Friday, August 8, 2008

Today's Young Men

I guess there is just a lot of deep stuff swirling around in my head this week. Yesterday's post went long and was very opinionated and here comes another one.

A friend of mine e-mailed me the other day about her 14 year old nephew. He has taken up "cutting". If you are not aware of the practice of cutting, it is when a person does physical harm to themselves in the form of slicing skin, usually on the arms, to "let out" the emotional pain inside.

This friend knew that some time ago I had researched "cutting" and that we had gone through some tough times with both of our boys, although neither of them practiced this.

This is what I shared with my friend about raising opinions...ours are not safely grown yet,(15 and 17)...I am no expert...just sharing from the heart... and our experiences and research.

1. When a young man turns 14 something often happens inside of him that he does not understand. The hormone levels begin to surge. He often feels angry but does not know why. (We provided a punching bag for a safe outlet of emotional energy) It is often very wise to talk to your son about the changes he is now experiencing, or soon will experience. Let him know that while he may feel like the Incredible Hulk is about to come out of him that what he is feeling is normal and has a physiological reason. There is nothing wrong with him. Let him know that he can control it and provide outlets, like the punching bag or an activity where he can let that energy flow.

2. Around this time he will start to want more independence and begins to attempt to separate himself from being the little boy he has been in the family. He wants to establish his own identity.

3. His body is changing and he is scared...and a little bit proud. But it is unnerving. Perhaps with all of the hormones he now has acne. He can begin a time
of self-loathing.

4. Often times this is a period in the life of a young man when he is susceptible to vices that are harmful to him. Monitoring Computer use and friends is vital at this point. Our experience with two boys showed that both got in over their heads with different issues, but the need for them was the same. We had to be the parents and get them out of the situations that the boys were not mature enough to know how to extricate themselves from. This made one of our sons very angry initially. He is thankful now. We, as parents, sometimes have to do really hard, and unpopular things. However, if we are doing these in is the right thing.

5. I used to think that as the boys got older it would be fine to leave them at home rather than take them along for family functions. I no longer believe that this should be a routine allowance. We found that in doing this it sent the message that we were ok with our son, one in particular, not acting as a part of our family. He separated more. It did not help that a certain girl was talking us down on the phone at every opportunity.
The point being that we made a conscious decision when we figured out what was happening...talked to our son about it...and changed our policy. This child is a part of our family, we need him to complete it, and so he will participate when we go places and do things.
To see how much this meant to him was surprising. Of course he resisted at first. He thought we were stealing his freedom, or didn't trust him. We just kept telling him that he is loved and an important part of the family.
By the way, about that girl. We put a stop to those phone calls. If this child was 18 we would not have been so quick to do that, but, at fourteen, we had to. He was going down quickly.

6. You must tell your teen boy often that you love him. He is feeling unloveable. He has arms and legs that have sprouted all of a sudden, he feels happy one minute and totally grumpy the next. He is confused. Part man, Part boy. He needs to know that you love him unconditionally. You shouldn't expect him to act grateful for your declarations of love...just watch for that tiny smile or softening toward you over time. Do little things to show him you love him. I drive our Mikey to work nearly every day even though he could walk...he likes it and I can do this to show him that he is important to me. It is "our time". I love to sneak in that "I love you" just as he is headed into work. He grunts but that little smile is always at the corner of his mouth.

7. Please, above all, be the parent. So many of us fall into the trap of letting go of our children too soon. We want to be their friend. The years between 13 and 16 are not the time to do this. This is a time when they need our parenting more than ever. If we can shepherd our children wisely through these years the dividends are so great on the other side.

8. Having gone through rough times with both of our boys, I am not putting myself out there as the perfect parent. However, if you were to sit down and talk to the boys, they would tell you that when they were in over their heads they needed parents who loved them to get them out of it. They have each thanked us for our interventions in their lives.

My heart breaks for the young man my friend spoke of, who is in such deep torment. One thing I am sure of is that he needs a lot of love and big time parental involvement in his life...NOW! He needs help to get through this time. We have offered to meet with the parents. I don't know if it will happen, however, we are certainly praying for this family who loves their son so much.


Kelly said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. My oldest son is fast approaching that age and the younger is not far behind. I really appreciate the advice of parents who have "gone before".

Alicia said...

Love, love, love! I havent been there yet, but love is what kids need all the time!! Thanks for sharing!

Persuaded said...

my youngest child is a 9yo all-boy-boy, and being a single mom, I have to admit a bit of trepidation about the upcoming years. thanks for taking the time to write out this post full of great advice. it is most appreciated!