What Your Teen Son Needs from You

April 2, 2020 | by sheri mitchell

I recently wrote an article about what your teenage daughter needs from you, her parents. Having had both girls and boys go through the teen years, I know that the needs of boys and girls during that season of time can differ in some ways. In order to better communicate the needs of teenage boys, I recently sat with a group of young men in their 20s and early 30s and asked them what they needed, or wished they had received, from their own parents during their teen years.

This letter comes from their responses:

Dear Mom and Dad,

So. It’s here. And it is really, really WEIRD!! I woke up and it felt like everyone else around me had changed. You all were suddenly so ridiculous and maddening! Like...what happened??? You didn’t used to make me so angry, but now...WOW! I have no control over how quickly or intensely angry EVERYTHING makes me!

I am tired, so tired. And hungry. So HUNGRY!!! I want to sleep and eat...ALL the time! I am not being lazy or worthless. I am just crazy tired. And I can’t remember things the way I used to. You tell me things and then...POOF! Gone. I have no idea what you told me, and it is SO frustrating! I wish I could make you see that I am not forgetting things on purpose. I honestly CAN’T remember!

Can I tell you something else without you getting all weird and embarrassed? Girls are AMAZING!! Suddenly, I can’t stop thinking about girls and acting strange when they are around. I want to stare at them ALL the time and be near them...but they frighten me, and I don’t want them to laugh at me. Can you please talk to me about this? Can you be honest with me about sex and dating and how a man should act? Can you teach me how to have self-control in this area? The more open and honest you are with me about these things, the better I will be able to navigate these years.

I know I can be extremely frustrating right now. I know that I say stupid things and act obnoxious...a LOT! Can you still act like you love me and like having me as a son, rather than yell at me or laugh at me or just get frustrated all the time? I don’t know HOW to be a man. This is all new to me. And I need you to speak love and kindness over me, rather than constant irritation and disapproval. I don’t make sense to myself most of the time, so I need you to help me remember who I really am. I am angry and then I want to cry. I am happy and then I want to hide. How you treat me and interact with me helps me have a familiar foundation on which to build this man I am trying to become.

Dad, I really need to know from you that I have what it takes to become a man. I need you to not try and live your teenage dreams through me but allow me to become the man I was born to be. I need you to invite me along and teach me things like, how to grill a steak, chop wood, go hunting or fishing, change a tire, change the oil, or fix a leaky faucet. To show me what it looks and sounds like to be in a healthy relationship, to interact with people in the world, to stand up for truth and justice, and fight for those who are weak; to be strong, yet gentle. I need your input now, more than ever. YOU are the man I am watching to learn all these things. Please invite me to be a part of these things, so that I can learn HOW to be a man by being with you.

Dad, I need you, but I will often not WANT you. I want to be with my friends, but I need you to not take it personally when I don’t want to be with you. It feels personal, but it really isn’t. I love you and mom, but your opinions aren’t the MOST important to me now. I know. That sounds crazy, but it is the truth. I need you and your input, but I don’t WANT you and your input, as much.

Mom, I love you, but right now, I can’t be your little boy. In trying to become a man, I need the space to figure this out with men. I still need your love. I still need your hugs. I still need your encouragement, but I need you to be okay when I need space. It’s not you, it’s me (truly). I am changing, so our relationship is going to evolve and morph into something different. Please don’t try and make me feel guilty for trying to become a man. It is what I am meant to do.

These years are going to be interesting for us all. I am going to say and do things that disappoint you. In those moments, I will need you to still be my parents and hold me accountable for my behavior, but I am also going to need you to not berate or demean me for making bad choices. I will already KNOW that what I did was wrong. It sounds strange, but I will need firm discipline distributed from gentle hearts and hands. I won’t need you to crush me. I will need you to correct me and help me get back on course.

As we go through these years, ask me questions about me and then LISTEN to what I say. Listen and don’t condemn. Listen and let me express all that is boiling up inside me. Listen and then share your heart with me, as well. Let me know what you hope for me. Let me know what you like about me. Let me know all the ways you see me and approve of me. I need to know that you see me and are still glad I am your son, regardless of how I behave in these years.

What is the goal for us all? To still love each other when this is over and to have me be a good man. Together - with love, grace, understanding, and a sense of humor - we can do this! These don’t have to be years that we hate. We CAN enjoy them, if we keep love as our goal.

I love you two, even though I don’t say it as much. I love you and I still need to hear that you love me...even when I pull away...even when I act like it doesn’t matter. Deep down inside, having you tell me you love me and pull me into a hug, calms some of the chaos in my soul and helps fill in the cracks that keep forming in my mind. Your love will be what helps make me whole and keeps me coming back home.

Hold on! It’s gonna get bumpy, but we are going to get through this!

Your son

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