You’re at your wits end with his attitude. He challenges everything you say. You’re not sure if it’s safe to go in his bedroom such is that state that it’s in. And you’re also not sure where that hand has been, your mind doesn’t even want to go there!
These are the stereotypes that are often associated with teenage boys, and with good cause. Many times it can feel as if we’re living in a twilight zone, as these stereotypical behaviours play out in our homes. But beneath these stereotypes is our own unique and often vulnerable child.
Perhaps one who feels pressured to follow the expectations of his peer group and wider society, but a unique child nonetheless. This truth can be easily lost, especially when we as parents succumb to our own stereotypes too.
We’ve all had those awful moments when we know we sound exactly like our mothers and fathers at their most judgemental and intolerant. We forget what it was like to have raging hormones, a yearning for freedom from control and a safe place to fall.
It’s natural to forget and expect our sons to learn the rules of the game quicker than we did. We tend to focus on keeping our children safe from harm and encouraging them to be upstanding citizens.
But let’s be honest. Our fears for them are usually based on what we got up to and got away with, at their age. Or how many times we didn’t make the most of opportunities. Most of us have at least one story to tell of how we (luckily) avoided a dangerous situation or scraped through an exam by the skin of our teeth.
When we step back and review our own angst-ridden teenage years, we can remember just how much we yearned for tolerance and understanding from our parents. We needed them when we needed them, and not a second longer!
Our bodily parts were growing and changing in the weirdest ways. We compared ourselves to our friends and particularly, our enemies. We often felt like we didn’t quite match up. That is, unless you were one of the popular guys or girls.
But the pressure and expectations placed on the popular group was just as intense. They were expected to behave in a certain way too, they too, had little room for maneuver.
Our teenage sons face the same pressures we did at their age. And if they’re sensitive types, even more so. Imagine what it’s like when your popularity isn’t just based on who you’re friends with at school, but also how many likes you get on your social media posts.
There’s a need to make your life appear endlessly interesting for the ‘gram. You need to have the best and latest iPhone or Android phone where possible. Maybe your own YouTube channel too.
Just like back in the day there’s the latest dances to learn, but now it all has to be on video. Then of course there’s the memes to share and react to. Never mind the pressure to create content that goes viral. Popularity contests have gone into overdrive these days!
Allowing our teenage sons to find their way through this morass of growing expectations isn’t always easy. It’s much easier to be dismissive of the pressures they face. Yet if we’re honest, we can feel the pressure to appear to have it all together on social media too.
Ramp that pressure up by 10 and you get the idea of how much modern day teenagers go through, never mind your own children.
Finding time to actively express our loving affection for our difficult teenage sons is so important – as hard as it can be when they try to push us away. We still need to provide the space for them to be and feel, vulnerable.
It’s our responsibility to keep the lines of dialogue open. Non-judgmental dialogue that is. We can learn to traverse that fine line between compassion and boundary setting. They deserve our patience, attention and loving intention, no matter how difficult they can be.
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