Kindhearted Mothering: How to Have a Good Relationship with Teenage Sons

I’m currently raising my fourth teenager and although each has been unique, the teenage years start like clockwork. Around age 11, I begin to notice small differences in their personalities and our relationship. By 13, the teenage years are fully upon us and everything starts changing.

During the teenage years, mothers and sons can hit a particularly rocky patch which can derail even the closest relationships. The abrupt change in how you and your son relate to each other can leave you wondering what happened. You might even think it’s a natural part of life and give up trying to make things better. But there is another way. You can do simple things to build a good relationship with your teenage son.

Relationships Change Over Time

I’ve enjoyed a close relationship with each of my kids over the years. Each new stage of development has brought ups and downs; the teenage years are no different. There are really good, new parts of our relationship and really challenging parts, too. As my sons grow up, our relationship has endured conflict and distancing in a more pronounced way than I experienced with my teenage girls.

While it’s not hard for my daughters to continue relating to my life and journey as a woman, my teenage boys have had a different reaction. My sons do not identify with me as they grow and change from small children into men. While they still value me and respect me, they don’t see themselves in my story. This lack of identification and the natural teenage need for independence works to create conflict. It creates pockets of distance and a feeling of being out of step with each other.

What I am not saying is that your son will (or should) stop admiring you, stop listening to your life experiences, or stop seeing you as an authority figure in their life. They should absolutely respect the authority of the women in leadership around them – especially you, their mother. But it’s okay for the relationship to shift and for your son to relate differently to you than he did in the past. Don’t let it scare you. Instead work to find new rhythms of communication and respect.

I’ve put together a list of ways you can nurture your relationship so it survives the teenage years and even thrives as they get older. It isn’t a magical formula that will keep you from having conflict or problems. It’s simply a checklist you can use to help you create new patterns of communication and respect within your relationship.

13 Ways to Have a Good Relationship With Your Teenage Son

1. Be a Leader: Leadership is important during the teenage years –  as important as ever. If there is friction in your relationship, it can make leading hard, even painful. There are so many moments when it would be easier to be a friend than a parent. While conflict can make leading challenging, it’s still very important. You need to create boundaries that are good for them (and you) and stick to them.

2.Give them as much freedom as possible: Pick and choose your battles. Especially here in teenage-ville. Not everything is bad. Choose the battles that are most important to you and let the others go. Lett them choose as much as possible within the boundaries you’ve set.

3. Not everything is a challenge: Not everything your child is doing is meant to be a direct challenge to your authority or position as the parent. Don’t pick a fight over everything they do. Give them some room to make decisions, have vastly different opinions, make dumb mistakes, have conflict with their friends, challenge long-held beliefs, or assert their independence in healthy ways. Be their support system without turning everything into a fight.

4. Learn new patterns of communication: You will fight. You will say things you don’t mean. You will feel challenged and disrespected. While it’s normal to go from zero to madness when there is repeated conflict in a situation, it’s good to study and practice new ways of communication to resolve problems peacefully and respectfully. Read up on how your personality style influences your reactions. How you were treated as a teenager by your parents is also a good indicator of how you will deal with yours. This is good for you and good for your son to learn, too. Your son is growing. It’s time to learn new ways of speaking to him. 

5. Be invested in their life: Don’t let their nonchalant attitudes fool you. They want you to show up for performances and know their friends’ names. So many dangerous habits decrease (such as drug use, etc.) among teens who have parents involved in their life. Keep showing up!

6. Take advantage of time: When you’re together, get to know your son. He’s changing and has new opinions. Take the time to find them out. Play ice breaker games while you are driving in the car, put down your phones when he is speaking, have family dinners together, or listen to his music together. Make the most of your time together! 

7. Be a soft spot: The best thing you can do for your son is be available to listen, hear (and keep) his secrets, and give empathy. Be the place he can come when the world is too big and he needs comfort.

8. Let them grow away from you: The teenage years are full of detachment and growth away from parents. It’s a time of independence and learning to stand on their own two feet. It’s okay if your kids want to spend time away from you, try new things, and push boundaries. It’s not a reflection on you but a healthy (and necessary) part of growing up. Keep nurturing the relationship, hold steady to the boundaries you’ve made, discipline appropriately, and be respectful. You will find new footing together.

9. Make time for fun: Make time to be together without a purpose, without addressing an issue, or talking something out. Make time to be together, having fun, and nurturing your relationship through time spent together. Set aside time each week to grab coffee or grab breakfast together. Our youngest son loves to drive through back roads at night and listen to music. During spring baseball we do a lot of driving around Oklahoma, so on long night-drives home we turn on music and enjoy our time together. It doesn’t take a lot to do the things they love!

10. Don’t make fun of them: Having fun, poking fun, and joking around are all good things as long as you aren’t doing it all at the expense of your kid. Make sure you are doing things in a respectful way and listen to them if they communicate otherwise. Be especially careful how you tease him in front of his peers!

11. Be a good sport: It’s a good idea to grow your skin as thick as possible during these years. Don’t take offense at every joke or every burn. Learn to shake things off and receive some good natured teasing. 

12. Be repentant: The words “I’m sorry” go a long way in every relationship – even with your children. Parents are human and make plenty of mistakes. It’s ok to be honest about those you make and how they affect your child. Be willing to own up to what you do wrong, repent, and work to keep from making that mistake again. Apologizing goes a long way to keeping your relationship healthy and strong during the teen years. 

13. Know the culture: Every generation is different. Every teenager is different from their parents. Don’t scoff at what is currently going on, be informed. You don’t need to love everything about their generation but knowing current artists, shows, styles, social media platforms, and slang goes a long way.

Don’t lose heart when the relationship changes. It’s a bumpy time for everyone involved. Your child needs to push away and gain independence to be a healthy adult. Those gangly boys with changing voices don’t have it all together or know everything. They’re still young and need a lot of guidance, grace, and patience as they navigate their way through the teen years and all the changes these years bring.

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