The Adolescent Boy
When we pulled into the church parking lot, my mother was steaming because of my unruly behavior in the car. My sisters and brother got out of the car, wisely gliding ahead of me to the safety of the church.
“I didn’t do anything wrong.” I looked straight ahead, walking beside my mom. “When I tell you to do something, I mean it.” Mom’s eyes gave me the once over. She grabbed my hand to walk me into the church.
A couple of friends noticed what was happening and faded into the background.
I jerked my hand away from her. I am not a little kid.
“Give me you hand,” Mom grabbed my hand again and walked me into church.
My junior high friends had disappeared. I didn’t pull my arm out of her grasp again, because I knew there would be worse consequences if I tried. I did decide that I wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of friends anymore, but I would gain my independence.
The Transfer of Power
“It is a wise parent who knows intuitively how to transfer power, or independence, to the next generation.”1
Dr. Dobson’s insight shows the ticklish path one must negotiate as a parent to successfully release the reins of control to each particular child as they reach the age of release around eighteen.
My mother understood by my actions that the time was coming for me to start the separation process toward independence. However, my parents still let me know they were in charge at home until I left on my own. Even thought there were still struggles, over the next four years my parents and I learned the right way for me to make my own decisions underneath their guidance and example.
Conflict or Consequences
Many, if not most, parents look at the adolescent years as the most difficult time in their child’s life and their own. Your boy wants to become independent, which means he wants to make a living on his own, live in his own place, and make his own choices about clothes, friends, and social activities.
The best method of helping your child is to acknowledge they will be leaving home, earning their own living, and making their own choices. Also, you can still maintain the proper control in your own home while helping your son learn to fly on his own.
Plan with a Purpose
When my boys were young, I told them they would leave our home at the age of eighteen, having completed a high school education with a diploma. I gave them three choices:
- a) Get a job and support yourself
- b) Go to college with some support from Mom and Dad
- c) Go into the military
I told my boys when they were going into seventh grade that they needed to learn how to work. Therefore, in addition to one sport for each of them, we encouraged them to take on part time jobs in the summer (bagging groceries, or similar activities).
Finally, I gave them the summer after graduation from high school to start their new life with our help and support.
Refining and Working the Plan
The real issue is both the parents and the boys staying focused on the overall plan without getting stuck in the struggles of the daily grind. The Bible says that without a vision, the people perish and that we must set our minds on things above, and not on what is on the earth. Keep your vision on the big picture while working through the smaller issues.
Joyce and I had the boys involved in planning their future through family meetings and individual discussions. We assisted them in every area to get them started. In high school, they chose to take JROTC, which built leadership skills.
Be patient as your son determines what his life will be like when he leaves home. Give him a concrete date to shoot for to complete his time at home. Teach him how education, physical fitness, and mental toughness will help him handle the pressures around him. Most of all, especially fathers, be a spiritual example of a man with a strong relationship with God through Jesus Christ, with his family, and with other men following Christ.
Both of our boys got the message. Both decided to go to college, to practice SATs and then take them, and search for schools and scholarships in their Senior high school years.
Because of their understanding, desire, and hard work, with our support they graduated from college and became successful in their life’s work. We praise the Lord for their success in school, in their families, and their continued aspirations to grow in faith and service to the Lord.
Your children can achieve the same level of success if you set the stage early and help them plan ahead. I recommend family meetings and one-on-one discussions to help them choose wisely. Once again, the earlier you start this process, the easier it will be for you later on when life begins to radically change for you boys during adolescence.
Next month we tackle a foundational subject—spiritual control. While you might not see this as a battleground for your son in the home, I can tell you this area of control is the most critical to understand and properly resolve. Check out October’s Newsletter to find out why.
1. Solid Answers, Dr. James Dobson, Page 277