Parenting Teenage Boys: 6 Rules for Moms
A few months ago I got to visit my family in Oregon. My youngest sister had just given birth to her fourth child, Giovanni. It was a very emotional time for me because I hadn’t seen my (now) six nephews (from my sister’s) in years. My oldest nephew, Josue, is now a young adult. There are almost 20 years difference between my oldest and youngest nephews. Seeing them together made me think about my own nearly 20 years as a mother and consider how much the world has changed.
When I was a teen, I never imagined that one day, as a mother I’d need to monitor my children’s social media accounts or teach them about internet safety. Not once did it occur to me that I’d be deciding whether or not a ten-year-old needs a cell phone. Life changes, and along the way, so do the the needs of our children, and our parenting styles. I certainly never imagined I’d spend four hours last night helping my own fourteen-year-old son download sound clips for his own You Tube channel. I was already 32 years old when the first ever You Tube video was uploaded in April 2005. Check it out!
Of course, it’s not just technology that has changed over the years. Everything has taken lightyear leaps into what sometimes feels like completely unknown territory. As our economy went through equally surreal changes, so did the family dynamic. I’m not just talking about the roles of mothers. In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, thousands of single college graduate professionals must live with roommates in order to make ends meet. I’m talking about teachers, police officers, small business owners and more. For many, the only option they have to survive financially is to be in a dual or multi-income home, which means roommates for many single residents.
My point is, as parents, even getting them through college won’t guarantee they’re able to keep food on the table as young independent adults. Raising our children to be able to care for themselves physically and financially has always been our goal as parents. While it’s still the goal, the road certainly has changed. There are a lot more unpaved paths and definitely more highways! It’s harder than ever to know if we are guiding them correctly into adulthood. We can spend eighteen years teaching them about all the steps to becoming happy and productive adults, only to have everything change by the time they get there.
I bet that being a milkman was a good job back in the day. What happened to all the milkmen, anyway? That was a real career for at least forty years. It was a job people aspired to do when they grew up. Go ahead, show this little video to your kids. Even seeing, they might not believe that this was a real job. It’s interesting too, that the job title was milk man. I don’t remember one milk woman. We’ll get to this later in my tips for parenting teenage boys.
What if forty years from now, regular physician appointments are handled as virtual meetings with a computer system named Doc? Real doctors are already replacing many in-person appointments with virtual ones. What if you save money your entire life to put your child through medical school, only to be beat out in the interview process by a new nurse-practitioner APP?!
Raising kids is hard, although, I’m no parenting expert. Well, actually I am. Except, I’m not. Some years ago, I was doing a radio segment tour of various stations across the US and internationally (from the comfort of my own home) as a “parenting expert.” I didn’t give myself that title, my publicist at the time did. Let me tell you all something, right now.
THERE ARE NO PARENTING EXPERTS.
Y’all got that? I mean it! So, don’t stress if you don’t feel like an expert. Parenting experts are a myth. Today, kids have more outside influence than any other generation. I love technology and social media, but outside influence is a beast! We parent the best we can, according to our own values and beliefs, then pray, hope, wish or whatever you do, that our influence carries enough weight in comparison to outside influence and a strong-willed child, determined to learn things the hard way on their own terms. What works for one child, will not necessarily work for another, even if they are raised the same way in the same home with the same people.
Don’t worry, today’s tips are the evergreen ones. Modern-day parenting tips are important too, but all the what-to-dos and what-not-to-dos in that regard, are constantly changing.
Parenting Teenage Boys: 6 Rules for Moms
- STAND UP FOR WOMEN. Parenting teenage boys isn’t easy. We have to teach them to be strong and independent men who respect, support and honor strong and independent women. Thanks to so many women before us, teaching boys to treat girls as capable equals is a little bit easier, but it’s still an uphill battle. As moms, that’s an important job we must undertake with our boys and kick into high gear during their teenage years. Raising them to respect women as equals will change the future. Women are still fighting for equal opportunities, pay and respect. We can change this, starting with our boys.
- ENCOURAGE BOYS TO CRY. By the time most boys enter their teen years, they’ve learned to hold back their tears. The transition into adulthood is a difficult one. During the teenage years, most children have dealt with major disappointments, heartbreak, and the loss of a friend or family member, whether it be someone distant or close. These are emotional times and boys can either learn to work through them by freely expressing themselves or avoid them by holding everything inside. We know the power of a good cry and need to convey that to our boys.
- TEACH BOYS TO BE AWARE OF THEIR BODIES. Women often joke that men are big babies when they get sick. This isn’t always that far from the truth. On the flip side, men are also much less likely to be aware of important changes in their bodies as adults, that could indicate health issues or be a cause for concern. Girls are conditioned, thanks to menstruation and the slew of issues that can accompany female puberty, to pay attention to any changes in their bodies. We learn early on to pay attention to the details of the changes in our bodies, track them and convey that information to health care providers. Boys are not conditioned in this same way and can lack the experience to be aware of changes that may warrant medical attention.
- MAYBE MEANS NO. As women continue working to combat rape culture, progress is being made. Girls and women are speaking out, breaking the silence and the notorious I-thought-she-wanted-it defense isn’t cutting it anymore. Our boys need to know this. Boys need to ask, directly and specifically about whether or not a girl wants to have sex or participate in any activity leading up to sex. This not only protects girls, but it protects boys as well. I am both a boy and girl mom. I want to prepare and protect them all. If a person is not able to have a conversation about sex, the are from from ready to have sex. Boys must obtain an explicit YES, before they risk engaging in any sexual activity.
- KEEP THE ROMANCE ALIVE. Encourage and praise boys for their thoughtfulness. Teach them that grand gestures of affection don’t have to be grand expenditures. Show them your appreciation for the little things and remind them that romance is an art. Doing something sweet is more endearing than doing something lavish.
One of the best presents my oldest son ever gave me was a stuffed turtle with a graduation hat. I have a thing about turtles that started when he was born. He was my turtle. On Mother’s Day this year, after many concerns that he might not finish High School on time, he gave me a little graduate turtle. He promised me that he would graduate from High School and he did. On Father’s Day, he gave his dad a large doggie key to the house. His dad had a lot of keys on his keychain and was always fidgeting to find the right one when opening the door. This was his dad’s favorite gift!
- DADS ARE IMPORTANT. No matter what your family situation is, boys need to know that dads are important, even if they don’t have one in their life. Moms do so much for their children and are regularly praised for their efforts in raising kids. So much importance is placed on the role of motherhood that role of fatherhood is often undervalued and less frequently discussed. If our boys grow up to reproduce, they need to know that not only is it their responsible to be active in their child’s life, but also that it matters. Parenting teenage boys and girls can be a challenging time. We need to remind ourselves to express what a blessing parenthood is, even when times are rough. The important roles of mothers does not mean the roles of dads are less important.
What are your evergreen tips for parenting teenage boys? Share them in the comments!
By: Alicia Gonzalez
Also published on Medium.