I don’t know exactly when it happened. It was subtle and gradual, but my relationship with my preteen son has shifted ever so slightly.
At almost 10 he has started to pull away from me a little, and gravitate towards my husband more. I know it won’t be long before that soft, smooth face will be sprouting fuzz and the voice that still calls me “Mommy” will get crack and deeper. It’s only a matter of time before I get demoted to just mom.
Yet while our relationship is evolving and I witness even more changes in our son, I can still capitalize on the time we have left together under one roof, as well as on my influence over him.
Here 5 ways you can connect with your maturing preteen boy and navigate that changing relationship, encouraging him as he becomes a godly young man:
Take an interest in his passions
You may have zero interest in Minecraft. Or that sport he’s really into playing. Sometimes it’s hard to relate with our sons simply because we didn’t enjoy the same things growing up as girls.
But those are what makes your little guy tick right now. Learn something about his passions, and then show a genuine interest in them. Ask him to show you how to play that game or build that mean structure out of Legos. He’ll jump at the chance to teach you something!
Give him opportunities to lead
Every boy wants to prove he’s got what it takes. And your son wants to know you believe he is capable. So have him step up and help out his younger siblings, cook dinner, or lead family devotional time. This will communicate that you trust him to take on certain responsibilities and believe in his abilities.
Once you’ve delegated more responsibility though, don’t micromanage him! Gently point out areas where he could improve, but don’t attempt to take over the task for him and go off the rails explaining all the ways you’d do it better.
Make it a date
Have your husband take the other kids for a few hours on a Friday night or Saturday and schedule some quality mother/son time, just the two of you. Pick an activity where he doesn’t feel put on the spot to engage in conversation, like miniature golf. Talking over a meal may be your primary way of connecting, but it’s likely that it isn’t your tween son’s. Boys in general do better with “side-by-side” instead of “face-to-face” communication.
Let this be an opportunity to talk to him instead of at him. And be sure to listen more than you talk. The conversation doesn’t have to head in a serious direction, either. Regular, built-in time with your preteen will go a long way in connecting with your son and getting him to open up to you about the heavy stuff later.
Show him respect
Just like your husband, your son doesn’t appreciate you nagging at him to get things done around the house. Yes, he is still under your authority, but the tone of your words at this stage can be very damaging. Your son has a deep need to be respected.
When he has disobeyed or needs correction, issue an immediate consequence, but resist lecturing. I know it’s tempting because “mother knows best”, but it’s a surefire way to shut down any attempts at meaningful conversation. You’ll end up creating a vicious cycle of defensiveness, exasperation, and disrespect.
Instead, appeal to his sense of justice and logic: “You broke the rules, and therefore you will not be allowed to play your favorite video game this afternoon”, or “Your dad worked hard to afford that for our family, so please don’t treat it carelessly.” When we speak respectfully to our sons, we’re speaking their love language!
Validate his ideas
Your son needs your advice, guidance, and instruction (Proverbs 6:20-23). But there comes a point when he begins to feel the need to be heard. While he’s coming into his own, he needs your support and encouragement.
As moms we have a tendency to want to protect our boys from getting hurt, physically and emotionally. Or we may simply have tunnel vision, believing there’s only one way to get something done. As a result, we can end up unintentionally dismissing his ideas or opinions as the trivial ramblings of a naive little boy.
God has given your son certain talents, abilities, and skills. Hone in on those and allow him to use them to contribute to and serve your family. My son’s creativity and problem solving skills has helped me think outside the box on more than one occasion!
Within reason, let your preteen try out his ideas. Not all may work, but he will still learn valuable lessons from experimenting. If it’s not a major family decision, also ask him for his input once in a while. Build him up and show him you value what he has to offer.
I know it’s hard to watch our little boys grow up. But really, our job is to prepare them to leave us. Your sons’ first relationship with a woman is with you, his mom. Wouldn’t it be great if we relate to our sons in a manner that sets a good example of how God wants women and men to relate in marriage someday?
As moms, we have to encourage our sons in a world that wants to tear them down. We should be their “perfect fan”, as the Backstreet Boys song goes. Let’s strengthen our relationships while we have the opportunity, instead of hurting them!