I am about to be a proud Mother of a new teenager. How do I parent a teen? Hmmm? Here is a little word of caution.
Do not read on, if you are embarrassed by buggers, the mention of underwear and kissing. Just move on to the other parenting blogs with better tips and less boy based humor. I based this on parenting a boy teenager, the wisdom I am about to share may or may not apply to girls. You decide.
Wonder Over the Growing Changes
Do Not curse your husband when tripping over size 12 shoes in the living room. These gunboats belong to your budding teenager. He may still be a few inches shorter than you but his feet are rooting down to balance that 6’2″ frame.
Do close the door to the mess. My parents did it for me. My dad says they tried to teach me to keep my room clean, but eventually they just started closing the door. As my sons share a room, I do require a weekly pick up session. My teen thinks he is being ordered to do hard labor for the 15 minutes it takes to tidy up the room.
Results? This brief torture keeps the room clean enough to walk to the beds and keeps the ants from invading because of rotting food.
Do Not pass up the opportunity to wake your son up in the morning. This is a great time for a surprise attack. I ponce on my guy, pull his eyes open, sit on him and poke my fingers up his nose-yuck. I know, but it sends him into peals of laughter as I wipe the buggers on his covers. Hey, we all used the snot sucker bulb “thingy” for them as little kids. What’s the difference now?
Do sort the laundry. I watched my husband nearly fall on his face trying to put on underwear the other day. He looked down in disgust and said, “I think these belong to your son!’ Gone are the superhero “undies” that graced my boy’s drawers for years. Now folding and putting laundry is a challenge; all those darn Hanes gray boxer shorts look alike. Maybe I should buy my “hubby” superhero underwear now?
Do Not enter the bathroom. Mom! I’m in here! No more wandering into the bathroom to put away towels while oldest son is showering or dressing. “Privacy Mom! I just need a little privacy,” he shouts at me from behind the door.
Imperfectly Parent Your Teen: The Dilemma of Friends
Parenting your teen while he establishes friendships outside your family circle is challenging; here are a few do’s and don’ts:
Do not invite his friends over to “play”. Although this time can feel like a repeat of the toddler world, the proper wording for a teen “play-date” is “hang-out”.
Do not “hang out” in the living room or game room while the friends are over. They will go to someone else’s house, if you do.
Do not abandon ship altogether. Stick around, just not too close, they may want a snack or something.
Do not expect a thank you or affection in front of friends. See public affection (Ewww!) later in the post for “the rules”!
Do have plenty of food. The more colorful the packaging the better, plus soda is a must. Thank goodness my husband works for a larger brown cola firm.
Do stay on the outskirts of the action. Who knows, you might get invited to participate. Either way, you want to have a little idea about what the boys are talking about.
Do go to sports activities. This way you can observe your child and friends in their natural environment. It is not spying, just cheering on the team while you take a closer look at who is who in your kid’s peer group. Another good place for this is to volunteer at the church youth group, camp, fundraiser, dance or school. Odd fact, teens don’t really want you out of their lives; they want you to do their stuff with them (most of the time, if you are cool about it and don’t ask too many questions).
Do enjoy the quiet moments. When your teen is engrossed in a movie, sleeping or texting on a cell phone.
Do look at your teen when they talk to you. This way you can roll your eyes in disgust at all the right moments.
Parent Your Teen by Making Mom and Son Time
Do find time to spend doing an activity you both like. You are still the biggest influence of his life. How many pro athletes, movie stars and world dictators thank their mothers. This does not end. Alexander the Great even reflected on the influence of his mother.
My son and I go on breakfast dates. I keep the conversation clear of “I need you to’s,”and “let’s talk about.” and “you know I was thinking”. In fact, I try to reach back to my dating years and think about how I spend time trying to get to know a new young man. How did I show interest and learn more about them and their dreams?
Just like I listened intently when he was learning to talk, I am listening intently as he is learning to build his character.
If you try the no-agenda son date, drop me a line and let me know how it goes?
Displaying Affection In Public (Ewwww!)
Do not do this, no matter how discreet you think you are; this is what your teen believes is happening!
Parenting your teen by showing huge affection at the wrong time is a common Mom flaw!
Do find a moment to hug your teen. I basically have to back mine into the corner of the hallway and pin him to the wall to hug him. Despite all the physical effort, we do end up smiling and laughing. This mostly happens at home, but occasionally we get silly in public.
Do Not kiss him in public. My boy asked me to stop doing this about 3rd grade. I did not agree to anything but have tried to restrain myself with only occasional slips. ( ahaw, I got excited and kissed the top of his head in church the other day. Yes, we were both sitting down.)
Do accept any type of affection your teen shows you in public, (except butt smacking, we have a deal; no butt smacking, as it is disrespectful to women. Unfortunately, I am the one who forgets all the time.) Don’t move away from hugs, arms around the shoulders, hand holding or a little bit of wrestling.
Do not hold his hand in public without asking. My husband took his Mother’s hand often as an adult. Don’t lose out on doing this later by trying to do it during the teen years.
Be Brave, Be the Adult, Be a Parent to Your Teen
Do parent your teen despite his rejection! We hate that word even as adults with stable lives, incomes, and friends. Think of how awful that was as a teen. Be the adult in this relationship. Parenting your teen means you just keep trying to see, if something works. Be brave, let go of rejection, nothing is a failure in this world, just keep creating more space to connect with your teen.
If grunting is all you get from a friendly overture to play a board game or watch a movie, don’t give up. Everyone likes an invitation. Just by inviting him to join you in something you have shown affection.
Do be brave, keep pursuing your son even when he rejects you. Keep showing love and doing loving acts even when they are not received. When our boys were toddlers, we feed, bathed, played and loved on them even after a major tantrum at the grocery store. Our teen is learning to handle new social cues for the first time. He needs his “Mommy” to be patient and be an adult when he can’t quite control his outbursts.
Do walk away, take a timeout, ask the other parent to step in, if necessary; but don’t drop to a level you will feel bad about later. Revive that old skill you learned with toddler boys; a tantrum is a form of communication on the most base level.
Ask yourself, is he hungry, angry, lonely, tired. If you can help solve the frustration, do so. If not, give him space to solve it himself.
Offering up a glass of milk and a grilled cheese often calms the average beast. Above all, leave the lecture out of the picture. As my son said, “Mom, just tell me; when you go over and over it, I just get mad.”
Do Not the Child Be! As an adult,stop soothing yourself by yelling or worse belittling your kiddo. He heard you; now he is weighing out what makes sense to him.
Finally, be brave and love him even when he is not lovable. Remember you are not lovable all the time either. Perfectly, imperfect love, beats control every time.
P.S. If all else fails to get your teen’s attention, buy a marshmallow gun and shoot him.