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.
What do you think is important for the parent of a teen to know?
What advice would you give?