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I wanted to share this story today because raising teen boys and girls is so important, but the years leading up to it matter just as much. These are the things that I taught our oldest sons (now teen boys) before they were teens. I am teaching these same things to our two younger children now.
Our young daughter is waiting for me on the swings in our backyard. She loves this one-on-one time together.
Even as I am in the midst of raising teen boys, a tween, and a little girl, I realize that it doesn’t matter how old they become – they cherish the quality time that comes with one-on-one time.
Maybe it has something to do with being in a big family and having three other siblings, or perhaps all boys and girls love this time with their parents while no one else is around. Either way, I’m happy to oblige.
It’s coming quickly and I see it the most when I look at our oldest boys: teenage boys turning into young men. I realize that while I raise boys who are not little children anymore, they are not quite men yet, either.
I’m raising teen boys right now… and it’s one of the most important times in their lives.
It was when our first son’s feet outgrew mine that I realized our time of real influence with them is limited.
When they see us every single day and they model our behavior. When they come to us with their problem and ask us for advice.
These years are when we have to work every day on helping them become the wonderful adults that we know they will be.
That window of opportunity closes each day, as other people come into their lives and our influence closes just a bit as they grow. As the teen years come and slowly pass us by, we realized that they need us a little less.
It’s healthy, normal, and truly soemthing wonderful as they become independent with age, but it’s also a time when we need to intentionally spend time teaching them about the kind of people that they will one day become.
It’s when we need to put a lot of effort into raising teenage sons & daughters who will become kind, responsible adults.
I look at those shoes on my feet and push away the thoughts of how quickly they are growing.
Raising Teen Sons: Ten lessons that I wanted our sons to know before they were teenagers.
1- Be Happy and Be Kind.
I tell our children, daily, that happiness and kindness is the most important thing, and they go hand in hand. When you are kind, it makes you happy and makes others happy. Happiness (or grumpiness) can be contagious.
I remind them that being mean or teasing someone is merely a way of saying “I am not strong enough to be kind, so I will make fun of others to lift myself up.”
Talking about someone or putting someone down is done out of insecurity. Don’t be that person. Have enough faith and confidence in yourself to be kind.
2- Take care of your body – it’s the only one you get.
Raising teen boys will make you aware of the fact that they need to be told these things. These things may not be as “common sense” as we think. They needs to be taught:
Eat right, go to the doctor when you need to, take time to relax, and for goodness sakes… take a shower every day.
“You have to take care of yourself, have good hygene, smell nice, and be clean. When you shower, start with your hair & work your way down your body. Rinse off well. Wear deodarant every day. If you forget, call us and we’ll bring it to you. Brush your teeth two or three times a day. Use mouthwash and floss, too. You are a growing boy with hormonal changes: trust me on these. Even if you don’t think it matters, it does.”
3- Treat a lady like a lady.
Open the door for her, pay when you go out to eat, get her coat for her, don’t interupt her, let her go first, etc. If you respect someone and care about them, you do these things for them out of kindness.
On the same note, don’t kiss her until she wants to be kissed and never tell anyone when that does happen.
Dating is sure to happen in these teenage years, and you must respect her completely. That means listening to her and keeping everything that she tells you between the two of you. As our teen boys begin dating (our daughter has several years before this begins), it’s important that I continue these converations.
4. Don’t forget your manners.
Shake someone’s hand when you meet them – you don’t need to wait for them to reach out. Reach out to them instead. Look them in the eye, too. Say “Please,” “Thank You,” and have good manners without being prompted.
Write a thank you note (Jackie Kennedy’s rule was always to have thank-you notes written within 24 hours. I have tried to follow that rule, as well, and I am now trying to teach my kids.)
5- If someone falls, help them up.
When our son was younger and he was playing in a basketball game, an opponent fell down on the court. I proudly watched as our son jogged over, reached his hand down to pull the kid up, and asked “You alright?”
It’s the simple gestures like this that go a long way (on & off of the field/court). Take this lesson & apply it to all areas of life. If someone is carrying groceries out of the store, hold the door open for them. If someone looks lost, offer a suggestion. If someone needs a friend – be a friend.
5- ‘Humor’ someone today.
You might not think that your brother’s joke is funny… laugh anyway. Your mom may have told you the same story twice… listen anyway.
You might not think that your friend’s new game is fun, be kind & play anyway. It is called humoring someone, and you do it out of kindness.
We teach our kids this, and we give them examples. Then, we give them opportunities to try, as we whisper into their ears “Humor your little brother & laugh at his joke. It’ll make him so happy to know that he made you laugh.”
6- Laugh at yourself!
Don’t take yourself too seriously or others will do the same. Have fun! Be silly. Don’t try to be perfect. You will make mistakes, so deal with it, laugh it off, and move on. Seriously. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache this way.
7. Work Before Play
It can be hard to teach them the valueable rule of “work before play” so we follow three (unspoken) rules in our house:
2. Remember that we are a family & when everyone pitches in & does their part, it makes it easier on everyone. It’s as the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.”
3. Follow the IF-THEN rule.
If you do your work & chores, then you can have free time. A great way to teach this is to use these Swap Chores for Screen Time.
By using the Swap Chores for ScreenTime cards, they learn that they must do their work in order to have screen time. If the work is done, then they can have free time. These cards also teach them how to each card comes with an alloted amount of time, since each card comes with an alloted amount of time for screens.
8- Manage your money well.
We started our children about saving money when they were young, around six or seven years old. A few years later, around eight years old, we would explain what debit cards & credit cards were and we would tell then what we were using at the store.
By talking about this early, it gives us more than ten years (before they are our of high school) to show them how to take care of their finances to avoid debt.
Example: “Look. These shoes are $70, but what do you do if you only have $20? Remember that they will go on sale at the end of the season. Would you get them now and put them on a credit card? Or do you think it’s better to wait for the sale? If you get them on credit, you will probably owe more money because you’ll have to pay interest every month, since I don’t think you’ll be able to earn $50 by the time the bill comes. What do you think?”
Every single shopping trip is a lesson, and we have a lot of years to teach it.
9- Family Comes First.
This is a rule that we have in our house and it is one that I remind them of every single day: Family is the most important thing. Be a team at home and when you are out. Stand up for your brothers and sister. Stand up for your cousins. Present a united front and then live that every day.
This is non-negotiable. Family comes first, always. Have each other’s backs. Friends come and go, but family is forever.
If anything comes in between family, it goes. If an object causes an argument, it’s gone. If someone causes a riff between them, that person has no place in our family. Family is family. No questions asked.
10- Stand up for what you believe in, but not at another person’s expense.
If you are going to stand up for things like morals, family, and religion, be sure that you are secure in where you stand. Society is quick to cast the first stone, so be ready to defend what you believe in.
On the same note, have an open mind and be willing to hear other’s sides. You aren’t always right, so be willing to understand why the other person has a good point, too.
11- Always call your mom.
She loves you more than you will ever know. The love of a parent is strong and will stay strong forever. Call her and let her know where you are because she will worry about you.
Even a quick text when you are out is enough to let her know that you are thinking about her. Don’t make her worry. Be respectful enough to always call home. ♥
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I push open the screen door on the back porch and take a step out. I look down, as I am searching for my flip-flops, the gray ones that I left by the back door earlier in the day, but they are nowhere to be found.
Then it dawns on me: I know exactly where they are: on one of our son’s feet. I look into the basket that sits by the back door and I see his shoes there.
I was right.
He’d swapped his shoes for mine (out of convenience, I’m sure.) I slide my feet into his shoes, planning on wearing them outside instead when I stop and realize something: That time has come. His shoes are too big for me now.
“Mom?” I hear her little voice calling to me.
“I’m coming…” I yell back to our daughter, the youngest of our four children.
This is the third time that I can clearly remember realizing that another child has now passed me up in shoe size.
It’s not that I am sentimental over the size of their feet, but instead, the thought, realization, and reminder that our children are growing up so quickly.