Many families I know stop homeschooling their sons when they reach high school. Moms state many reasons for this. I hear, “Well, my son plays baseball and the high school team offers more options for him.” Or, I hear, “My son is into computers and techie stuff. He can get that at the high school since I can’t offer him that at home.” But, the most common reason is that she has a rebellious teenage son. He doesn’t respect her authority. How can you win your (teen) son’s heart? What do I mean?
What it means to have your son’s heart
When you have your son’s heart, he obeys you out of love and regard for you. When you are face-to-face with a young man that is taller than you, you physically cannot make him do anything. You can take away privileges, sure, but he will not accept your discipline if you do not have his heart. If your son deceives you with an appearance of obedience, if he behaves differently when he is out with friends, then you do not have his heart. And, of course, there are much more severe varieties of this in the form of drug and alcohol use, smoking, stealing, skipping classes, etc.
Please don’t think for a minute that homeschooling somehow makes him immune to these behaviors. They definitely happen less often among homeschooled teens, but they still happen. However, a young man whose heart is soft and humble toward you will listen to your counsel and he is the same person no matter who he is with. He is usually a young man who loves the Lord, but even non-Christians can win their sons’ hearts.
A mother-son relationship changes in the teen years…
Do understand, though, that it is normal for a teenaged boy to pull away from his mother. It’s not because of anything you did necessarily. It’s because you are a woman, the first woman he has ever loved, and it is inappropriate for him to remain too close to you. He must pull away and become a man, a leader of his own household, and cleave to his wife, not to you. If you try to make him a mama’s boy or guilt trip him, you will drive him away at the same time that you interfere with his maturation toward manhood.
So, first, is he truly rebellious or is he simply pulling away and you are interfering with this normal process? Moms need to back off and allow their sons to grow up and find a wife.
And physical changes aren’t always smooth, so maybe it only looks like you have a rebellious teenage son…
Second, the surge in testosterone makes boys naturally more aggressive, moody, maybe angry or on edge. Give him some grace and some room. Maybe give him a healthy outlet for all of it, like a punching bag or some other physical equipment. Remember, not all boys are athletic and enjoy the typical sports. If your son is more of the musician/artsy type or the thinker/tinkerer type, maybe he needs a skateboard, martial arts, drum set, or other unconventional recreational activity.
Another physical nuisance for boys is that they need more sleep–a lot more–and they typically don’t get that extra sleep. Add to that the fact that all teens experience a shift in their circadian rhythm such that they feel tired an hour or two later than they did in their childhood, and you have a recipe for lots of sleep-deprived, cranky, unmotivated teens. Consider these two factors when trying to help your rebellious teenage son. Maybe it’s not a bad attitude, but more like trouble with physical changes that manifest as behavior issues.
And many young men struggle with poor self-esteem, depression, peer pressure, and even what masculinity means
Even homeschooled boys can struggle with mental health. After all, they still see social media and encounter some of the same challenges that public schooled boys do. They may avoid some of the worst aspects of public school, but they can still be bullied and suffer other mental health challenges. This often goes under the radar since boys are not encouraged to share their feelings and struggles. They themselves may see their struggles as weakness, but act out in anger or turn to vice as a coping mechanism. They need to have a safe space in which to be honest about their issues or they may be at risk of worse problems.
In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged 10-19 and the second leading cause of death for people aged 20-34. In addition, males die by suicide almost four times as often as females, with white males at most risk of committing suicide. That’s right. White males are more likely to commit suicide than any other group, including Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans. And given how much white men are maligned and villainized, it shouldn’t be surprising.
Pay attention to how he reacts to things and whether he seems to avoid certain people or situations. Does he have angry outbursts? Keep questionable friendships? It may be time to consider consulting a professional specializing in rebellious teenage sons.
How to win your son’s heart
So, once you’ve addressed sleep and a physical outlet, considered the mother-son relationship, and ruled out deeper emotional issues, it’s time to address other things. There are three key ingredients to a healthy relationship with your son. I once heard it said that rules without relationship equals rebellion. Your relationship is more important than an awesome transcript, more important than extracurricular activities, more important than almost anything else he does during his high school years. I know that sounds provocative. Why? Knowledge can be gained at any age, but a broken relationship is hard to mend. Scars remain, even if there is healing. So the first thing to focus on is your relationship with your rebellious teenage son.
Three key ingredients to addressing your rebellious teenage son
Do not provoke to anger. Do not exasperate.
One sure fire way to provoke any child to anger is by exasperating him with your nagging. I have been guilty of this myself! I have repeated myself multiple times as if he needed to hear me say multiple times. He didn’t. He knew and made a mental note the first time I said it. Instead of motivating him to act, my nagging did the exact opposite and he learned to tune out my voice. Sometimes nagging teaches a person that they don’t need to remember because they are going to hear it again, and again, and again. Either way, it does nothing but make your son angry and turn a deaf ear to your voice.
The other way we can provoke a rebellious teenage son to anger or exasperate him is by expecting him to do things for which he has not been equipped to do. For example, expecting him to make his own dinner if you have not taught him any cooking skills. Or, you ask him to mow the lawn but you haven’t laid out what your expectations are. So, he mows the lawn, but neglects the close edges around the landscaping and the bag is overflowing with grass clippings. If you yell at him for not doing a good job but you haven’t shown him what a good job looks like, then your son is going to resist mowing the lawn the next time you ask him. Never assume anything.
Respect your son as a young man, not a little boy.
On the flip side of that, we can’t treat our sons like little boys and we can’t disregard what they say as if it didn’t matter because “What does he know? He’s just a kid.” Well, his thoughts, opinions, and decisions do matter and even if we don’t agree, we need to respect them. We also need to respect their personhood, their space, their time, and their plans. This is one of the key ways to motivate teens.
Respecting your son as a young man means that you honor his manhood by:
- encouraging and appreciating his desire to do meaningful work, whether paid or academic;
- giving him responsibility over his own life and decisions, even if you disagree;
- facilitating problem-solving, decision-making, goal setting, and self-challenges;
- understanding his need for emotional distance from you.
He is getting ready to become the leader of his own family and needs to develop confidence in his ability to do so. Check out this post for more ideas of how to nurture and respect your son.
Find a community of mature Christian men to mentor your rebellious teenage son.
Mature Christian men need to step in to teach him what real manhood is. They need to be a community that helps your husband train him to stand against temptation, to be friends and confidantes for your son, and to help him learn to be a servant leader. And, if you are a single mom, you especially need this for your son, in addition to male family members.
He no longer needs mom to bandage his booboos and rock him to sleep. What he needs most of all from mom is what every man needs–respect. He needs mom’s confidence in him, her encouragement, and her trust in his abilities.