Parenting Hacks for Teen Boys


While we’ve been parenting teens for a few years now, we are entering the throws of adolescence with our first child “from scratch.” You know, the first one who we’ve had from conception to now and have had to take full responsibility for how our parenting either prepared him or failed him. I am super grateful for the lessons we’ve learned from trust-based parenting. I can already see where those principles have gotten us through a couple adolescent storms. Here’s what’s working for us so far.

(Aside: These probably apply to girls, too, but we’re currently experimenting on a boy).

  1. Read Brainstorm. This research-based book will revolutionize the way you think about teenagers and their brains. It also has practical suggestions for navigating this tricky time between childhood and adulthood. (Aside: If you haven’t explored Siegel’s other works, I highly recommend them.)
  2. Know their love language. Take the quiz or read the book. Also, remember the 6th love language for boys is food. We’ve avoided many disastrous mornings by a wake up call that sounds something like, “It’s time to wake up. And remember there are leftovers from last night’s dinner you loved in the fridge,” or “It’s time to get up. Would you like a bagel or a bowl of cereal waiting for you when you come out?”
  3. Listen first. React at least a day later. I’m a verbal, external processor, so this is REALLY hard for me. Sometimes I have to be writing what I would be throwing back at my kid on paper just so my brain doesn’t explode and my mouth stays shut. We recently had an incident at our house while PJ had friends over. It was a social snafu for him in more ways than one. If I had gone with my first reaction (immediate consequences for inappropriate actions I saw, it would have been like gas on a fire. Fortunately I had my connected parenting big girl pants on that day, so I decided to listen first. Actually I pawned it off on Patrick (refer to the first sentence about how this is REALLY hard for me). So glad we did. To his credit, PJ was able to articulate a lot of insight about the incident, stuff we wouldn’t have guessed. We all took time to let the dust settle before deciding how to proceed. And don’t worry, he did have to take responsibility for his actions. Result? Walking away feeling more connected to him than alienating him. Hearts connected and understood than just an attempt to modify behavior.
  4. Give them a problem to solve. Or a challenge to conquer. We recently were visiting a zoo (a way uncool thing for an adolescent boy to do) when I challenged PJ to navigate us around in the most efficient way as to get us out sooner. The opportunity to be in control way out-trumped his too-cool attitude. We probably stayed longer than the little kids wanted just so we could finish seeing everything he had mapped out.
  5. Ask for input. I can’t tell you how many time we’ve been debating back and forth over a decision for one of the kids when all of a sudden we’ll stop and say, “Maybe we should ask him.” This doesn’t mean they have the final say (unless we choose to let that be the case), but it does mean we allow their opinions to weigh in on the matter. As much as we think we know them, we are often surprised by the perspective they have. Also, following through on a decision is WAY easier if the child feels like he had a say.
  6. Be a lighthouse. Adolescence is stormy. And that may be the understatement of the year. Rather than be emotionally stormy with them, stay on shore and be the lighthouse that they can use to find their way back to solid ground. When you find yourself being drawn into an argument, pause until the waters are calmer. Then love them in their language, then re-read #3 through #5.
    [bctt tweet=”Stay on shore and be the lighthouse that they can use to find their way back to solid ground. #teens”]
  7. Pray a LOT. We were not designed to this without some divine intervention. If you’re very overwhelmed, I recommend adding a fast of some sort. I’ve added fasting and praying to my regular routine because of our already-been-teenagers-for-a-while kids, and the peace I am able to feel in the storm of their lives is nothing short of supernatural.

Ok, more veteran parents than me, your turn! What tips do you have for us rookies?

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