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 4

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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!

Nate and Jayne's wedding, December 2016

Nate and Jayne's wedding, December 2016




Parenting Teen Boys, Or How a Mom Can Actually Have a Relationship With Her Son, Part 3

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Catch the first two posts in this series:

Parenting Teen Boys, Part 1

Parenting Teen Boys, Part 2

affiliate links below

If you're still with me after the last post, I commend you. It's terribly difficult to give up micro-managing kids, especially if you've been a hands-on mom. 

When our oldest was 17, I read a parenting book that shot me right between the eyes. There, on page one, the author had the audacity to point out that I was a micro-managing fanatic, and that it was probably killing my relationships with my kids. I felt this one in my gut. 

Today I want to encourage you to not just overlook the choices that might be making you cringe, but to think about what is really driving your teen at the moment. It might be food. Or cars. Or, yes, video games. But beyond those basic teen guy interests, what is it that really lights a fire for your son? 

Get him to start thinking about his future, then stoke the fire.

2. Stoke the Fire

Your job is to stoke the fire. Help your son to hone his skills, even if they've lain dormant for a couple of years. Was he passionate about STEM subjects as a tween? Sports? Music? Serving others? What is it that can garner a risen eyebrow from your son if the topic comes up?

If you don't know where to begin or he, like one of our sons, declares that he has no idea what he likes or what he's good at, consider career assessment so he can begin to think about the options. We told our son that living at home indefinitely was not going to be a viable option, so he might start thinking now about what he wants to do with the rest of his life. 

  • We used the Career Explorations Workbook from 7 Sisters and found it to be thorough and helpful. 
  • If life skills are more of an issue and areas like money management and study skills need to be covered, consider the Life Skills for Teens live class with Mr. D. This was time and money well spent for us.

Give him the tools he needs.

Whether the fire for your son starts as a tiny ember barely burning or comes on like a forest blaze, be ready to give him all the tools and encouragement he needs. He will sense your support if you jump all in with him. What if his great burning passion dies out within a month or two? Well, then, you've gained his trust that you are on his team and his number one fan. And that's where the next post is going . . .

The best parenting book I've ever read (and the one that called me out for micro-managing my teen):

The 7 Sisters Career Exploration Bundle is easy to print out and can be used in correlation with any high school coursework.