Tell me if this sounds familiar. Your son gets home from school and heads directly to his room or spot in the house and basically checks out. You can't get a word from him for what feels like the 100th day in a row and it really bugs you. Rather than full sentences, you get a grunt, blank stare, or barely audible response.
Well... the good news: you aren't alone. This is a normal thing that almost everyone goes through while raising a son. It doesn’t matter if you are a mom or dad – your teen son is going to have moments when he just won’t communicate.
The other good news? It's not about you. Let me explain….
A Day In The Life
Let’s go back to that first moment out of school. He has just run the middle school morass or high school gauntlet for 8 hours. Think about school for a minute.
The vast majority of schools are set up for people who are really good at listening and reading and talking. He’s literally bombarded with information, most of which he has no idea on how it will impact his life. (Do you remember why the War of 1812 was started? Me, neither.)
Now, let’s think about your son’s brain. The vast majority of male brains are set up to be more kinesthetic, spatial, and tactile than verbal/linguistic. This puts the male brain at odds with the normal system of learning it encounters at school. It’s constantly hovering at the ‘too much info, I’m going to shut down’ line.
This is a hard set up - even for our sons who are good at school. Your son is working overtime to keep his brain aware and out of trouble from the well-meaning teachers.
You also have to take the social side of school into account. All day, he’s been dealing with the overriding question of 'do I fit in?' At this age, his brain is a comparison-machine in terms of those around him. And, not only is he thinking ‘do I fit in’ but also, in the back of his mind, he’s got ‘do I have wait it takes?’
You would hope this comparison would end as soon as he’s back in the safe environment of home.
But, because of technology, the comparisons do not stop.
Social media allows him to connect and compare literally all of the time with the whole world. And, the images and messages are not built to make him feel good about himself – they are made to get him to look at more. They show perfect abs, idealized beauty, and unrealistic dreams… to which he compares his life.
So, our sons are drinking from a firehouse without the maturity or words or emotional control to handle it.
They are exhausted and are fearful they won't 'measure up.' Our sons are ravenous for something that will put their souls going in the right direction.
And, that something comes from God through the caring adults around him.
In Matthew 4, Jesus is in the wilderness for 40 days of fasting. Upon completion and at his weakest, Satan shows up to see if he could sway Jesus to his side.
“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Are the words your son is getting from the culture around him God’s words? If they are like the words my boys get most of the time, I would guess the answer is ‘no.’
What about the words he gets from you?
Kind words from a loving parent can make all the difference, especially if these are consistently provided.
A recent article in New York Magazine caught my attention. Two teenage brothers are talking:
Carlos: What are some things you wish Mom and Dad could offer to help you being a 14-year-old boy?
Liam: …. It would also be cool, emotionally, if they could understand that sometimes, hey, I’m just having a bad day. I get in the car and I’m like, “Didn’t get much sleep last night. I’m probably going to get angry if we talk a bunch. Can I just sit here?”
This is hard for parents to allow because we are either excited to find out about the day or scared about something. We want, crave, need information and this young man-child is not giving it up.
He will. You just need to approach it differently. It’s the same type of transition from being a baby to a toddler and from toddler to child. You had to speak with them differently as they changed.
Same here – you’ve got to change up how you approach him. But, while some things have changed, other have not.
What He Still Needs
He still needs ‘guard rails’ that are consistent and commiserate with his level of responsibility. He needs someone who is in control because he feels anything but that way.
And, he needs kind words from you, especially those come from God.
To do this? Here are a few ideas.
1. Pray about it. And, even more important, pray with him.
2. Start to treat him like a grown up in your conversations with him... but still require that he answer. If he doesn't right away say, 'It seems like you need some space now. That's fine - go enjoy some quiet time. But I'm going to expect an answer from you the next time we talk."
(This is especially important for Moms - your brain is a lot quicker than his in terms of access to feelings and emotions. He literally needs time to think about his answers in this regards.)
3. Require him to be helpful around the house. If he doesn’t know how to do something yet, teach him patiently and tell him why it’s important. Compliment him on either doing his best to learn or, hopefully, a job well done.
4. Have him read a chapter or two of the Bible and have a grown-up conversation about it. Ask questions like, “So, what did you get out of that” and “How do you think that plays out in your life.” After he answers, tell him how it applied to you at his age.
5. Finally, bless him before he goes to bed. Put your hand on him and say something like this: “May the Lord bless you and keep you, lay His hands upon you and give you peace. And, may you never know a day without His love.” It may feel odd at first – for both of you – but there are few better ways to pass along the love you feel for him.
Our young men are crying out for direction and information from a source that is not dependent on how cool the look or whether or not they are in the ‘In’ crowd that day, week, month.
They need this from you, their parent, who will always be there for him. Create some space and time for that to happen. Its worth the effort!
Photo by Jesús Rodríguez on Unsplash