We sit at lunch, just me and my teen son. Right after we order I just say it, I ask him…
“Can I have your advice?”
“Sure,” he says, drowning his bread in the balsamic, and shoving the quarter-loaf in his mouth.
“If a mom wants to build a close relationship with her teen, what would you tell her to do?”
I sit and hope he doesn’t see how badly I want to know and the silence that follows almost smothers me. For a moment I wonder if I should have asked at all.
He’s almost 17 and our relationship is strong—stronger than I ever expected it might be considering all we’ve been through. I’m so thankful.
But having a teen son is particularly hard. Ten short years ago he was my little guy, lovingly gazing into my eyes and crawling up on my lap. I was the only woman he loved and the first one who held his heart, but it won’t be long before all that changes.
My heart simultaneously aches and bursts. This stage is hard, even with a strong relationship, and I’m certainly open to tips to make it better.
And then, he answers. The words pour out like a river, like I’ve just breached a dam waiting to be opened. He has so much to say. And I am glad to listen and brainstorm so I can let you all in on what my teen told me.
10 things Your Teenager Wants You to Know
1. Be cool
Be laid back but engaged, classy but fashionable–stylish and aware of the latest trends. Be a hospitable host who welcomes his teen friends. And provide food, LOTS of food, whenever possible!
2. Let conversation happen naturally
As much as we long to know how our teen is doing, do not force conversation through repetitive interrogation. Allow conversation to happen spontaneously while engaged in an activity together–driving in the car, cooking dinner, or even shopping. It’s possible that the more time spent in each other’s space will foster more conversation.
3. Own your mistakes and refuse to be a hypocrite
If teens are blessed with any sixth sense, it’s their ability to detect hypocrisy. For that very reason, it’s so important for us to admit when we’re wrong and offer an apology with a humble heart. It’s also important to share our failures with our sons at appropriate moments–moments when it helps him with whatever he’s facing. If our teens see us as real people, they’re more likely to respect us and learn from us as well.
4. Refuse to micromanage
Even though this involves trust and letting go, it is so important that we give our teen sons incremental freedom and allow them to practice making decisions. Until their choices require a removal of that freedom, let’s refuse to micromanage the details of the things that are their responsibility. This will make them feel respected and convey your belief that they are both capable and trustworthy.
5. Fill our emotional needs elsewhere
We must not look to our teen sons to meet our emotional needs. They were our babies, it’s true, and we desire them to reciprocate that love, but behaving in a way that obligates them to reciprocate, makes them feel forced, and may drive our teens away. Our needs should be met by our time with God, by the strengthening of our marriages, and spending time with our friends. Being cognizant to loosen and eventually cut those apron-strings allows them to develop into the independent adults they need to become.
6. Be the kind person you’d like him to marry
It’s no surprise that often our sons end up choosing a spouse similar to the woman who raised them. If we care about the quality of our sons’ future spouse, we need to focus on growing our own character and embodying the characteristics of the kind of spouse we would want our sons to one day marry.
7. Don’t nag
Let’s refuse to be the dripping faucet that irritates and annoys our teens. If their behavior must change, natural consequences tend to be the best motivators. This not only conveys our respect and confidence in their ability to make a different choice next time, but also puts the responsibility where it belongs–on them.
8. Have interests other than just our teens
We need to resist making our life, as a mom, solely revolve around our teens. It makes them feel like you can’t do life on your own two feet, which leads them to lose respect for you. Having some independent interests will help our sons grow healthier relationships, with us and with others. So please, find hobbies, discover new interests, or invest in friendship and service to others–all of which will serve as a good model for how they should do life as an adult.
9. Ask their opinion
As a teen, our sons long to feel important. They want to be heard and know their opinion truly matters. So ask them what they think and be ready to listen!
10. Be prepared to give them advice
Our teen sons are going to have questions–big ones–about God, our society, and our world. And when our teens ask, it is so important for us to be prepared to give them an answer. So please, study. We must research the issues and know where we stand. That way when they ask, we’ll have a great answer.
Are you up for a challenge?
A few month ago over 16,000 mothers of boys joined together to pray for their sons in a 5-day prayer challenge we created. Next week (April 10-14, 2017) you’re invited to join us for our next community prayer challenge, this time for mothers of TEEN boys.
To sign up for the challenge, and get access to our private Facebook group of moms doing it with you, click here and enter your email address. We’ll send you instructions and details right away!
My son is 15 yrs old and spends so much of his time in his room. It’s been so difficult to get him to spend any time with us and when he does he doesn’t really talk. I pray for him constantly. We were always pretty close and he would talk to me, but in the last year he has really pulled away. I really see this series as a God send.
My son did the same thing, it has gotten better, just don’t nag like I did. Boys are comfortable in their own space and being alone, so different from girls. My son is 16 now, and has a bunch of friends that he chooses to hang with when he feels like and a gf who’s sweet and an artist. Maybe he’s just getting ready to charm the world!
Hello Mrs. Pauwels Manovich,I think teens hiding in their room is perfectly normal, I do it. I enjoy my alone time where no one is judging, criticizing, analyzing, or bugging me It’s my time, my room, my freedom, so maybe I’m in my room too much, but I’m also a writer, so my room is my where I do most of my writing. right now we [teens] trying to figure out what we didn’t like about who we were, who we are now, and who we want to be, and alone time and surfing the web is our way of connecting to a world to help support us which the world outside that bedroom door can’t do. I’ve gone through some tough times in my short existence, I’m a little bit more aware of life beyond a classroom and a cellphone and what who thinks of who, I am confident in who I am and where I want to end up and I wont pretend like I have a clue what goes through a teenage boy’s mind; I just want to let you know if your teen locks himself in a room he’s figuring his stuff out, finding his community maybe even a passion such as writing or music. If you already have or your going to ask your son what he does when he’s in his room be cautious because that is his “holy ground” if you will, he may get defensive and refuse to tell you or he may open up and tell you all about what he does.
I hope I helped at least in the slightest,
-A 17 year old girl
Moe. .. thank you! Your words helped pop open a part of my memories as a teen. Yes, believe it or not we were teenagers too, I don’t think many of us would go back, unless we could take our current knowledge with us. Teen years are so crazy which is probably why as adults we tend to block out all of the turmoil we faced during that time. As adults looking back all we can think is “dear Lord, what was I thinking, why did I do that, why did I think my world was ending over that!?!” No matter what, every teen generation has experienced the same issues from body image to who am I to my parents don’t understand etc.. Thing is we do but, as my father in law said “why should I let you stumble on the rocks I’ve already fallen upon?” I know we have to allow our children to experience the rocks for themselves and we attempt to prepare you for those rocks by giving you tools to navigate the rocky roads ahead of you, praying that when we let go that you will find your footholds and be steady and strong and that none of the rocks you step on give way. From your first step as a toddler we have always been there to catch you when you fall. And until we lose our abilities we will continue to do that. As a parent, the worst thing is to see your child in any kind of pain or sadness! No matter how old they are! I can’t speak for everyone on this, however, I think my biggest issue or question is How do I continue to be there to catch my teen/adult babies when they fall without smothering them ?
Again thank you for you insightful words! You are going to be great at whatever path you choose! Sorry to have been so long winded.
My Moms advice to me this weekend was do not expect him to talk when you want him too, but be prepared to talk when he is ready to, no matter how inconvenient.
I am looking forward to this series. It always amazes me that things like this pop up when I need them the most!
I have 2 boys – 13 and 16. My theory is I am raising them to be independent which means the older they get, the more freedom they get – unless they prove they are untrustworthy. Even then, everyone deserves a second chance! I have always been open to talking about a decision – if they approach me respectfully. I have found talking with any male works better when you are side by side and not face to face, and I try to avoid all the, “how do you feeelllll about x.” Most guys think that is completely lame. 😉 Instead I ask – What do you think about x. I don’t hover. I never want my boys to think my happiness is their responsibility. We laugh together – A LOT. I try to be real with them and heavens knows I’ve apologized to them umpteen times over the years because I mess up – A LOT! Most of all, I try to let them know I love them no matter what. I might be disappointed in their behavior but not in who God made them to be. I love having boys!
[…] Ten Things Your Teen Son Wants You to Know […]
I have two teen sons and my hands are full. I just started a blog about being a mom of teen boys. I would appreciate any feedback you would want to give.
Tell me about it…. I’m a 55 yrs old mom vs my 15 yrs old son!! What a bad “battle” we’re dealing with….??
Having a growing up kids is really a challenge. Specially teenagers. We need to be prepared for some mood shifts, need for more privacy, and a huge appetite! I should know, coz I have three. What really helped me a lot is finding them a mentor. It made all the difference. This site is like a virtual mentor: http://www.preparemykid.com
It is with a single tear in my eye and an open mind,
that I Thank you for this post!! I will be a mom of a “teen” boy, officially, in 1 week, and this is a wonderful and very helpful post! Thank you!
I am a mother of an 18 year old! I am in desperate need of help for me and my son. He is dating a girl since April. This is his first girlfriend. I am concerned because the girlfriend is mentally ill and her parents said she’s in a deep dark place. She doesn’t like to talk about God. We became concerned after reading text and met with her parents. My son feels like God put him in her life to help her. We have raised our boys to be good Godly young men and to reach out to those that are hurting. We have tried to talk to him about our concerns and that he is taking a big responsibility. Since that hard and not so great conversation my son has changed. He is withdrawn from his family. He is only home to sleep and shower.
I’m hurting because he used to be so close to us and I feel like I’ve pushed him away by constantly talking to him about the situation. But I also feel like her mental illness has also affected him.
I need advice and help with this situation.
Nope. I rasied a boy..I disagree with some of this advice. You are his MOM NOT his friend. You’ll get that privilege after he moves from teen to adult. You are raising a 35 yr old not a 17 yr old. He needs you to show him what is expected by women what a man is to be. He wants food encourage him and his friends to pitch in. Teach him to cook for himself and his future spouse. Show him that arguments are normal among people but resolving them with love and kindness nt giving him his way. Hold him accountable…make him explain why his door is always shut, what is he doing? Keep him accountable so as an adult he doesn’t get the shock of a lifetime.
Its really a nice articles for preteen mothers like me. Thanks for the post.