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. 

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?