You’ve successfully raised your newborn baby through the toddler years, early school years and now your little one is finally a teenager. Does this mean your job as a parent is over? Can you leave a teenage boy on his own and expect him to mature into adulthood with no problems?
Of course not! Raising a teenage boy will still take work, dedication and all the parenting patience you can muster. So how do you get your son from those awkward teen years to a successful adult who has moved out of the house? Here are some tips that might help you.
1. Stay involved. It has been proven over and over again that teenagers with involved parents grow up to be more successful and have a higher chance of graduating from college.
What does staying involved mean? It means asking your son about school. Eat dinner together at the table every night with no television or electronic devices for distractions. Get involved in your son’s activities by volunteering at his school. Show that you care. Just don’t go overboard and become one of those dread “helicopter” parents.
2. Understand your son is going through physical and emotional changes. Yes, it’s normal for a teenager to sleep half the day away, and it doesn’t mean he is lazy or lacks motivation. That’s just how teenagers are. Chances are he’ll be growing too, meaning he’ll probably eat more and might have issues with sore muscles.
On the emotional side, he’ll probably become more and more curious about dating and sex. It’s important to have an open line of communication with him about these issues. Most parents are uncomfortable talking to their kids about sex, but it can pay dividends later when your son knows how to stay safe and is mature enough to handle all the complicated issues that surround sex.
3. Let him make mistakes. When kids are young, it’s easy to protect them from mistakes and other things that might hurt them. But as a teenager, your son needs to be able to make his own mistakes. That’s how they learn. You can lecture all you want about personal responsibility, but a lot of it will fall on deaf ears. That’s just how the teenage brain is wired. Give him the freedom (within reasonable boundaries) to go out and experience the world for himself. As protective as you want to be, you need to start cutting the cord eventually.
4. Don’t pressure him. This means that you shouldn’t push your own agenda onto your son. Just because you really want him to be a neurosurgeon doesn’t mean that’s what he wants, and it may not even be in his best interest. He might want a tattoo. Even if you hate tattoos with a passion, he’ll eventually get one if he wants it bad enough. Talk to him about tattoos and the risks associated with them. If he struggles in math and science at school, don’t just assume he’s not studying. Some subjects are more difficult than others for each kid. Encourage him to explore his own interests, and help him get through those difficult subjects as well.
5. Be open. Work to make your son feel safe coming to you with his problems, no matter how minor or severe. Be honest with him. He is becoming an adult, so it’s time to start treating him like one. Always remember that respect is a two-way street.
The above list is by no means comprehensive. Hundreds of books have been written about how to raise teenage boys. But applying the above tips will bring you a step closer to raising a son who will eventually become a productive member of society.