What You Should Do Before Your Son Starts Puberty
Welcome to Part One in my series on Parenting Teen (and Pre-Teen) Boys! Since I announced this series last week I have received so many great questions and requests for topics to cover. I’m wondering if my six-week series might turn into sixteen weeks!
^^Photo from a few years ago, when all of my boys were pre-teen…
I should also mention that each post in this series could probably be an entire series on its own. I have so much to say (and passion, in case you don’t notice,) about all of this that it’s taking a whole lot of restraint to keep my points relatively short and sweet.
I wanted to start off this series addressing the true right of passage to the teenage years: PUBERTY. Puberty is full of all kinds of fun (awkward, exciting…) topics, like mood swings, and pubic hair, and stinky armpits, and…yes, I’m gonna cover it ALL.
Before I dive into all of that pubescent excitement, I really felt that I needed to cover some Pre-Puberty topics. Some of these might be a bit more technical, but they are so important! This post is laying a foundation for all of the others, so no matter what age your kids are, I think you’ll find something helpful here.
So…Here’s my list of what I think are the most important things to have in place before your son hits puberty. I am adding some examples from our family because people have asked for that. Sorry it’s long–You can choose by bullet point if you want to! 🙂
1. Strengthen your relationship.
I encourage you to develop strong bonds with your son before he hits puberty. If you wouldn’t describe your relationship as strong right now, this is the time to work on it. You don’t want to wait for your kids to be thick into puberty before deciding you should get to know them a little better. Build bonds now and you’ll have a good chance of keeping them into the teenage years. This may take some humility (“I’m sorry for how much I’ve had to work, and how little time we’ve had together,” or “I’ve let you down by not following through in the past, but I want to work on that.”) It might take some planning and effort (especially if your family is split,) but you can do it. Make a commitment to a regular time to connect, and be sure you can follow through with what you promise. This will establish a trust and security between you two that is likely to last through the sometimes muddier waters of puberty and beyond. (My “Seven Weekly Habits” download can help give you some practical ideas for this! It is a free gift for all subscribers.)
2. Make your internet safe.
Parents: If you take nothing else from this post, I hope you’ll come away with this: Please get filters on all of your devices! I know, I know–it’s a hassle, and some of you have been meaning to, but just haven’t gotten around to it. I understand because we put it off for a long time too. But hear me: It’s not worth the risk! Even if you think your kid isn’t at risk, or that they have no interest in finding damaging content, hear me now: it will find them! Enticing materials and pornography will show up in all kinds of unexpected places, and it takes very little to grab a boy’s attention and potentially change the course of his life. (I’ll be dedicating an entire post to boys and pornography because I think it is a super important issue.) But for now, just this: Get a filter. On every computer, and every device.
We use Covenant Eyes on all of our devices, and it costs just a few dollars a month. Of course there are plenty of other filters to choose from (some free ones I am sure!) Find one and take the time to set it all up.
3. Educate yourself on social media and games.
(I think I heard a few of you just groan. Hang in there…)
There is so much to say on this topic, but here’s the bottom line: Our kids are growing up in an age of technology, and if we’re letting them use it, we need to get to know it too. I understand that some parents aren’t interested in social media, and that’s ok. But ignorance is no excuse. At least take the time to research the games and apps that your kids are using. (Google is good for that.) Decide what you feel good about, and what you don’t. Set boundaries (you can say no!) and be ready to continually learn more and adjust.
I hear from so many people about how much time their kids spend on devices and gaming. Parents are bummed that their kids have lost interest in everything else. To that I just want to remind you of who is the parent. Rise up! You can set rules, unplug, or throw away a device any time you want. Sure, they may push back. They may get angry. But one day they will thank you.
In our family: We don’t give our kids cell phones until it seems necessary and/or they have proven trustworthy and responsible. (Our second son just got a phone at fourteen, and my husband thinks we should have waited longer.) We put filters on kids phones, and set plenty of rules for it–like turning them in to us at 9:00 PM. Our kids are required to get permission before getting any new apps, and we say no to plenty of them. (Guess what? Not being on Snap-Chat didn’t kill them.) We have reserved the right to scroll through their phones any time, and occasionally we do. If they abuse any rules or overuse their phones or devices, they lose them for an appropriate period of time.
Time on devices: Our kids get thirty minutes on their devices to play games each day, and that is only after school work and chores have been done. During the summer, if they had extra time, they got a second half-hour in exchange for an extra chore, but only if they were in good standing. (had a good attitude that day, getting along with siblings, etc.)
Blessings: Now our boys are learning to regulate their own use of their devices. Our oldest son has created rules for himself, for example he makes sure that he doesn’t spend more time playing games than the time he spent reading his Bible and journaling. (how’s that for a first-born overachiever?) It is really rewarding to see kids internalize the concept of healthy boundaries as they recognize the benefits of how we have raised them.
More about social media and kids: (Sorry, this is a huge topic!) Because I am on social media, I totally get our kids’ interest in it. So I try to emphasize the positive use of social media, and have regular talks with our boys about our “online reputation,” as well as all of the pros and cons of various social media sites. We have talked about how social media can be used to bless, or hurt other people. Kids need to understand that anything they put out there will live somewhere, forever. It is important to realize that for the sake of their future – jobs, relationships etc., they should take the responsibility of having an online presence very seriously!
4. Have “the S-E-X talk(s).”
I believe in talking about sex very naturally as kids are growing up. As far as getting to the more serious sex talks, the goal is to talk to your kids about all of the things before someone else does (or they go searching.) This should all begin well before puberty! You want your son to hear the facts from you, and you want him to know that you are available for any questions that he might have. The Talk, ideally, will be an on-going conversation, not a one time talk.
Though the conversations should start much younger, I love the idea of a set time where Dad takes his pre-teen boy away for a weekend. A time the boy knows is coming and anticipates as a certain rite-of-passage. During the time away, Dad and son can focus on talking about all of the things, (following a book or video series if it helps.) Then they combine it with some dad-son bonding through camping, sports, or something else.
If Dad isn’t able to get away with the son, that’s ok. Talk at home. Mom can be there too. I’m pretty sure I started talking first and brought my husband in a little later. (I’m generally the talker in the family.)
Our family has been less structured, but very natural about the sex topic. We have used real words for body parts, and have been completely open to questions. We have also used this series: God’s Design for Sex Series, 4 Books (Amazon Affiliate Link.) There are four books in the series, and I like it because it starts really young with great introductory topics. Then by the time you get to the more “awkward” subjects, the kids are familiar with the series and a lot more comfortable with all of it. (You can also buy the books individually for whatever age you want to.)
There are plenty of other resources out there, so I recommend you talk to trusted friends who have gone before you to help you find the best resource for your family.
In addition to any books or resources you may use, I think it is important to just get comfortable talking about the subject of sex naturally as things come up.
In our family, as topics come up, I very plainly break into a little Q and A right on the spot. Q & A, as in: Me posing the Q’s and the A’s! (Isn’t that tricky? ) For example, after seeing something on t.v, I might say, “You might be wondering how that teenage girl is pregnant when she isn’t even married. Are you curious about that? Well, remember when Dad and I talked to you about how babies are made? Well we used the example or a husband and wife, but sometimes…” and on the story will go. As I throw out my sample Q and A’s, the kids get more comfortable bringing up questions of their own!
Even when they act like they don’t want to hear it, I talk to my boys comfortably and positively, knowing that they are learning, even if they’re squirming.
(More on this stuff in the actual PUBERTY post coming soon.)
5. Start normalizing puberty.
Before they get a stray hair or a pimple, it’s good to just start talking about puberty. Let them know it’s coming. Speak about it positively and naturally. Cast a vision for the man that they will become and remind them that when puberty starts they are well on their way.
In our family: My boys all seemed to get stinky armpits long before anything else, so that was an easy introduction. I would give them deodorant and let them know that stinky armpits is just the beginning of many more body changes. They felt pretty proud when I would compliment them on how manly they smell after a shower and some fresh deodorant.
6. Teach positive socialization.
Before they hit puberty, it’s good to encourage your boys to become socially aware. Talk to them about friendships–from what to look for in a friend, to how to be a good friend. Get to know their friends. If you see red flags or get that parental instinct that one of their friends is not a good influence, follow your gut.
Before they’ve entered puberty you want your kids to understand peer pressure, and to anticipate it. Talk to them (role play if you can) about how to handle it if someone they thought was a good friend tried to steer them in the wrong direction. Let them know very matter-of-factly that as they hit their teen years some kids will begin to make bad choices, and they may have to let some friendships go.
My motto: Talk about issues before they are issues!
7. Make sure they’re active.
As boys near the beginning of puberty, I highly encourage you to get them doing something active, regularly. Even if they don’t love sports, you can still teach them that exercise is a lifelong habit, and make it a requirement. Give them options: From swimming at a local pool, to jogging, to a rec. center or fitness program. O how much easier will puberty be if your boys are active!
Our family, as many of you know, is by nature very active. But besides surfing and skating, my boys have disciplined themselves to regularly go running, as well as do resistance work and other activities for general fitness. Starting their days with activity really makes the whole day better!
I’m sure I am missing something, but this post is already the longest post ever…I hope you grabbed a few new thoughts, or some healthy reminders out of it. The next posts in the series will build on this foundation, so be sure to come back for more thoughts on raising teen boys.
Leave me more questions, more requests, or stories from your own experience below in comments! We can all learn from each other!
And if you found this post helpful or encouraging, please do share it using social media buttons below! 🙂 Mahalo!
Find the other posts in the series:
What to expect when your son starts puberty
Kids and Porn
Teens and their Peers: What they Need Most, and How you can Help
Teenage Boys and Dating
Teen/Pre-Teen boys, Q and A
I am so glad to have found you through IEW’s podcast! I already subscribed & now am catching up on many of your previous posts. I have 3 boys aged 9, 11, 13. Thank you! I am loving your blog!
OH thank you so much Olivia!! So happy you found me too, and I look forward to getting to know you! 🙂 Our boys would get along great! Much aloha-
So great! Four boy mama here, too, but my oldest just turned nine, so this is perfect. Looking forward to reading the whole series.
Yay! So glad you are here and truly hope these offer a bit of support and encouragement. Blessings to you as you make your way through it. And most of all, enjoy! aloha-
Thank you, thank you, thank you!! You articles are a blessing to read!! I’m so glad I found you. Here’s to all us parents raising godly young men!
Thank you for sharing your boy mom wisdom and helping other moms as we venture into preteens, puberty, and the teen years. My husband and I have 3 boys (7,9,&11) and we try our best to keep everything open and comfortable for discussion. We’ve laid some pretty good foundations and I pray every day that we are raising our boys to be Godly men. We’re doing what we can and letting God do the rest. I’m so excited to see the men my guys become.
I just wanted to add to not hesitate to have ‘the talk’ if there’s no dad in the picture. My husband passed away three years ago and so now instead of him, I do the weekend away and have ‘the talk’. It’s probably even more important when there’s no daily example to follow.
Also even when you’re open about this kind of stuff in your daily life (as we are) you’ll be surprised at the amount of questions they still have. I thought I had covered a lot of them, but they still have questions.
Boy #2 is also much more advanced than boy #1. His hormones are surging at age 10 already. (Started at age 8/9). So don’t think you can wait. Better early than late in this case.
Fantastic post! As a mom of 3 boys I can agree with all of this. You also have me some good reminders of things I may have let slip.
Aw, thank you Hannah!! Love hearing that, and cheers to a fellow boy-momma! 🙂 Aloha-
It’s is a bit long, but I don’t think I would have shortened it since you highlight many good points to cover. I’m looking forward to the next segment.
Great article! Sadly, I haven’t even considered filters as they’re not on the computer often, though I have restrictions on all devices. Immediately downloaded Covenant Eyes. Can’t wait to read more!
This is the perfect time for me to be reading this post since my only son will be 11 next month. The information you have is great. I have some concerns for my situation however because I am a single mother. My son doesn’t have a male in his life that is super close to him like a father. I’m nervous and not even sure if he will open up to me about these things. Also I’m sure there are things that being a woman I will not be able to relate to or explain. Do you have any advice for me on this?
Oh I’m so glad that the timing is good for you, Christine! I understand your concerns, but don’t let that get to you. Yes, I do encourage you to find some solid role models (at least one!?) for your son–if you can get him plugged into a good church with youth leaders that he might connect with, that is a great option. But, overall, I spend a lot more time talking to my boys about touchy subjects than my husband does. I’m thankful to have my husband here if I need him, but truth be told: I’m still the one to do a lot of the talking. You don’t need to relate to everything. You just need to know what a boy will face and talk about it comfortably so he knows he can come to you when he needs to. You must believe in yourself: You can handle this and God will provide if you look to Him! Aloha-
Hi. My grandson has a developmental delay. He is 11 now and physically probably about 13 but psychologically maybe about 8 Do you have any advice or references in how to guide us both through this challenging time ? I have responsibility for his upbringing
Thank you so much for this I have 3 boys 2 of which are already married. I had asked my then husband (their dad) to n have ‘that conversation’ with them which I only found out later he hadn’t…with my youngest being 14 he has started puberty I do have a great relationship with him however still find this very helpful thank you again
Monica, thank you! We have a 12 year old son and this was very timely for us. Question, what internet filters do you use? There are so many choices out there. Thank you!
Ok- I just realized you listed two!! Thank you!
At what age should I consider beginning the “sex talk” and what type of content would that initial talk involve? I have an 8 and a half year old boy. I want to make sure he hears what he needs to know from his father and me.
Hey Paige (btw–my middle name is Paige–I’ve always loved it! :)) I shared the book series that we used, and I believe it starts around 5!! So your 8 year old is definitely ready. Like I said, we don’t have “the talk,” we just begin to talk as it is age appropriate as they grow up. Keeping it open and comfortable will help so much as they get older and are ready for more serious talks! Using a book helps me ease into things, but there are many ways to approach it. Being as comfortable as possible will help your son also be comfortable!
Thanks for doing this! I lost my mother almost 4 years ago and I have recognized that I need more experienced and wiser women in my life. Since you are just a FEW years ahead of me in age and your children ages I value your experiences and wisdom so much. Don’t worry about the series and posts being long, it would have read more!!!
Thank you thank you thank you! This information could not have came at a better time!! I have 4 children 3 boys 1 girl. My oldest is in 6th grade and luckily we have a great bond him and I, but he’s a rollercoaster with everyone! I’ve already signed up for the filter hopefully not to late, but like they say better late then never. I’ve been struggling honestly on how to keep it all together with him. My kids are amazing I have to say. They do their chores, homework, and love family time. They are all very close to me, but I do feel I’ve missed out on the conversation about bad friends, and the steps of puberty. Thank you for this wonderful info!
This was a great post. I have a 9 1/2 year old so have been thinking about this. I had great plans this summer – starting with the lifecycle of the butterfly and to start the sex talk. We did the butterflies : ) I know they will be having the “talk” in school this year so I wanted to talk to him about it before that – this has given me the motivation to carry on even though it didn’t happen as planned! And some good pointers too. Thank you!
The my parents handled “negative peer influences” was pure genius. When one friend’s bad attitude was a bad influence, my parents said, “You can hang out with whoever you want, but if we see that they’re influencing you, rather than the other way around, then it’s over.” They showed me that they respected and trusted me, and had high expectations, and they made it my choice, based upon my own behavior, whether I could keep seeing this friend or not. Their trust and their mercy (I didn’t have a lot of friends to choose from, being a nerd kid at a small school) strengthened me to resist my friend’s bad influence while still enabling me (and her) to be less alone.
Oooh, wow! I never actually leave comments, but I had to stop here to say, thank you SO much!! Our oldest son is about to turn 10 & this article definitely left me better equip and confident.
I am SO happy to hear that Crystal! (and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, it really does mean a lot to me! ;)) My hope in writing this series was to hear exactly what you just wrote. Bless you and enjoy the ride!!
I have a question for you concerning the filters…did you let your boy sknow that you put a filter on their devices and yours, or did you just do it without them knowing??
These are fabulous reminders; I love every point! I have 3 super-active boys, with one about to start middle school (eeeek!) We also used the God’s Design 4-book series for the sex talk; super useful. Love the dad-son getaway idea. We may modify it into a one-day getaway 🙂 Thanks for these very applicable tips!
Thank you so much for this series. We have just entered this phase with our older son and any and all advice is most welcome. 🙂
I don’t think I can adequately express how fantastic this post is. Thank you for taking the time to write down all this information in one awesome place. I will be following this series for sure. I love that you have addressed filters and learning about tech and games. As someone who makes a living on social media this is huge. You ROCK!
Thank you so much Debi! That means a lot to me. It means a lot that you took time to tell me! 😉 Aloha!!
I feel like 10 is too young to talk about sex. Am I being naive? Our son is homeschooled & we are together most of the time so I don’t think there is much chance of it coming up before we talk to him about it…however it is on my mind. I did show him some books on the topic & asked if he was interested in learning more about these things & he said “no.”
haha, I know Sarah, it does seem young. But you can go in slowly..age appropriate conversations. We are the same with homeschooling, but we just began the conversation in a way that was understandable but not overwhelming either. Boys will often say “no,” but then their little minds will wonder and they often find somewhere to get answers. The more you let them know that you are the resource, they will learn to be comfortable talking to you. 🙂 Enjoy this ride my friend!
I a really looking forward to this series! I have three boys and the oldest is 12, so we are well on our way! I wanted to see the books you recommend (God’s Design for Sex) to see if it was the same series we have been using, but the link in the post does not seem to be working. I found them on Amazon thru my own search, but you may want to fix that link! Thanks again!!
Hey Shelly–So glad you’re tracking down the books. And I’m sorry my link was not working. I had no idea! :0. I’ll look into that now! 😉 Aloha-
Thank you for ALL this info!!!! I have 2 boys (8,7) and a girl(6). This is so helpful!!!! Keep it coming and thank you thank you!!!
Question: what Age did you start talking or lightly touching on sex with your boys? Xo
Thank you Valerie! So encouraging. 🙂
I think we talked somewhat naturally though our homeschooling etc as they were all pretty young (third or fourth grade,) but I remember beginning the book series that i refer to in the post when I was newly pregnant with Levi…Which means their ages were 10, 8, and 6. We started with the youngest book in the series and they were all totally ready for it, so clearly we could have started the older ones earlier! 🙂
This was so helpful! My oldest son is 11 and everything on this post applied to him right now. I didn’t think I needed those filters on our electronics, but you’re right, better safe than sorry, so I will be downloading them to all our devices. Thank you for sharing, you are such a blessing Monica!
I am so glad to hear that, Lucy! I totally understand anyone who thinks they don’t need filters, (or that their kids are still young for them,) as I used to think the same way. But I’ve learned so much recently and I completely convinced that indeed–we all do need them! You are a blessing as well, Lucy! xo
This is SO good! Really looking forward to future posts!
Another fabulous post! Thanks for your willingness to share your insight. Looking forward to your upcoming posts on this subject. Have a great day… 🙂 God bless…
It may sound crazy, but I love you, Monica! Your posts are amazing! My oldest is about to be 11 so this was ideally timed. I immediately sent it to my husband to get THAT conversation started. Thank you thank you thank you!!
Becka–you just made my day. 🙂 My greatest desire is to get those conversations started, and I am thrilled that my timing is right on for your family. I love you too! 🙂
GREAT stuff, Monica! Thanks for validating that its ok to talk naturally and regularly about sex and that talking about it isn’t going to “turn on” something in them and make them sex crazed. 🙂 I have a lot of different influence in my parental circles.
Well said concerning talking NATURALLY about any and all topics, laying a foundation so there’s no fear or misunderstanding. That can save years of anxiety, struggles and emotional issues down the road.
Monica ~ This is sooooooo good! We did a lot of what you mentioned with our boys too. The cell phone curfew (they hated it), the sex talk (they rolled their eyes) and they were always active.
I remember when my oldest was in 6th grade and I was homeschooling him. I noticed a couple of hairs under his arms when he was stretching and had his arms raised. I mentioned it and then my husband said something and all of sudden my son burst into tears. Poor thing….those years are so emotional. LOL
Can’t wait to read the rest of your posts in this series.
thank you! I love this post and look forward to the rest!