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Mothers and Teenage Boys, Part 2

Mothers and Teenage Boys, Part 2

“What did I do to deserve this?” is a fair enough lament from mums. Life is not fair and their beautiful boy morphing into an alien is perhaps a golden example of this.

Consider that he is undergoing such a massive transformation that he does not understand. It is important that you as a mother understand what is going on for him. Encouraging his independence and supporting him to take more responsibility is key here.

With understanding we hope mums can see this phase for what it is, and to not take it personally. This cannot be overstated. Mums please hear this – it is not about you. Please do not take it personally and please review your expectations of how you think his teenage years should look. It can often be a messy time and handling the mess with as much grace and dignity is the vital.

His brain is reconstructing unevenly and his amygdala (emotional centre) is maturing at a much faster rate than his frontal lobes (planning and impulse control). It’s a recipe for trouble!

What this means is he is hard-wired for excitement, stimulus, socialising, romance, risk and believe it or not he learns from his emotions and experiences more than from the sedentary nature of school. School can become a real drag and his motivation can take a dive. He may even look depressed and many teenagers report a drop in happiness. His impulse control and planning (frontal lobes) are out-to-lunch. Perhaps this explains much of his often surly and eruptive behaviour. He has little sense of consequences and is quite simply out of control at times. It can appear as though chaos rules – so if you think he is losing his mind you are quite correct (just don’t lose yours too!).

Geelong Grammar has their famous Timber Tops program (famously attended by Prince Charles) where the boys in year 9 are required to live out in nature for an entire year (coming home on holidays) and they must rely on each other. Failure to chop wood means no warm food, failure to cooperate results in challenging relations. The school is very proud of this program as they understand that something different is required at this time. They will tell you that the students with the most resistance and difficulties are the ones to get the most out of it.

Handling Change

Increasing discipline and arguing with him at this stage is often counter-productive. There are no winners in this approach. It is perhaps best to reflect on this time from the bigger picture. In the years ahead, how proud will you feel about how you handled this time in your life?

It is this time in the life of mammals that the young males leave the family group and do in fact go off on their own. They may join a gang of other males all waiting to fully mature, or they may head off into the never-never alone for a period of time, learning to fight and on the lookout for females!

Perhaps this feels like what is going on for many mothers… he is leaving. There is a tendency to believe that all will be lost. Grief is a natural part of this stage for mothers.

Identity

He is indeed heading out into the world to discover who he is. His need and drive to do this is perfectly normal. Wise parents encourage this and can ignore much of the difficult behaviour because they know and trust this is a necessary phase.

How we manage this as parents is important. It is very easy to damage the relationship for a long time and his phase in the wilderness can go from 2 years to 20 years. We have heard many stories like this from men on our programs and it is very helpful for boys to hear their stories of this.

The big blind spot here is that this is a time of identity for the mother also. Many mums have their identity understandably wrapped up in the role of mother and this is often an unwanted opportunity to look at ‘who am I’ for mothers. It can be confusing and it can be scary.

In Part 3 we will be looking at what mums can do to support his future relationships.

Access the 3rd and final Mothers and Teenage Boys blog post here. You can also access our first post here.

 

 

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RAISING TEENAGE BOYS will reveal to you a proven man-making code for raising happy and healthy young men. Many parents butt their heads against the wall using tired old methods....methods that might have worked for our parents, or for when our kids were young......methods that consistently make things worse when our boys reach their teenage years.
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Learn how to use special occasions for the FREEDOM & RESPONSIBILITY Equation.
See under the problematic behaviour to what is really going on.
Find leverage in the big issue of TECHNOLOGY... it's all about currency!
Discover new and necessary ways of communicating.
Enjoy change!...and the many stories and common challenges of parenting teenage boys!
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