4 Moms Discuss Teen Boys and Girls Growing Up Too Soon

The 4 Moms of 35+ Kids are answering questions again.

Are any of you struggling or have struggled with the changes in personality of teenage boys? Specifically having a compassionate, obedient child taking on a confident, self-focused personality/behavior?

One of my most challenging parenting tasks has been to allow my little boy to turn into a man. This is a delicate transition because the child who may have once been a clingy, unsure little fella suddenly wants to become a confident, capable, decision maker.

Of course, as a parent, you want the boy to become these things, but the tricky part is, when left unattended, the boy, instead of confident, becomes cocky, and instead of capable, becomes arrogant.

And then there’s the whole issue of a the boy wanting to be a man, which in his mind equals “leader”. No man wants to be under the authority of his mommy.

It’s not easy for a teen boy to become a man, mostly because he wants to already be a man.

A mother’s job is to show the boy how he can discipline himself and practice making important decisions and leading others while still being under authority.

I try to give my son plenty of chances to make important decisions. I ask his advice on tough problems. I remind him that his strength and courage are invaluable. I give him more freedom each passing week to make his own choices.

At the same time, I make it clear that until he is self-sufficient and of legal age, he will continue to be under my authority. (And my husband’s, but that seems to come more easily for him.)

This process would be a lot easier if boys woke up one day and had overnight become a complete man. As it is, this is a constant balancing act, because each day the boy is becoming closer to being a man, and sometimes it is a two steps forward, one step back event.

Keep affirming the boy’s growing competence and independence, while reminding him that submitting to the proper authority is the right thing to do.

How do you handle things like make-up, heels, etc with your littler girls?

I have found that having older sisters makes my little girls want to wear and do grown up things earlier than my first daughter did.

Unfortunately for them, I am unswayed by entreaties such as, “It’s not fairrrrrrrr! She gets to do it. Why can’t IIIiiiii?” I remind them that with age comes privilege. This is universally true. 16 year olds can drive. 18 year olds can vote. 21 year olds can rent cars. No matter how much a 13 year old begs the lady at the DMV, he will not be issued a driver’s license.

I have set certain age limits on certain activities, such as

  • When you are 9, you can stay up until 9:00.
  • When you are 13, you can begin to wear (light) make-up.

My age limits may be different from yours, but if your children are aware of your  limits, and you are consistent with your enforcement of them, your children will know when to expect their new privileges.

Now, be sure to see what questions the rest of my 4 Moms team are answering today.

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Comments

  1. I read an article once (and unfortunately can’t remember who it was by or I would google it and give credit!) about the idea of a Christian equivalent of a bar-mitvah. As I understand it, the Jewish idea is that when a boy reaches 12 he is considered a man, albeit a young man, and thus is given greater responsibilities and freedoms. He prepares for it by studying Scripture, and then gets to have a big celebration, so it’s both fun and serious in his mind. Any thoughts on this? Connie I think your son is past this age now? But I would love to hear what people think of that idea and how it could work, or not, all that kind of consideration.

    • I’m Jewish, so I’ll add a little detail. Rabbinical Jews place entrance into religious manhood at the beginning of the teen years. In theory, the boy has spent his childhood learning to read Hebrew and learning about Scripture and religious commentaries.

      In a Jewish service, about four chapters of the Mosiac law are read. Those chapters are divided into portions, which are each read by a different member of the congregation. The Bar Mitzvah is the first time a boy gets to be one of the readers. He may also participate in other parts of the service. It’s his introduction to be a full member of the congregation.

      • Thanks, Rachel, that’s really interesting. I love the idea of a formal ceremony to mark the beginning of adulthood. I like the idea that there has been training leading up to this point, and now you’re ready to begin taking on some of those adult responsibilities. Kind of like being an apprentice adult, which I think is a much smarter approach than the whole, “yay, you’re 18, now you can vote and get drunk”, which we seem to have in the UK.

  2. My girls would be envious knowing your girls can wear make-up at 13 LOL Mine can begin fingernail/toenail polish at 12. No make-up til 16…light make-up (mascara and eye shadow only). No heels until 16.

    We had one son at home then we adopted a couple of younger boys last year. They are tired of hearing, “he’s 16, you are only 12 (or 14). He didn’t get to do that at your age either.” They figure they should be treated equal to him. Ahhh…the joy of “too bad, so sad” :)

  3. My mother always old me that the purpose of make up was to be attractive to men. Unless there was someone for whom I wanted to be attractive, it would not be setting a prudent precedent for me to wear make up. Since we had agreed that 16 was an appropriate age for me to become a available, make up (outside of dress up, since one does need practice at some point) was out of the question.

    At 16, there was no one specific, but the rules changed a little. My parents had split up, and my father wanted me to be able to bond with his new woman over “girl stuff”. I’m also a harpist, and had started to sell my services at weddings and parties, so dressing up formally became a reality of my life. My mother’s compromise was that I could wear make up outside so long as she couldn’t tell in passing that I was wearing it.

    Heels were a bit different. My mother had been to modeling school after she finished high school. One thing she learned there was that heels take practice and a different posture/gait from flats. Since heels are a common component of professional attire, she had me start learning to wear them at around 13. Sure enough, I needed that skill at 16 when I started playing gigs (which also included hauling 50 pounds of gear to and from the car, often over grass).

    I’ll grant this is a secular view, and my own views (should I ever add a daughter to my collection of sons) are bait different, but I think the reasoning is worth adding to the conversation.

  4. I have a future post suggestion for you. You mentioned the “when you are 9, you may stay up until 9″ rule, and I am not the greatest with always getting my youngest children in bed at a reasonable time. The evening tends to slip by sometimes! What are evenings like in your home?

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