For all you discouraged, frustrated parents of teenagers out there, the goal of this article is to encourage you and equip you with insight that will help you face parenting your teenage boy. Teenage years come with difficulties and challenges for both the parent and the child. Surely feelings will be hurt, conflicts will arise, and at times, you may feel like giving up. But be encouraged: difficulties in this time are common. Trust that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid of this stage of life; face parenting teenage boys with hope.
If you wonder sometime on how to parent a teenager, hopefully you will find the information in this article applicable and valuable. But also, please don’t be afraid to ask people for help—whether you ask a relative, a close friend, or a psychologist. Again, you are not alone. Millions of parents in the world are facing problems parenting teenage sons. If you have burdens weighing on your shoulders, or worries weighing down your heart, let them out. Find people you can confide in, and you will be amazed by what a relief it is to pour out your heart regarding the issue of parenting teenage boys.
Now, parenting teenage sons can be very challenging, but think for a moment about what he may be going through as a teenager. Adolescent years are the time between childhood and adulthood. It’s easy for parents to get caught up in all their own challenges with parenting teenage boys, and to ask questions like ,“What am I doing wrong?” “Why won’t he listen to me?” “Why doesn’t he understand?” Focusing on these problems, they forget or disregard that their teenagers are facing their own sets of confusions. Teens may feel lost and alone in their confusions, which will cause them to act out defiantly. Dr. Dan Siegel, M.D, an expert in interpersonal neurobiology and author of Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, says “the changes in the adolescent’s way of thinking and feeling and interacting with other people is actually due to remodeling of the brain.” In his book Brainstorm, Siegel explains that “Between the ages of 12 and 24, the brain changes in important, and oftentimes maddening, ways. It’s no wonder that many parents approach their child’s adolescence with fear and trepidation.” He makes the point that “if parents and teens can work together to form a deeper understanding of the brain science behind all the tumult, they will be able to turn conflict into connection and form a deeper understanding of one another.”
When considering how to parent a teenager son and what your teenage boy is going through, it is important that he feels loved and cherished. You might think it’s obvious to him that you love him—after all, you’ve raised him with care since he was born. And perhaps you say “I love you” to him every day. But be sure you show him, not just tell him, you love him and are proud of him. Show him by being involved in his life. Is he in sports? Attend his races or games and cheer him on. Is he in any clubs or organizations? Ask him how they’re going and if there are any events coming up that you can attend. Is he having trouble in his homework? Offer to help him. And surely there are talents and qualities you see in him—be sure to affirm him in these.
One of the very most important thing for you to do as a parent is to listen. Listen well, with patience. Ask him how he’s doing, and really take the time to listen. Do your best not to be in a hurry. Yes, life is busy. There will always be meetings to attend, and errands to run—but there won’t always be opportunities to get to know your son. So slow down; take the time to be present with your son—even if it means you’ll miss a meeting now and then. But also be aware that he might not want to talk. It’s very common that teens don’t want to spend time with their parents at all. Give him space; don’t be forceful. Just be sure he knows he can come to you when he wants to. Lynn Scoresby, a family psychologist, and founder of My Family Track, advises, “When listening to your teen, remember the key is to listen, not to talk. You are listening for understanding, rather than to try and convince your teen to do things your way. If you listen to your teen and they feel understood, they are more likely to listen to your point of view and accept your wisdom.”
Echoing those words, your teenage boy needs advice from you—but he won’t listen if the advice is shoved down his throat. Listen patiently first and then gently inform him of safe, healthy ways to deal with whatever problems he’s facing. Encourage him to be responsible and careful.
As you listen, do your best not to be offended or surprised by anything he says. Reactions like “You did WHAT?” or, “What are you thinking?” will not encourage him to have better behavior. They will only make him feel judged and unloved, and he will desire to rebel even more. Rather, ask him questions like “What made you feel that way?” or “What are your thoughts about that?” Do this in a natural, gentle way—not in a way that makes him feel interrogated. Joe White and Lisa Halls Johnson, with Focus on the Family, suggest, “Try taking your teen to breakfast or lunch once a week. Establish a habit like this and your kids may get comfortable enough to open up, even asking hard questions about life. Try not to bring your own list of hard questions, though; your teen may begin to shy away from those mealtimes if they turn into interrogations or preaching practice.” Again, your son might turn down one-on-one time with you. This is normal. But simply making him feel welcome will mean a lot to him (whether he says so or not).
It’s important that you think about what your specific core values and principles are. What do you hope your son will hold onto and honor as he enters adulthood? Be sure he knows what these values and principles are. Establish rules of conduct and behavior that reflect them, and make your consequences for disregard of them clear. Firmness and consistence in carrying out consequences is critical. But also realize that your son is transitioning into adulthood; he’s not a little child anymore. He has to make his own decisions and learn what consequences will naturally result from the choices he makes. So in a sense, you have to let go, and accept you can’t control the way he lives his life. All you can do is set household rules of conduct, and warn him of the dangers in the outside world. For more information and tips on the subject of consequences, read our article “9 Ways to Manage Rebellious Boys – Learn About Natural Consequences.”
Parenting teenage boys is tough—nearly all parents would agree. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are at the point where you don’t know what to do, and you need somewhere to turn, give Gateway Academy for Boys a call (850-547-9011). Gateway is an acclaimed Christ-centered program designed to equip and discipline rebellious boys in preparation for successful futures. They are ready to help. Above all, turn to God for help. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”