teens

"Right now, I'm not sure I like him very much": The unique struggle of raising a teenage son.

Parenting young children is often about the basics: the sleep, the feeds and the contents of their nappies. As they get older, sleeping and eating might still cause concern but navigating their world of friendships, technology, aggression and independence are added to the list.

Mum of two boys Adrienne* knows what it’s like to parent an uncommunicative teenage son.

“I have been told to ‘f**k off’ after confiscating my 14-year-old son’s device, but mostly I get very little feedback,” Adrienne said.

“I am learning to step back to let him make his own mistakes but it is hard. He makes it clear that I ‘wouldn’t understand’ his problems and while I can see he is not always happy, he can’t articulate why.

“He also no longer wants to hang out with me in case someone sees us together – I’m now an embarrassment!”

Parents of teenagers translated. A moment of silence for the parents doing it tough, this too shall pass.

Video by MMC

Another mum of a teenage boy, Natalie* said that while she has not yet been sworn at by her 15-year-old, she doesn’t always like him much.

“He’s a beautiful human and I love him dearly, but right now I am not sure I like him very much. Our once excellent relationship has been reduced to monosyllabic grunts that vary only from ‘huh?’ to ‘wha?’ to ‘why?’,” Natalie said.

“We recently spent a few happy days on holiday in a resort without Wi-Fi or phone reception. All three of our children were freed from their devices and they reverted to kids, playing games with each other and making things.

“We got lots of hugs and it was really wonderful. On our return home, the devices came out and it was back to the usual grunting with attitude.

“I know my kids are good and I hear from friends what lovely people they are, it is just very hard to relinquish the control and influence I once felt I had.”

Both mums agree that like many phases of parenting, it is the support of other mums and dads going through the same stage that keeps everything in perspective.

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“It is a great stress relief to laugh with other mums about our monosyllabic teenage boys,” Natalie said.

“It can be very emotional but we know that under all that grunting they are good kids and they still need us to support and love them.”

Clinical Psychologist and Practice Director at Think Kids, Dr Sarah Hughes, has some great advice for parents of teen and tween boys on dealing with aggression, communication and the need for independence.

How to handle aggression.

Aggressive behaviour is something you want to act on rather than ignore, but knowing when and how to act is key. Being too reactive yourself – which is an easy trap to fall into when your teen is pressing your buttons – will likely make things worse. As will trying to have a logical or meaningful conversation when your teen is irritated.

Wait until they are calm, which yes, means letting them walk away to cool off if they need to, before you try talking things through. If things get heated, stop and repeat.

Keeping communication open.

Teens are notoriously uncommunicative, especially boys. Expect a base level of respect, but respect goes both ways, and that means respecting your teen’s desire to sit and not talk when they’re not in the mood to chat.

If you force the issue, it will only make things worse. Look for opportunities to have conversations and keep communication lines open – car rides are often an opportune time – but if your teen is not in the mood to chat, don’t force it.

Teenage independence.

Teens will always want more independence than their parents are comfortable with, and parents will always want their teen home more than their teen thinks is fair.

It might feel like a short leash is the answer, but generally it’s not. Not only does it stop teens from developing important life skills – like the ability to make good decisions independently – it causes parents a world of pain in the form of hostility and argumentativeness.

Unlimited freedom is a recipe for disaster, so negotiating reasonable expectations is key. Have boundaries that support good decision making – a curfew that’s not too early but not ridiculously late – and as your teen shows you they’re capable, slowly allow more freedom.

When to seek outside help.

Adolescence is an adjustment for both teens and their parents, and there are bound to be more than a few rough patches. If your teen seems more withdrawn or down than usual, is demonstrating impulsive behaviour on a regular basis, or is hell bent on not meeting you halfway, it’s worthwhile getting outside help to get things back on track.

Do you have any experience with parenting teenage boys? Tell us in a comment below.

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