While running workshops at schools, I have asked hundreds of moms and sons what they generally fight about. It is easy to see that underlying these everyday clashes there is a deeper agenda, as mothers’ needs are so different from the developmental tasks that their sons are hardwired to achieve.
Your teen’s developmental tasks are
Autonomy (so he says: “I’m in control” “I make my own decisions”)
Independence (so he says “I like being on my own” “My friends come first”)
Identity (so he says “ I am me” “I’ll choose who and what I like”)
Intimacy (so he says “I am interested in girls” “I want my privacy”)
Helping teens reach these goals requires parents who know how to love, be positive, teach about giving and receiving, promote social contribution and know how to set boundaries in the home and in their own life. At the same time, moms have needs too.
Attachment (so you will over-react, overprotect).
To be heard (so you will nag, lecture).
Control (so you will give instructions).
Family connection (so you want to do things together.)
The potential for clashes is clear. But let’s look at what a teen needs while he or she is learning to become an adult.
Someone they can depend on to be stable, consistent yet fair.
Rules and responsibility.
Discussion about the stuff going on in his life.
Your adolescent needs good, strong adult role models who demonstrate caring, responsibility, discipline and positive healthy living.
Having a good relationship with your teen in the most important aspect of parenting.
We need to learn to be assertive in a way that brings the best out of our teens; we need to walk the middle path, giving our teens what they need and remaining true to ourselves.
Here are some things to think about that will help your journey with your teen.
- Believe in yourself as a mother. You clearly love and care for your teen, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
- Find ways to rediscover your confidence in yourself. If you believe you have acted with integrity from a place of care then that’s the best you can do. Stop with the doubts!
- Stand your ground. A teen needs a confident self-assured figure to lean on. (Yes, you will make mistakes and also make the wrong decisions at times.)
- Know that deep down he or she will be doubtful and will crave your love.
- Start this process by deciding to trust your teen; give them responsibilities around the home; ask them to do stuff for you that is within their capacity.
- Tell them you want a good relationship with them. Make them feel important as your child.
- Enforce limits in the home that are reasonable.
- Decide what matters, prioritise.
- Don’t argue about everything – back off if it isn’t that important. Save the relationship.
- Be willing to discuss issues.
- Don’t be bullied into something.
- Look, listen (without delivering a lecture).