Over the next week, two of my boys have birthdays that end in “teen.” Today, Jonah stepped fresh and eager into thirteen. Next Saturday, Josiah will swagger his way into fifteen. How could this be?
Slow down boys–I gave birth to you yesterday.
But really–I dig this stage. I feel like I finally understand why I had to go through the baby and toddler years: This is the reward. I mean, I love my kids at every stage, but certainly some years nearly killed me. Now that my boys are developing into young-version human beings…It’s all making sense. There was a purpose behind the pain. I LOVE who they are becoming.
So…I’ve been thinking a lot about these years–and how I can be the mom they need right now. God only knows I’ve messed up enough in every other stage, and I only hope they can forget about my mistakes. But these days…these teenage years: They’re short! Today my son becomes a teenager, and tomorrow he’ll be packing for college (God willing. :)) He won’t forget these years, and neither will I. So, what’s my role as Mom? How can I help the most?
Between conversations with other moms, plenty of books on the subject, and talking to my boys directly, I have come up with what I think are the eleven most important things…
Here they are:
1. A safe place to figure themselves out.
It happens almost every day, and sometimes many times a day: Teenagers are always changing. They will change their clothes. Their mood. How they walk, talk or what they’re into. Some days they just need to figure out what feels right. Some days nothing feels right. Being a teenager is hard. Sometimes our greatest job as Mom is to act like we don’t even notice.
Our boys need to know what is absolutely ok, and what is absolutely not. They may resist rules, but deep down they feel safe when there are clear-cut rules without exceptions. Make them clear and consistent, and have absolute consequences in place for when they break rules. Boundaries = Security.
Within those boundaries, teenage boys need the opportunity to stretch their wings. Teenage boys should be encouraged…Even pushed–to try new things, to take some risks, to find adventure. Given enough opportunities for healthy adventure, they will avoid a lot of trouble. (Remember–“Idle hands” and all of that…)
Keep boys busy doing character building, exciting activities and watch them become men before your eyes.
Side note: **My personal Mom-motto has aways been “With Freedom comes responsibility.” The minute my boys act in irresponsibly, they will lose freedom. So the freedoms we give are taken very seriously.
4. A Listening Ear.
Boys need to talk. Even the quietest ones will open up when given the chance. Get them alone, in the car or wherever you can, and make it clear that you WANT to hear about their interests, and their lives. Be patient, and try different times and places until you figure it out. I push through the ‘awkward,’ and bring up subjects that make my boys squirm (hello puberty!) but no one has died yet. This makes it clear that I am OK with any and every topic and I will always be available and comfortable talking.
**When asked what he most needs from me, this was the first thing my oldest son named. A Mom that can listen and not criticize or manipulate is a really valuable thing. (call me a work in progress here.)
5. A Sense of Humor.
This is the good stuff. Teenagers…are hilarious. This may be my very favorite thing about these years. No more knock-knock jokes or bad made-up jokes that never seem to come to a conclusion. Teenagers actually GET STUFF. There’s hardly anything like the bond of a good laugh with my boys.
When one of my boys come out laughing and want me to watch a funny Vine or YouTube Video, I drop everything for it.
Side note #1: As for us–**We have a rule of “clean” entertainment only. No swearing or anything off-color. And they know that if I find them following anyone inappropriate, I’ll remove their Vine/YouTube etc account (See #2))
Side note #2**I have a “I can check your phone, computer, etc anytime I want to–no questions asked.” This keeps everyone in check.
There is plenty of FUN and FUNNY entertainment out there if you look for it.
it’s a hard world: A good sense of humor will get your kid through many trials in life–So encourage it.
Your teenage son will likely pull away from you physically, and that is normal, albeit painful. But even the most rigid, sulky teenage boy needs hugs from Mom. Don’t get awkward and keep a distance. Create a “hug a day” rule or something that makes it routine and normal. He’ll love it even if he refuses to show it.
7. Genuine interest.
What does your teenager love? Learn to love it too. Know at least enough about what they are passionate about so that you can have a decent conversation. This will keep doors open greater than any other gesture you can make.
Teenagers will make mistakes. Lots of them. They’ll act selfish. They’ll space out. They’ll get insecure and do stupid things because of it. They are going to mess up so much you’ll wonder where you went wrong. If you know it’s coming, it won’t throw you off. Consequences may be in order, but so is a whole lot of grace.
Listen Mom: Your teenager actually WANTS you to give them guidance. Sure, they’ll act like they don’t, but they do. Keep it relevant, and as brief as possible, but when you see them facing forks in the road, go ahead and speak some good solid words of advice to them. Share a Bible Verse that fits their situation. Quote someone they might respect. You are their greatest resource they have, and they need your direction. They’ll thank you, even if it takes twenty years.
It’s hard to be a teenager. (remember?) The world will yell and scream all kinds of negatives to your son. So be his greatest fan. Be his cheerleader. Believe in him with your heart, and tell him that you do. Every. Single. Day. I’m not talking about phony, contrived encouragement (Everyone is a winner!) but the authentic kind that finds their greatest giftings, and speaks them boldly.
11. An example.
Our kids are watching us. They get a lot more of an idea about what is right, wrong, good and bad from what you do than what you say. So take your position seriously. No, you’ll never be perfect, and you can tell your kid that–but don’t use that fact as an excuse to be lame. If you don’t want them to swear, don’t swear. If you teach them to speak well of others, make sure you do the same. Probably the greatest thing you can do for your son is to model the kind of person you want them to be.
A common key to pretty much everything I have named is that Mom is involved in the teen’s life. To listen, or discipline..to share a joke, or a hug…you need to be in close proximity to your kids. For those moms that work long hours or cannot be physically involved in your children’s lives, I encourage you to creatively find solutions for this. You will never regret making sacrifices or adjustments so that you can be present for your children when they need you. And the thing with parenting is–you’re never really sure when they’ll need you. So being there as much as possible is key. Do what you are able, rely on others to help when you’re not able, and put your job as parent before anything that you possibly can.
I should add here that my husband and I are Christians, and our faith is woven into every item I listed above. God’s love is our motivation, and that is the environment we have raised our kids in. Though I did not go into that on each point, it is just a natural part of all we do.
Finally: If you’re like me, you’ll love parenting your teenage son. However at times it can feel like a crazy balancing act…Do they need more grace? More rules? Do they need space, or hugs, or advice, or WHAT!!!??? It’s ok. Pray a lot. Keep communication open and let your kid know that Frankly You don’t know what they need…But you want to be there for them. If you’ve invested in the early years, then the doors will be open and they will trust and respect you as teenagers too.
Share in comments anything you would like to add, or a question, experience, or suggestion for other moms too.
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