The next time you walk down the street, try not to ignore making eye contact with that scary looking teenager. Yes, his pants are sagging down below his knees. Yes, his hair might be shaggy. Why he has that piercing in his nose, only he knows. Look at him. Look at his eyes for a minute. You can probably see that coldness. You can see that something is missing. He has a longing for something – a relationship perhaps? Someone to trust? Someone to trust him? A real friend? A mentor? Just a shoulder to lean on or an ear to speak into perhaps?
Teenage boys struggle with trying to have the right image. They want to be in control of their lives, they want to make their own decisions, they want to be invincible, but more than anything they want to be accepted.
Parenting boys with these ideals can be quite difficult. Obviously, a fourteen year old boy cannot be in control of his own life. He cannot be permitted to hang out at all hours of the night, he cannot take part in sexual activities, he cannot get involved in gangs, he cannot smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. It would be foolish for a parent to allow a teenager to be in control of his own life.
It is possible, however, for a parent to help their teenager learn to make their own decisions. This not only will help them prepare for adulthood, but will make them feel less like a little boy and more like a grown man. It is important to allow our teens some room to grow. The types of choices that teenage boys should be allowed to make include, but are certainly not limited to the following: Their career goals, whether or not to seek employment while in school, what leisure activities to take part in, whether or not to have a bank account, whether or not to obtain a learner’s permit/drivers license, what volunteer opportunities to take part in, etc.
As far as boys being invincible – you can laugh if you want to, but if you’ve been around many teenage boys you will know exactly what I am talking about. As the founder of a ranch for troubled teens, I frequently speak to parents who would use that as one of the many adjectives to describe their sons. When boys reach this state of mind, others can be placed in danger. Sometimes boys feel that they are too old or too big to be disciplined. They feel that they can stay out all night and no one will hurt them. They feel like they can say or do anything to anyone they want to and no one will stop them.
It is essential that parents spend as much time as possible with their teenage sons. During their interactions, they need to talk to them about hard life-lessons they had to learn as a teen or that others they know may have had to learn the hard way. When a boy refuses to heed to the warnings he has been given and he lashes out as family members and ignores the rules, refuses to go to school, puts others in harm’s way, etc, than a parent has no choice but to discipline – regardless of the boy’s feelings about that discipline.
The majority of the students referred to our boarding school for at-risk boys are referred after their parents have already tried secular counseling programs, mind-altering medications, intervention from school personnel, sometimes even psychiatric hospitalizations – all things that did not help their child at all. Often times, what we soon learn after talking to the parents or after we enroll boys that the parents are having trouble controlling, is that at some point the parents developed a fear of disciplining their boy – whether that fear was a fear of the child/teen hurting them, a fear of getting in legal trouble for disciplining, or a fear of what others would say about them varies from case to case. However, teens that are not disciplined for any length of time will develop behavioral issues that are out of control and if the parent doesn’t seek help at that point, the child may end up being incarcerated or worse – with the parents having no say so in the matter.
1) spend as much time with them as you can – even when you don’t want to or they don’t want you to
2) allow them room to make some choices for their lives (safe decisions)
3) compliment your son as often as possible
4) discipline your son when it is needed – and be consistent about the form of discipline you choose to utilize
5) get him to use as much of the energy God has given him as possible – whether that be by having him play sports, help take care of the lawn, animals, or work on other chores, take part in a daily exercise routine, etc – but do not allow him to spend all of his free time sitting down, watching TV, listening to music, or talking/texting on the cell phone. That will enable his level of energy to build up and he will eventually release it – in ways that are not manageable.
If you feel like you have already tried everything and you can’t seem to reach or help your troubled teenage son on your own, please let us know. We have current openings at Canaan’s Land Boys Ranch and would be more than happy to talk to you or to send you an application. http://www.canaanslandboysranch.com/#!admissions/cz4j