this season of a teen boy's life without destroying our mother/son relationship, and next time I'll share with you some things that I think can help yours, too. There's hope ahead!! 

This is Jack (with his sister Abby). He eventually graduated. In fact, on time, which seemed nigh impossible around age 12.

This is Jack (with his sister Abby). He eventually graduated. In fact, on time, which seemed nigh impossible around age 12.

Just a couple of years ago. They are now 24, 22, 20, 10, and 9.

Just a couple of years ago. They are now 24, 22, 20, 10, and 9.

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