Overview: Are you discouraged? Are you the parent of a tween or teen boy? Here are 9 different ways to help you through this difficult phase of life.
Being a mom of tweens can be discouraging. I remember several years back when I drove my 13-year-old son to the store to buy him a new pair of shoes. He had been growing so much that it was hard to keep him in clothes and shoes. He was somewhere around 6’1″ and didn’t appear to be done growing any time soon. And he didn’t stop growing, either. At age 18, he’s 6’6″!
Anyway, my son and I talked as we drove to the store. He sat in the front seat next to me and we had a really nice conversation. He told me about something he had been thinking about for a while. He asked me some questions. His tone of voice was very calm and pleasant. It was a joy to be able to spend time with him like that.
It may seem like a small thing; but, this was a big deal to me because my son and I hadn’t been getting along very well, at the time. As he entered those tween years, our relationship became more and more bristly. When he was younger, we used to have long conversations that never seemed to end. As a tween, however, he didn’t seem to want to talk to me as much. He didn’t want to spend as much time with the family, either. He began talking fondly about the day when he would move out of the house. Some of the things he said were very cutting to my heart.
Are You Discouraged?
I thought that our decision to homeschool our boys would spare us from some of the less pleasant aspects of the teen years. I had heard so many stories of homeschool families who were extremely close, who have deep, meaningful relationships that never seem to get tested, and whose children exhibited exemplary behavior at all times. Families who feel completely fulfilled and never question that what they’re doing is working. Or at least that was the way it seemed from the outside. I wanted that for our family as well.
During those turbulent tween years, our home wasn’t anywhere near as peaceful and idyllic as I would have liked. I grew up in a home that was filled with anger and yelling and bitterness and I didn’t want that kind of thing in my home at all.
But when your son is yelling at you for the umpteenth time that day, it makes it very hard to remain calm and loving and peaceful.
Those next several years were a bit harder than I had anticipated. Does that mean that every moment was terrible? Absolutely not. And I needed to remember that when we were going through the hard moments. But the hard moments were PAINFUL and they took a lot out of me.
Something that encouraged me greatly was watching a video clip by Todd Wilson, the Familyman, called “Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe.” In this video, Todd said that homeschool moms end up feeling discouraged much of the time because we think that everyone else has smarter kids, cleaner homes, make more elaborate meals, etc. He also said that many of us feel like we are failing when it comes to teaching our kids.
Believe me, I’ve had days (months?) where I have felt that way as well. It was encouraging to me to think that I wasn’t the only homeschool mom to feel this self-doubt.
During those difficult years, it felt like we were at the base of the very last steep hill that we had to climb in order to launch our sons into the world. Even now that my sons are almost 17 and 18, I still have SO MUCH MORE to learn. But I will share some insights I have gained while navigating through this complex time of life.
Here are 9 Tips for the Discouraged Mom:
1 – Pray, Pray, Pray
I certainly don’t have all the answers. I need God’s wisdom to make it through this phase of life. God has promised that He will give us wisdom if we ask and I’m counting on that!
2 – Spend Time with Each Child Alone
My sons act differently they are alone with my husband or me than when we’re all together. Whether this is when we tuck them in at night or if we are driving in the car, we need to try to engineer time alone with each child. You may find that these opportunities often come when you are tired or are in a hurry. Slow down and take a few moments to connect with your child, no matter how exhausted you may be feeling at the time. These are the good moments that you will always remember. And so will they.
3 – Be Sure They are Getting Enough Rest
All children need plenty of sleep. As teenagers, they still require MORE than 8 hours of sleep a night. Do everything you can to ensure that your kids are keeping a consistent bedtime as often as possible. If you find that your son is struggling more than normal, you may want to schedule lighter studies for that day or even have them do some reading in their room. We’ve done this before and had my son fall asleep and take a nap for several hours! Getting enough sleep definitely brightens their mood.
4 – Investigate Supplements
My oldest son is a terrible eater, although it’s getting better again as he gets older. He suffers from sensory processing issues and one result of that is that his diet wasn’t the most balanced no matter how hard I tried. After hearing Dianne Craft speak about a boy’s brain and how nutritional deficiencies can affect their behavior, we have our boys on a strict regimen of supplements including things like fish Oil, probiotics, and 5-HTP. During difficult phases, if my boys skipped these supplements for even one day I could tell the difference.
5 – Limit Electronics
We were adamant that we weren’t going to let our sons get addicted to electronics, but I was duped into letting them into our home when the Wii came out. I thought the Wii would be different because you supposedly had to move in order to play it. That is so untrue!
Kids are definitely more surly after they have been staring at a screen for a while. I think it’s because those games are so easy and satisfying that they make real-life seem hard in comparison.
Becoming familiar with technology and electronics isn’t all bad. In our technological age, our kids benefit from learning coding and from having familiarity with how software and apps work. But try to put safeguards in place to help your child learn how to manage his time well and not simply sit on the computer/phone/tablet all day long.
6 – Spend Time Recharging
Sometimes you just need to get away from the kids and from homeschooling for a few hours. This becomes easier to do as the kids get older and can stay home alone. Try to plan some errand running on your own so that you can enjoy the quiet car. Bring some tea with you and make it into a pleasant, peaceful experience. Schedule time with friends occasionally. Take a bubble bath. Read a book for pleasure. We all have things we enjoy doing which help us to feel more energized. Try sprinkling a few of these things throughout your week and you will notice a big difference in your own energy level and attitude.
7 – Spend Time Alone with Your Husband
This is another thing that we’ve been trying to do more and it definitely makes a difference. Talk things out with your spouse. Get his feedback. He remembers what it felt like to be a teenage boy. Ask for his advice. Also, just spend some time together without focusing on the kids at all. When your relationship with your husband is good any issues with the kids won’t feel as insurmountable.
By the way, you probably won’t feel like you have the time to go off and do anything with your husband. But it’s important to MAKE the time. It is possible, but we have to be intentional about doing it.
8 – Reach Out
It’s easy to keep our discouragements bottled up inside ourselves because it’s embarrassing to tell anyone else about our struggles. I am part of a small group of ladies who pray with and for each other and as we’ve gotten to know each other better we’ve been able to be more honest with each other. It has made such a difference to know that someone else is praying for us and that other people are struggling with some of these same issues.
Don’t try to go it alone. Reach out to at least one other homeschool mom or family member whom you can trust.
9 – Hang Onto The Good Times
As our boys are getting older, more and more we are given glimpses into activities they enjoy, skills they are good at, ways they’ve matured, etc. Write these things down in a journal or somewhere that you can keep handy. Then, when you have a rough day with your son, you can read about all of the areas where they have grown and you will feel encouraged again.
And remember, what you are doing is making a HUGE difference in your son’s life!
The year that my oldest son turned 13 was one of the most discouraging ones I ever had. I dealt with health issues in our extended family, business setbacks, and an extremely harsh winter which kept us inside the house way more than normal. Add to that a tween and teen boy who were starting to feel the effects of their raging hormones and none of us was totally sure how to handle it. It makes for some long, long, long, days.
But the difficult phases of life will pass and you and your children will be better for it if you persevere. Now that my sons are older and are on the other side, our lives are so much more pleasant. The laughter has returned to our household. My oldest son and I have long, wonderful conversations again. And I’m finding that he has great advice to share with us. Parenting has become a pleasure again. At least most of the time.
I love this quote from Scott Brooks, who was a professional basketball player and is now the coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, “I believe this with all my heart: the greatest coach of all time in my eyes is my mom. She’s instilled in me a toughness and a perseverance and just a never-quit mentality, and I thank her every day for providing for me, for what she sacrificed her life for.”
Imagine a day in the future when our sons are able to look back and say something similar about us. Our determination to continue on regardless of the sacrifice and hardships will be inspiring to our children. Parenting is hard, and sometimes it’s discouraging; but, we can do it! We must persevere for the sake of our children, our families, and our own personal growth.
Question: Are you discouraged? Have you discovered any tips which might be able to help the rest of us through this difficult phase of parenting? Please leave a comment below.