There's no doubt about it: raising a teenage son is just about one of the hardest things any human being will ever be asked to do. Take comfort in that fact - you're not alone if you find teens difficult to handle. Sometimes just one new idea can set off a chain reaction of wonderful outcomes. Check out these tips to see if some of them could benefit you and your teen.
Listen To Him
Actively listen to your teen when you're with him. Empathize with his struggles and let him talk without cutting him off. Put down your phone, your magazine, or whatever else you're doing and give him your full attention. Not only does listening make him feel like he matters to you, it can also help you to spot warning signs for things like depression, drugs, lying, or poor peer choices. Keep an active interest in his life and activities. He'll feel more trust in you and the increased bonding will encourage his good behavior.
Talk About The Hard Topics
Make sure your son feels like he can come to you to talk about difficult topics like sex and drugs. You can even broach them yourself if you handle it positively and without anger. Sometimes a behavior is more tempting if it's taboo to discuss, especially during a teen's "rebellious" phases. You may feel awkward talking about these topics but your son probably feels even weirder about it. Showing him that you're approachable will not only give him confidence to ask you about things he's struggling with, but it also serves as a good role model for his own behavior.
Keep Your Cool
Boys are going through some radical hormonal and neurological changes in their teenage years. Puberty and his still-developing brain can make his behavior volatile and negatively impact his judgment. Speaking to him in anger can arouse "fight or flight" hormones to kick in more easily during puberty, resulting in an escalation of the conflict. Although you may feel anger at your son's behavior, wait until you've calmed down to discuss the situation with him. Use your actively listening skills to really hear what he's expressing and handle the problem in a rational manner.
Make Him Work For Rewards
If a parent constantly gives a child "something for nothing" it teaches him to devalue working hard towards his goals. He'll look around and wonder why the world isn't falling into his lap. Instead, teach him that hard work is the path to what he wants -- whether it's a new skateboard, a concert, or borrowing the car on Saturday night. Reward his hard work, too. Not just with material things, but with your attention, love, and emotional support. That doesn't mean you can't give your child surprise gifts from time to time, but making him work towards his own desires will help him succeed in the future.
The Hugging Effect
Sometimes teens act out because they don't feel they "belong" with the rest of the family. Feeling like an outsider is painful for most people, but particularly so for teens who struggle to balance their desire for independence with their need to still be dependent at times. The good news is that a simple hug or two every day can really help your teen bond with you. Hugging releases the feel-good hormone Oxytocin to the brain -- for both you and your son. Oxytocin is also a critical element in bonding for families and for other groups of people.
Consider Getting Help
Sometimes you've tried everything you can think of -- and more. That's okay too. Everyone could use a little help from time to time. Don't feel ashamed to check out other options that may help your son. Counseling, summer camp, or a therapeutic boarding school could make a great positive impact on your teen's life -- and on the rest of your family, too.