THINGS NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT PARENTING A TEENAGE BOY
By Becky Mansfield
Raising our four children, including raising a teenage son, is the joy of my life. We have three boys and one little girl. Our daughter is young and we have not reached the “pre-teen” years yet, but our sons are a different story.
While I love being a Boy Mom to our sons, it has opened my eyes to many things. There is a big difference between young kids, tween boys (and girls) and teens.
In fact, one of my favorite parts of the day (and also the one that is the hardest for me because I’m exhausted) is when I stay up late to talk to our older boys before they go to bed.
Those late-night chats are the best ones (we started these bedtime talks when they were young), even if it means that my dark circles are a little darker the next day. Zzzzzz… but worth every minute! It’s the best piece of parenting advice I could ever give – use your time wisely. Have the late-night chats. They’re worth it.
THINGS NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT PARENTING TEEN SONS…
Many of my friends and readers are parents to teenagers… many of them are parents to teen sons. Last week, we were talking about the things that no one tells you about parenting a teenage boy.
We gathered up that advice about raising a teen boy (thanks to a lot of boys’ moms!) and used it to build today’s list of the things that no one tells you about parenting teenage sons.
1. THEY NEED YOU TO LISTEN
Years ago, I heard invaluable advice: “Once your child reaches the age of 13 or 14 they know your opinion of everything under the sun. Your job from now on is to shut up and listen.”
I remember feeling a bit defensive the first time I heard this counsel. I had so much knowledge yet to share! And besides, things change—how would I offer my wisdom on future problems? But there’s the crux of it all.
Things change. As adults, we think we know all about the teenage world, but this swiftly moving planet has spun beyond our intimate knowledge of the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s. And here’s what I’ve learned: when you take the time to listen, truly listen, your kids will ask your opinion.” ~ Michelle Lehnardt, TODAY.COM
2. THEY NEED YOU TO TEACH THEM IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THEM
Teaching our children that they are not the center of the universe is important, and it’s a hard lesson to teach when they ARE the center of our universe. My friend and fellow blogger Kristen Welch says, “When our kids begin to expect – even demand – more than our love, that’s when we have a problem. What our culture feels entitled to isn’t just stuff.
“It’s the desire to fit in, to feel good or happy all the time; it’s the desire for instant gratification and the demand to receive something just because we want it, hard work optional.
“Research proves there’s a direct link between low self-esteem and materialism. We give our kids more because we think it will make us all feel better, but it actually places a higher value on things than on relationships. And often our kids don’t need more stuff or more freedom; they just need more of us.”
3. PEOPLE WHO LOOK AND LIVE DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU HAVE VALUE, TOO.
Teach your children to make friends across color, sex, and religion… and do the same yourself. You’ll both be better people because of it. When kids see that you socialize only with others just like you, they will question your credibility.
“Be curious!” Janet Penn says. Teach your children to travel outside their community/country and listen and learn.
4. TEACH EMPATHY
You don’t have to experience someone’s pain – just acknowledge it and let them know that you are there.
“Discuss current events with your children and ask them how they think the people in the story might be feeling. It can also help to discuss situations that your teenager might see on TV shows with fictional characters. Ask them if they relate to a particular person in the show and why.
“Then, ask them what other characters might be thinking and feeling. (Hint: The musical “Wicked” is a good example of how we are trained to only see a story from one perspective. This musical tells the story of the wicked witch in the Land of Oz from a very different viewpoint!).
“Modeling is very important. It’s okay to let your teenagers see that you are human too. For example, tell them a story about a time when you might have suspected a friend was in trouble, what you were thinking about at the time, and what you did to help.” ~ Melbourne Child Psychology
5. YOU CAN’T FORCE SOMEONE TO LIKE YOU
It is important for our children to know that not everyone will like you. No matter what you do, there will still be people who do not like you. You can’t change it. You can’t do anything about it, except to be kind and move on.
I remind my kids that as long as their FAMILY is with them, they always have people loving them, so that can be enough. Be kind and sensitive to others, but don’t expect everyone to like you and don’t try to force it – it will never work. The quicker our children accept this fact of life, the better off they will be and less likely they will be to retaliate when someone DOESN’T like them. Rejection is a part of life.
6. DON’T EXPECT INSTANT COMPLIANCE
My friend Samantha once told me that she never expects her kids to stop what they are doing and instantly do what she asks. She always respects the fact that her children need a minute to finish what they are doing before they can move on to her tasks. IF her kids are reading, she asks them to finish the paragraph and then ______ (take the garbage out, etc.)
Just as we would not be expected to jump up as soon as our spouse or child calls us, they should be given enough respect to finish what they are doing before moving on to your task.
7. YOUR WAY WILL NOT ALWAYS BE THE BEST WAY.
Be open to looking at things from another viewpoint. “We use the numbers 6 and 9 to teach students about different points of view. First, have students look at number 6 and then number 9.
Explain to students that the idea for this exercise came from an old Middle Eastern legend in which two princes were at war for many years.
One prince looked at the image on the table and said it was a 6, while the other prince said it was a 9. For years the battle raged, and then one day when the princes were seated at the table a young boy turned the tablecloth around, and for the first time, they could see the other’s point of view. The war came to an end, and the princes became firm friends.” – Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers.
7. NO MEANS NO.
When dating, understand that No means No and not try harder. “In the age of #MeToo, parents across the country have been wrestling with the anxieties of raising teenage boys to understand consent.” ~ Washington Post
“When someone tells you no, they mean they do not want whatever it is you are offering. Think before you react.
“Your date or yourself can at any time change their/your mind. You may have been in the mood and now you’re not, that’s okay. If you take your date out for drinks and she drinks a little too much, take her home, help her to the door and then tell her goodbye.
“Call and check on her in the morning. Remember the legal drinking age is 21! Lastly, abuse of any kind is a sign of weakness. Real men do not need to build themselves up by making another person feel weak.” ~ Errin Spencer, ModernMom
Remember… One bad decision can change EVERYTHING.
At the same point, NO means NO when your son says it, or when he thinks it. Teach him that he has the power to say NO and he has the power and the right to follow his instinct when he feels like it is not the right decision.
8. YOUR GREATEST CONVERSATIONS WILL HAPPEN IN THE CAR.
“My teenagers hate, hate, HATE when I talk on the phone while driving with them. Even if they aren’t in the mood to chat, they don’t like to be treated like a bag of groceries on the seat next to me.
“Sometimes, I need to take the call, but I find my kids are happier if I keep it short and offer an apology. I don’t spend nearly as many hours with my teenagers as I did when they were little, and I need to have a listening ear when we are together. It’s not that teens need to be treated like they are the center of the universe—they just need to know they matter to you.
“And if they do accidentally scratch the paint on your car or dent a golf club, they need to know they are more important than any object. When kids feel valued, they value their relationship with you.” ~ Michelle Lehnardt, Scenes from the Wild.
9. DELAY THEIR GRATIFICATION.
“The classic Marshmallow Experiment of 1972 involved placing a marshmallow in front of a young child, with the promise of a second marshmallow if he or she could refrain from eating the squishy blob while a researcher stepped out of the room for 15 minutes.
Follow-up studies over the next 40 years found that the children who were able to resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow grew up to be people with better social skills, higher test scores, and a lower incidence of substance abuse.
“They also turned out to be less obese and better able to deal with stress. To help kids build this skill, train them to have habits that must be accomplished every day–even when they don’t feel like doing them.” ~ Christina DesMarais
10. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR LIFE.
Take responsibility for the wins and for the losses. If you don’t like something in your life, don’t blame someone else. Take responsibility and work hard to fix it. Change what you don’t like, but don’t leave it up to anyone else.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll
Not “Little Boys” yet not quite grown
I learned several years ago that those years between being a boy and being a man are the important ones.
Those years, when they are preteens and teenagers are the ones that really matter, the ones that make the difference – just learning to be a young man, in middle school or high school.
When our sons are not quite little boys anymore, yet not quite grown.
These are the Years that Matter…
They are young men that are changing every day, between the tween and teen years.
Research shows that we need to spend more time with them when they are in the teenage years.
I encourage you to find something that your child enjoys doing and do it with him: Play that video game, shoot hoops, throw a ball around in the yard, just sit and talk to them, go somewhere with them, but just be with your son.
He won’t be that 13- or 14-year-old son for much longer, so use this time to raise him to be the man that you want him to be as an adult.
These are the moments that make a difference… it’s the key to connecting with your teenagers. These teenage years are so important!
Mom and Dad might not be the people that they want to spend all of their time with, but it makes a huge difference in their ‘teen behavior.’ We set limits and teach them, but more than that, we show them how we act and behave ‘in real life.’