Thirty-five years ago, a pastor of the church I worked and I were eating lunch at a local restaurant and he asked me, “Mark, do you see every person in this room?” I knew there was a lesson coming. He then said something that has been with me every since. He said, “Each person here feels like they’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.” You might not think that too profound. Over the years I have learned that his comment was utterly profound. I think it especially applies to fifteen-year-old boys.
Parents do a wonderful job of teaching and encouraging a young son with uplifting words and rewards for participation in every activity. You tell him he’s great, brag on him in conversations and post his photo in your Christmas cards. Then he turns 15, and things begin to look a little different.
Life for a 15-year-old boy can be a tough time, and even more difficult when parents begin making greater demands that force him to begin taking more and more responsibility for himself.
Suddenly, it seems, he does have the weight of the world on his shoulders. Classes get harder. The pond he swims in just got bigger and he just got smaller. His social world gets divided and distributed. He’s too old to ride a bike and too young to drive a car. The lessons you taught him are harder to apply than first thought. Your son’s sporting accomplishments are dissipated into an overwhelming number of other 15-year-old boys who have accomplished the same, and perhaps more. Girlfriends move on to older guys.
You might begin to see that the pain of growing up makes your teenage son behave more selfishly. It might make him angry because he’s getting less of what he wanted in life, and more of what he didn’t want. He may take to “spewing” at you because there is no one else who’ll take it. He hurts because it’s harder than he thought. Sometimes boys retreat to a virtual world of games, hide in their room, or just crawl inside their own depression. They may associate with a new group of kids that look like “losers” because they find that those losers feel the same way.
They might feel stuck, frustrated, and begin to lose motivation. They might begin to use words that you only see on public bathroom walls. They might express themselves in ways you would have never expected. It’s a tough time. But it’s the right time for you to help them through it so you aren’t left dealing with a prodigal at 18 or 25.
If Your Teenage Boy is Struggling
There is nothing worse than living with a teen spinning out of control, and no worse feeling than the hopelessness parents experience in the process. It is difficult to know what to do and how to react when your teen reaches new lows in disobedience, dishonesty, and disrespect, and chooses every wrong thing.
Begin to address problems with a 15-year old son by taking time to understand his battles. Try to understand how tough life seems, and move toward him in compassion, not anger.
Then, decide what you will and won’t do to help him get to the place he wants to be. If counseling is needed, get it. If medical issues arise, see a doctor. If there are academic issues surrounded by learning disabilities, get help. If it’s a discipline issue that begins to spin out of control, take the following steps to send the message, “I understand that things are tough right now, but we’re not going to live like this. ”
1. Set the Stage
When there’s a lull in the battle, share with your son that you’d like to have a conversation later in the week about how things are going. Don’t give him any more information than just that. Just tell him that you’d like to wait, and talk about it when you get together. This will help him understand the serious nature of what you’re requesting. He’ll know something is “up”. He may begin to think about things he hasn’t up until now, because you’ve never asked this of him before.
When you get together later in the week, make sure it’s just one-on-one. This is not the time to have two parents meeting with one child. Scripture admonishes us to settle any conflict by going to the person alone first; we should do the same with our child.
2. Have the Talk
At the meeting, tell him that you know it is a tough age for them. I would encourage you not to share all the details of why you know it’s a tough time. You’ll come up short, or say something “wrong,” or say too much and take away from the real point of the discussion. Just tell him you know it’s a tough age.
Share with him how his behavior makes you feel. I’ve found you can never really change a person’s feelings, so expressing your own gives them something that they cannot really argue or dispute. You feel the way you do for whatever reason.
If accusations come up about your own failures, admit them. Agreeing with your child about your failures pulls the fuse out of his firecracker. It can no longer be used as ammunition. In addition, admitting your own wrongdoing provides an amazing example to your child of what you might want to see them do one day…admit when they are wrong. They never will if you never do.
Tell him that from now on there are three rules for your home: Respect. Honesty. Obedience. In that order.
Share your heart. “Son, there’s some things that have to change….some things that have to stop, and some new things need to happen.” Or, if your daughter, “Sweetheart, things can’t continue the way they are.” The overall message is, “There are going to be some changes in the way that we operate from now on.”
Feel free to use these helps that let them know change is inevitable:
“I can’t allow for the following behavior to happen anymore.”
“Beginning now life will be different in our household.”
“Yelling at your mother has to stop. It is disrespectful and I can’t allow anyone to speak to my wife that way.”
“We have some new rules about money, chores, and helping around the house.”
“You may not demand everything all the time. “
“We will no longer do “these things” (laundry, driving you everywhere, paying for everything, cooking every meal, and jumping every time you say ‘frog’).
“Your cussing must stop. Your younger brothers and sisters are being affected.”
“Our home will be safe for everyone. You cannot get physical or be threatening. If you do, we will call the police.”
“We will come to agreement about the way you dress.
“You’re on the computer quite a bit, and it’s keeping you from interacting with others. We’re going to limit it’s use.”
“I love cell phones, but you have to turn it off during meals, after 10:00 pm, and when we’re having a discussion.”
“When you get your car next year, and I’ll put up the same amount of money that you give for its purchase, you’ll have to pay for gas or insurance”. (This is for future use. You’re saying it now to help get their expectations in order.)
Hopefully you understand what I’m proposing. You are detailing what you would like to see in your home and what you want to be different. You are lining out expectations, changing the rules of the game, establishing boundaries, developing new rules of engagement, and giving definition to acceptable and unacceptable behavior for your home.
3. Lay Out the Consequences
This is also the time to identify and express the consequences. Then, when it comes time to enforce the consequences, your child already knows what to expect.
Here are a few helpful bits of wisdom that I’ve found are essential as you change the laws of your home, and move into new territory. Know which battles you want to fight, and which ones you can let go. Don’t try to correct everything at once. Don’t keep hounding your child to change everything all at once.Tell him that you owe him nothing, but want to give him everything. It’s a message that bears repeating to the point that he can say it back to you. Plan for special times where the only boundary for the time together is “no sermons and no cell phones.” You don’t preach, and he won’t talk or text on the phone.
And surprise your 15-year-old occasionally by bringing him the computer game or CD or DVD that he’s always wanted. Not because he’s demanded it, but because you know that he wants it. It’s a lot easier to require something of him when he knows that you are willing to also give to him.
To the harshest of situations, approach with humility, but carry that “big stick” of parental authority. If you just don’t know what to do, then don’t lean on your own understanding. Find help from others who have been there. Let your 15-year-old son know that you will stop at nothing to change his heading in the wrong direction.
Most of the challenges you encounter during your son’s (or daughter’s) 15th year, are just bumps in the road and will soon pass. It’s important that you not wait for that to happen but help make it happen. Now is the time to be engaged in the life of your kids; they need you now more than ever.
Merry Christmas, everyone!!!
A special message from Mark
I do hope and pray that this Christmas season is a wonderful time of celebration and reflection for you and your family. It’s a special time for all of us at Parenting Today’s Teens, and the only time that we ask folks to partner with us financially to help support our work with teens and families. If these newsletters, or any of the Parenting Today’s Teens resources have been beneficial to you, would you consider a gift to our ministry in your year-end giving? You can do so by clicking here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas. For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website. It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. To find out about al the resources available through Parenting Today’s Teens, please visit www.parentingtodaysteens.org. To find out more about the Heartlight residential counseling program that Mark founded, visit www.heartlightministries.org You can also call Parenting Today’s Teens office directly at 1.866.700.FAMILY (3264) And, hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org.