Nathan’s lethargic little self came to my office with his energetic vociferous mom when he was 15 years old. He grudgingly plopped down on my couch where he immediately situated himself in that slump thing teenagers do. Where they are half on and half off the seat, legs spread out in front, one arm situated to hold the rest of his body up, and eyes closed.
Nathan was less than enthusiastic about being drug into a therapist office by his over energetic Mr. Rogers type mom, Beth.
Beth, like many of us that have sons, eagerly shared her thoughts, opinions, ideas, and frustrations regarding Nathan while Nathan assumed his position without speaking one word.
“He is so smart but doesn’t apply himself”.
“He doesn’t care about his grades, doesn’t do his homework, the homework he does – he doesn’t turn in”.
“All he wants to do is play video games and he doesn’t shower.”
“He never comes out of his room and you should see how filthy it is.”
“He’s a good kid but he doesn’t have anything to do with the family.”
I listened to mom for a few minutes while glancing at Nathan, eyes still shut, “Hey Nathan, do you not get sick of this?”
Nathan opened one eye and then the other, “Hugh”?
“Mom talking for you and going on and on and on?”
“Does she ever stop and take a breath?”
We all chuckled, and Nathan pulled himself out of the literal slump on the sofa he was posturing himself in and he and sat on the couch like a human being.
This was the beginning of what proved to be a great relationship between Nathan and myself.
Our journey was a self-discovery journey for Nathan.
He had to learn that he actually had feelings. He discovered his feelings could be expressed and he was in charge of his own goals, choices, expectations, and desires for the future.
Mom learned that Nathan would speak when she stopped speaking for him. When she stopped caring more about his grades than he did, Nathan picked up the slack and his grades improved substantially. When Nathan did not turn in homework, he suffered the consequences of not having his cherished phone until he turned in the work. If he failed a test, he failed a test and he had to work harder to bring his grade up. Mom learned Nathan was not “lazy” but enjoyed watching mom work and worry way more than he was, and actually thought it was funny to watch her. Nathan learned mom and dad graduated from High School once and were not going to go through Junior High and High School again.
Mom relaxed (kind of) and Nathan got busy in his own way. He didn’t fail a grade. He graduated on time. He didn’t die when his phone was taken away. He didn’t end up in prison or on the street for being lazy. He probably took showers. He remained to have a filthy room until he got a girlfriend.
Kids learn at an early age that if they allow mom and dad to talk for them, make all their decisions and choices, when it goes south, it is not their fault. “it was your idea”. “This is what you wanted, not me.” “I just did what you told me to do.” When this child hits 21 and has no idea what he wants to do, where is he going in life, or how he feels, the parent is faced with a grown adult who blames them for their failures.
Dealing with the teenage male species
1. They want us to be there for them, but not talk all of the time.
I have noticed my son will often zone out when I start gabbing away or give him a lot of advice at once. I thought it was just him ignoring me, but apparently this is normal for tween and teenage boys!
According to Dr. Laura; A teenage boy is only capable of hearing five to 10 words. After that, they shut down. Cut down communication to one or two sentences.
When boys talk, LISTEN. It might be a rare occasion! Don’t take it personal if they don’t talk much about their day. That’s just where they are in life. Now I know when my son is in a talkative mood, I stop what I’m doing to focus on him. I don’t want to miss any opportunity to have a great conversation with my son. Communication is such an important way to build a great mother and son relationship.
2. They want us to let them be silly.
I’m all for having fun, but sometimes I’m so over the fart jokes! (sigh) We were used to the buffoonery when they were little boys. We expected nothing less. I often wonder when my son will grow out of being a goofball. It seems to be getting worse as he gets older too. ha! This not so mature teenager behavior is normal. I guess I should have realized this a long time ago, since my husband is still a HUGE goofball most of the time! I will do my best to giggle along with the silliness and not be too uptight. Maybe it will get him talking more if I listen to his fart jokes:-)
Letting boys be silly is good and picking our battles is even better.
3. They want us to set rules, but they also want some say in them.
With my son, I get the best result when I ask him his opinion about a punishment for breaking a rule, not doing what I asked or misbehaving. I often ask him what he would do if he was the parent. I listen, but that doesn’t always mean I agree with what he says. Often he suggests a much harder punishment for himself than I would have given him!
The point is to set boundaries, expectations and rules. Be the parent in charge, but also involve them in the process along the way.
4. They want to be loved on, even if they don’t act like it!
Turning into a teenager is such an awkward phase for boys and moms. So many changes are going on. One day he’s your little boy, and the next day you are thinking “who the heck is this young man and what do I do with him?” ha!
One of my favorite books is The 5 Love Languages for Kids. I was excited to find out there is now a book called 5 Love Languages for Teenagers!
My son is very touchy feely, it’s easy to know that his main love language is touch. So for me, giving him a hug or pat on the back is all I need to do to love on him. For a mom who loves to hug anyway… that’s pretty easy! Many teens are not as easy to read, so I highly recommend this book for getting to know your son better.
Showing love to a tween or teenager can be done in many different ways depending on their personality and love language. Some feel the most loved when you tell them you are proud of how they cleaned their room, others might feel more love from you when you make their favorite meal or it can be as easy as watching them participate in a sport or other activity.
Don’t fall for the “I’m too cool to care” attitude. Be sure to love on them in the way that makes them feel the most special.
5. They want us to have their back!
I came across an interesting article by Andrea Schneider, a mom and therapist, who asked her 13 year old son what teen boys need from their parents. He said Dads were needed to help with certain things like hobbies, while moms were needed for supporting their sons in anything they do.
It makes me feel good knowing boys will still want their moms as they continue to grow! I think I can handle being the supportive parent. I will just try to do it while not talking too much, involving him in decisions and showing him lots of love, while not rolling my eyes too much at fart jokes!
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CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.