How Do Teen Boys Feel Loved By Their Moms
Moms reach out to me on a weekly basis expressing their sadness when their sons hit the tween and teen years and begin to pull away.
“How do I connect with my son now that our relationship is changing?” or “How do I get my teen boy to talk to me?” “What do I do?” “Does he still care?”
If you have an adolescent son, chances are you’ve asked these same questions. I have too. With a son now in his twenties, I have learned a few things that if I’d known during my son’s teen years, would have helped me immensely.
Here are 10 Things You Need To Know To Love Your Son Well
Your son feels deeply.
Just because boys don’t express their feelings as much as girls tend to do, doesn’t mean that they don’t feel, and feel deeply. They do.
And I will argue that a male can be just as sensitive as a female, they just aren’t as adept at showing it and are socialized to be tough when it comes to expressing sadness and the more vulnerable feelings.
Next time you find yourself doubting that your son is feeling anything, remind yourself that even though your son may not show his vulnerable feelings, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have them. He gets his feelings hurt too, it just may come out as anger or indifference – feelings that are more socially acceptable and safer for him to express.
He still needs you, just differently.
At around twelve, my son started becoming more private. I interpreted his changing behavior as he really not wanting or needing me anymore. I felt hurt and as a result at times, I took his behavior personally.
I’m here to reassure you that it’s not personal. It’s developmental and a natural process that he needs to go through. Your son still needs you just as much, just differently.
He needs you to allow him to go through this process of becoming a man. As much as we may still want to coddle or cuddle, it’s important we honor them drawing some new boundary lines with us and at the same time find new ways to connect with them.
They want more space but they don’t want you to go away.
Your son is entering a new chapter of his life and trying to figure out what it means to become a young man (which is really hard for us to relate to!).
As hard as it is to step back and let them have their space, we must. With maturity comes independence and our teen boys need to detach from us and figure many things out on their own.
However, this doesn’t mean we need to take a giant leap – take a step back (but not too far) and give him a little more space.
Don’t retreat. Stay present, but speak less (a lot less) and listen more. And I know what you’re thinking, “Well, I’d listen but he’s not talking.” I get it.
Boys are like cats and turtles – if you follow them around, talk too much, or chase them down they will go hide somewhere or retreat into their shell.
Treat them like birds. Don’t pelt them with questions.
Occasionally throw out a little “birdseed,” and hang around. Sit down. Be there.
Find ways to connect with him that don’t require talking. Drive in the car, make his favorite foods, join him in an activity that he enjoys (yes, even if it means playing a video game!).
Random acts of kindness and lots of food speaks love to him.
Random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to speak love to your son when you have no idea what to do or how to connect with him.
Have his favorite food in the refrigerator, make his favorite meal, do the little things that show you care and are thinking of him.
They want you on their team rooting for him.
Be their number one fan. Show up and celebrate even the little accomplishments but more than anything else, accept and celebrate who they are, not who you think they should be.
When they’re discouraged, don’t offer advice, instead, validate their feelings. Don’t dismiss their feelings even if you don’t think it’s a big deal. Whatever it is, it may be a big deal to them. When they’re happy about something, be happy with them.
Focus on the positive things they’re doing versus the negative.
I can’t stress this enough, my son is now in his 20’s, and most of the stuff that I worried, nagged, and complained about looking back was such a waste of precious time. So much of what I worried about looking back worked itself out. It’s our son’s character and our relationship that really matters. So let the insignificant stuff go.
Resist the temptation to focus on what your son isn’t doing or is doing that is irritating you. Remember the 5-1 Rule – for every 1 negative comment you need 5 positives to make up for the one negative. Find small ways throughout each day to give warmth, positive attention, and affirmation (get our Affirmations HERE).
Show an interest in what he loves.
What’s really important to your son? Listen to what your son talks about, even if it’s not up your alley, (e.g. video games, a YouTube channel, sports, hobbies, rap music?).
Go to school on what’s important to him and even if it’s not to you it means more than you know when you show an interest.
And remember to lighten up and have fun. Laugh at his jokes. And even If he doesn’t want to hug you, give him a little love nudge. Ask specific questions – “what did you like the most about practice today?” “What do you love the most about that video game?” “What is your favorite YouTube channel, will you show me?”
He won’t always fight to take a shower.
During middle school, it worried me so much when my son wasn’t brushing his teeth or didn’t want to take a shower. Just know that it won’t last. This is a phase. Model good hygiene and have him take a shower before he does something he wants to do but don’t overly badger or worry. This too shall pass.
Don’t rescue him; believe he is capable.
One of the most important things you can do for your son is to believe he is capable of solving his own problems and figuring things out.
Don’t play the rescuer and jump in and try to fix things or offer unsolicited advice. Your son needs you to let him learn from his mistakes and choices. Provide him with the opportunity to take ownership of his decisions now, not later when the cost is so much higher.
This goes hand in hand with believing your son is capable. As moms we are sensitive and care deeply, however far too often I see a mom coddling and over-functioning for her son out of a fear that he can’t handle whatever it is. This sends the message loud and clear that he can’t. Guard against sending this message and trade it for allowing him the opportunity to face challenges and strengthen his grit muscles and gain that confidence that he can.
Lastly, mama, I assure you – you still matter more than you could know and your son loves you just as much as he did when he was little.
You are still the most important person in your son’s life. After all, you gave birth to him! Reassure yourself with the truth that he still needs you, just differently. Give him space, but not too much. Talk less and listen more. Focus on the positive versus nagging and lecturing. Take an interest in what he cares about and above all, believe he is capable.
This is what loving our sons well is all about.