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As moms, we will always see our sons as our little boys. No matter how much we don’t want it to happen though, they grow up. Navigating the teen years can be a bit tricky at times. Their emotions often run high and so do ours.
Sometimes we have no idea how to communicate with them. And they don’t know how to communicate with us.
So how can we talk? How can we navigate our changing relationship? How can we encourage them as they become young men? What do we need to know about what they are thinking and feeling?
It starts by listening to what they have to say, even if they never say it aloud.
10 Things They May Never Say Aloud
Dear Mom, please…
- Respect me and see me as capable.
- Believe in me and tell me I can do it.
- Talk to me, not just at me.
- Don’t put down my ideas and opinions, or treat them flippantly. I know I don’t know as much about life as you, but I’m trying to figure it out.
- Realize the world I’m growing up in is different than the one you grew up in.
- Know that I love you even though I’m starting to want to spend more time with my friends and ask their advice on things, too.
- Love me unconditionally.
- Support me as I try to make the faith you raised me with my own.
- Recognize I’m excited about my future and scared all at the same time.
- See that I’m trying to navigate what it means to be a man and I don’t always know what that looks like.
(By the way, this list was approved by my two sons ages 17 and 20 at the time.)
Communicate You Care
It is true. A lot of things your teens want to say to you might not ever be said aloud. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paying attention to what they are trying to say. They simply don’t always know how to express the things they are thinking or feeling. But by listening anyway, we communicate that we truly care about them.
Because for each of the 10 things above, there is something implied about how we should be acting toward them. Respecting, believing, talking, loving, supporting, understanding all say, “I care about you. I care about the things you care about. And I care about how you feel.”
Several of the things they want us to know are based on their deep need to be respected because that is how God designed them.
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)
Why does Paul encourage wives to respect their husbands? I believe it is because it doesn’t come naturally for us as women. Ever since the fall, it seems we’ve been fighting God’s unique plan. Respecting our husbands doesn’t come naturally. But it does come supernaturally—through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And of course this passage is speaking to wives. But our sons’ first relationship with a woman is us, Dear Moms. Wouldn’t it be great if how we relate to our sons set an good example of how God wants women and men to relate in marriage someday? What if how we treat our sons now spoke to their core need as men?
What if overtime as we speak respect, we were speaking love to them?
- I wrote a guest post for Ben and Me, How to Show Respect to Your Teen Son.
- Mother and Son: The Respect Effect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.
- Mothers and Sons: Respect is the Secret Sauce from Lightly Frayed.
Men’s “love language” may be respect, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need love just like women. Respect is simply how they hear and receive love. Unconditional love that says, “I love you just the way you are, the way God designed you. I love your personality and humor and just the fact that you are you.”
Unconditional love is an action, not a feeling—choosing the best for others, putting their interests above our own, being patient in the process. Love tries to see life through others’ perspectives, to consider what it is like to walk in their shoes.
It does’t expect perfection, but prays and hopes for their best. Unconditional love asks for forgiveness and gives it to others.
Talk…And Just Listen
I wish I could tell you I know these things because I figured it out while they were still my little boys. Nope. I made mistakes and didn’t really listen at times. Often I gave my opinion without really considering theirs. I tried to prove I was right and they were wrong. But somehow we worked through it. Imperfectly, but with a lot of love and forgiveness on both our parts.
Our sons travel a difficult road to adulthood. They need us to be their biggest supporters, their loudest cheerleaders. And they need us to understand them. I want to encourage you to read the list above to your teen sons. Ask them:
- What do you think about the list?
- Would you add any other thoughts?
- Are there things on the list that aren’t true for you?
- How can I help and support and encourage you?
- And perhaps the hardest question, what do you need me to do better?
Please, keep talking to your teen sons. But spend a lot more time listening, even to the things they don’t say aloud.