Raising Teens

A site for parents of teens striving for sanity

Category: Parent Teen Relationships

A Father’s Perspective on Raising a Teen Daughter

Today we have a treat for you! We are featuring a father who shares his perspective on raising a teen girl. We hope you enjoy hearing another point of view on raising teens.  Please meet Tyler Jacobson. Tyler is a husband, father, freelance writer and outreach specialist with experience with organizations that help troubled teens and parents. His areas of focus include parenting, social media, addiction, mental illness, and issues facing teenagers today.  You can follow Tyler on: Twitter @tylerpjacobson and on LinkedIn.

I’m a father of three: two boys and a girl. My boys and I are close. We easily bond over food and roughhousing. However, I have to say it’s true what they say about dads and their little girls – ever since the day she was born we have had a very special connection.

Raising boys vs. raising girls…these are two very different things, especially for a father. When you are raising a boy, you notice the same things he does. Marketing targeted at boys today (TV shows, cartoons, toys, etc.) are the same as you remember growing up seeing.

As my daughter grew, her mother and I did everything to encourage her to find out who she wanted to be. More than anything, we wanted her to be comfortable with herself and not feel limited by our actions. Our daughter is a thoughtful, caring, adventurous individual and we tried to help her build on her strengths as well as discover her positive attributes.

However, after a while I noticed there was a different message for girls in the toys that are targeted at children. When we would go shopping as a family, wandering up one aisle and down the next, Legos, racecars and Nerf guns were the bulk of the “boys” aisle. While in contrast, the “girls” aisle was play makeup, stuffed animals and dress up items. It seemed that all the active toys were in the “boys” aisle with sedentary toys making up most of the “girls” aisle.

At first I wasn’t sure what to do, so I’d try to ignore outside influences and just reinforce her personal freedom. It about broke my heart when she asked if it was okay that she wanted a Lego set for her birthday. In her young and impressionable mind, the message had hit home. Some toys were only for boys and some only for girls. Even though I reassured her that her choice in toys was fine, I didn’t address idea that some things were right for boys and some for girls.

Now she’s a young woman

My little girl is 12 and I only wish the social pressure was about Legos again. Instead, my wife and I have had to start having many talks with our daughter about what is and isn’t appropriate for a young woman.

In one instance, when my daughter spent an afternoon at a friend’s house, she came home with a face full of makeup. From overdone eyes to an aggressive shade of red lipstick, my sweet 12 year old looked older and infinitely hardened.

It was hard not to demand she remove it immediately. Instead, we sat down together and talked about what she liked about the makeup. She told us all her friends were wearing makeup and that she was tired of looking like a little kid.

After more discussion, we reached a compromise. My wife would help her learn how to apply light makeup, and until she turned 14, she could only wear it on Sundays and special occasions at school.

I didn’t want her to feel like she had to wear makeup to feel beautiful. I wanted her to stay my fresh-faced and happy little girl. But allowing our children to grow is one of the hardest things parents have to learn, and I don’t want to stunt her growth as a she becomes an independent young lady.

Dealing With Social Programming

After the makeup incident, I knew I had to get ahead of future problems if I didn’t want them sprung on me again. I began to research what other parents were dealing with while raising teenagers and how to help my daughter deal with social pressure.

I found a few resources to help me understand how to deal with the media, and also what my daughter may be going through with the body image pressure she’s getting from every direction.

Together, my wife and I worked to open lines of communication with our daughter. We began with simple topics like her current hobbies. As she became more comfortable talking to us, stronger trust was established and she began coming to us on her own about her concerns.

Over time, I pointed out subtle influences in the media she was consuming, pressuring girls to be a certain thing, and asked her what she thought. Once she knew what to look for I didn’t have to bring attention to anything.

My daughter has always been precocious, but it makes me so proud to see her open up and define her sense of self outside of what society is trying to sell her. My daughter is strong, independent, and beautiful exactly as she is and if I have anything to say about it, she’ll grow up to be a confident woman who will be able to think critically about what the world says women should be.

Oh no, is this a lecture? Talking to teens so they listen






We were driving in the car with our son Garret when he noticed a Maserati on the road next to us. He started excitedly showing us the car and telling us how he wants one.  Noticing his excitement, my husband started talking about saving up for things he really wants to buy rather than taking on debt just to be flashy.

It took all of a second for Garret to completely tune my husband out and say, “Oh no dad, is this a lecture?”

When your kids hit the teen years, that line between talking and lecturing gets thinner. My husband and I think we’re just having a conversation but the next thing we know, we’re imparting some wisdom and our kids say we’re lecturing.

The thing is as a parent, these “little lessons” just spill out of our mouths. Sometimes they come out in the form of a question in the heat of the moment, as in “Did I tell you about how I earned my own money when I was your age?”  Sometimes they come out in the form of sarcasm, “Right, you’re just going to hang out at some guy’s house when his parents aren’t home and nothing is going to happen.”

The problem is teens often think they already know whatever wisdom you’re trying to impart… as in “I know that mom!” So instead of listening, they blow you off, get annoyed and retreat to their phones where they can immerse themselves in what their friends are saying on Twitter.

One day, my daughter told me I have a lecture voice. She said I put it on when I “think” I am saving her from mistakes. I HATE to come across that way.  The only thing I have found that works is to listen more and talk less. It’s not always easy but with my daughter, I force myself to just listen and not react. Instead of trying to problem solve, point out the  ways she’s being irrational or launch into  anything that comes across as a lecture, I take a deep breath and stay quiet. Then, I tell her I hear what she is saying. It’s a strategy I picked up from a friend who says it’s the only way she survived the high school years with her daughter.

I’d love to hear your strategies. How do you guide your teen without the perception that you’re  lecturing? Is it possible to get through the teen years without offering unwanted “life lessons” that they find annoying?

Open or closed bedroom door policy with girlfriend/boyfriend over?

Last Sunday,  my son Matthew asked me if his “girlfriend” could come over?   This would be the first time his “girlfriend” would be over since they have been together.  Until now, Matthew has been going over her house after school. At first,  I was happy that I finally get to meet her after they have been together for a month.   On the other hand, I was nervous. Will she like me? Will I like her?  Will she be rude? All the mom concerns were coming at me. This is really happening. Matthew is growing up! UGH!

She finally arrived and I walked into Matthew’s bedroom to introduce myself. She was cute and sweet, a typical 15-year-old teen. So far, so good. Matthew had his arm around her and was smiling, and for a second I had a weird feeling come over me; Matthew cares for someone else now. I am not his world anymore. I saw how happy he was and  you know what? I was a little bit jealous. Yep, this mom was jealous of a 15 year old. I wanted Matthew to hug me and love me like he did when he was a little boy and I was his everything.  Part of me was sad, but the other part was happy that this girl makes him happy.

So I left the room, and when I got into the family room, my husband told me  to make sure the bedroom door is open. Well, how the heck do I do that? Do I go back and open the door and embarrass them? Matthew would kill me for embarrassing him. I texted him to please keep the door open and you know what? I walked back toward his room and the door was open! That was easy! I was expecting a text back from him arguing with me about it.

I would love to know if other parents experienced this situation and how they handled it. What is your door policy when a girlfriend or boyfriend is over? Open? Closed? Cracked? Inquiring mom wants to know.



Social Media: Deathtrap for teens?

I recently reviewed a book  called The Boss of Me…is Me and was impressed, horrified, scared out of my wits and grateful  to the authors all at the same time.  The authors  have written an eye-opening book about  how social media can  lure teens into some scary and awful life-altering situations. They  give some  edgy scenarios as real-life examples.  One of the most shocking was about a young teen who had befriended an 18-year-old on Facebook, slipped unnoticed from her home to meet him, and walked into her death trap. As I was reading the book, all I kept thinking was how I could so see this happening.

The  book is filled with tips and intended to  empower teens with the life skills they need to be the boss of their own thoughts, attitudes and actions.    The authors address a variety of relevant issues including suicide, shoplifting, child molestation and runaways.   The book is designed to equip teens to think and act quickly to avoid going down a path that ends in death, prison and suicide. It  basically helps prevent teens from becoming  a victim and  a statistic. As a mom of two teens, these scenarios scare the heck out of me and infuriate me at the same time! I am still shaking my head that these threats to our teens are  really happening in our society, but I shouldn’t be.

I like that this guidebook helps teach teens that there is always a way out of these awful situations they get themselves into, often because of their social media activities. The guidebook is in a notebook form so teens can write in it and basically have a lifetime of references when completed! The notebook does not come in a digital format because the authors wanted to ensure parental supervision however, the guidebook is in digital format. The guidebook empowers parents to facilitate and engage in conversations with their teen and that’s what is most important!  Without the parents being a facilitator, your teen wouldn’t learn or grasp the true meaning and value of the message(s) the authors are trying to convey.

Parents, because you haven’t physically seen or been exposed to this DOES NOT MEAN it’s not happening or could not happen to you and your kids. Your child could be a victim!  No one is immune. Educate, be aware and talk to you kids. Better yet,  BUY them this book so they can learn first hand about the crimes that are happening to teens.

As a parent, I encourage you to  have them read it! Get the electronic version since you know teens prefer technology to actual books. I hope this books builds awareness but most importantly, saves lives.

Here is a link if you wish to purchase The Boss of Me…is ME ! It is also available at www.cablepublishing.com, Amazon, and all major bookstores. (25% of all proceeds will be donated to The Youth Connection in Detroit, MI.)

By the way, the authors’ backgrounds are impressive:  June Werdlow Rogers  is a retired federal agent with a PhD in criminology,  Rayfield Rogers Jr  is a retired district chief of security for a school district in Michigan,  Grenae´ Dudley PhD is CEO of a youth center.

Parents if you have encountered scary scenarios with your teen as a result of social media, or know someone who can relate, please share your stories.

Don’t forget to breathe Mom!

I think many moms can relate having to remind their teen to do their homework, take a shower, make their bed, put deodorant on etc. Well, my son Matthew does NOT like to be reminded of anything.  He says, “Mom, do you think I’m stupid that I can’t remember things?” But  what Matthew doesn’t recall are the many times in middle school he would forget homework, forget to give me something to sign or fill out for school,  forget to put deodorant on or forget to take a shower.

In the past if he forgot, I wouldn’t remind him.   Funny thing is, when he would forget, he would say, “Mom, why didn’t you remind me or why didn’t you check my backpack?”  So, explain to me how I am supposed to remind him if he doesn’t want me to remind him? UGH!

I don’t want him to get a bad grade because he forgot his homework in high school. But then again I can’t keep enabling his forgetfulness. He needs to remember on his own.

Many times when I would go in his room to remind him of things,  he would say, “Ok mom, and don’t forget to breathe.”  I asked him why he said that and he answered: “Because that’s how silly you are reminding me of things I know.”

Good advice from a 14 year old. I do need to breathe, not because he was proving a point to me,  but because I need to trust him and let him remember on his own to do his homework, take a shower, do his chores. It’s the helicopter mom in me. I need to step back and exhale.

So, here is advice from my teenage son, Matthew,  for all the moms out there: Don’t forget to breathe.

mom breathing

Signs your sweet baby boy has become a teenager

It’s 10 p.m. and my 15-year-old son Garret is still in the shower. He’s been in there for quite a while.  Music is blaring. Loud rap music. Very loud rap music. He is singing along like he’s the only person left on earth and no one can hear him.

For months, I’ve started to see the signs but I tried to ignore them. My sweet baby boy has become a teenager. A few days ago, he was with me in the supermarket and he asked me to buy him a razor. I looked at him puzzled. “What are you going to shave?” I asked him. “That little bit of peach fuzz above your lip?” He smirked a little and said, “I just want a razor.”

Last week, he asked to join a gym. He paid his own money to join for the summer and his brother has been taking him there. Every now and then, I catch him flexing his muscle, trying desperately to bulk up.

boy eatingAnd then there’s the non-stop eating. My always hungry growing boy is fully capable of finishing off as an afternoon  snack a whole lasagna or a giant sub sandwich that would have been dinner just a few years ago. I have become used to the continual question, “What’s for breakfast?” followed by “What’s for lunch?” and then an hour later, “What’s for dinner?”

A now, there’s the digital era sign of a teenage boy: flirting with girls on Snapchat. I’m driving along when I see my son next to me in the car making flirty faces into his phone. The first time, I questioned him: “What the heck are you doing?” Annoyed, he explained that he was sending a snapchat to some girl. By now, I am immune and don’t even ask anymore. I just assume that every car ride will involve selfies.

Lastly, there is the change in internal body clock. At night, my son goes to bed way later than I do (and I’m a night owl!) In the morning, I can’t get him up. Long gone are the days when he would pop up in the morning ready for the day ahead with a smile on his face. This morning, I woke him up at 10 a.m. and he groggily asked me why I was waking him up so early. I kid you not, when my older son was in high school, one summer day he slept until 3 in the afternoon. I was horrified!

As a mom, I know that watching your son grow up into a young man is a wonderful thing. But at the same time, it’s hard to see your baby boy mature before your eyes. It makes me feel old and miss the days when my son would cuddle with me and want me to tuck him in at night.  Some days, I want to hand him his Lightening McQueen toy cars and say “Remember these? Why can’t you be a carefree tot and play with these again?”

So parents, what are the signs you have seen that your son has become a teenager? Are they overt or subtle? As a parent, how have you handled the transition?

When did “Mommy” turn to “Mother”?

I recently saw the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2”.  In the movie, Tula, the bride from the first movie, has a 17 year old daughter and has challenges communicating with her. Tula asks, “When did  mommy turn to mother?”   When she said that, it got me thinking about how true that is.  I want back that cute 5-year-old who needed me and called “mommy” for everything. Now, I am called  “mom,” or sometimes even “Raquel,”  or “mother” when one of my kids are upset with me.

When did the transition happen?  Why does it have to happen? Watching our kids grow should be a happy time for Matthewus, but sometimes it isn’t. What can we do to change it? We didn’t change who we are or how we love our kids, but I guess our kids changed how they look at us. I miss my kids wanting to be around me and being the center of their universes. I miss the way my son used to look at me with such amazing love. What changed?

The other day we went out to dinner as a family and I went to hug my son who was sitting next to me in the booth. Well, he pushed me away saying  “mom, we are in public.” There was a time when PDA for my children was welcomed by  them.  Now, it’s utter horror. It hurt that the thought of me showing my son love was embarrassing. What I am curious to hear from all the moms, mommies and mothers out there is whether you have had a “transition” with your title? Would love to hear from the teens as well and get their perceptive.


Mother kissing teenage boy (14-16) on cheek, close-up

Mother kissing teenage boy (14-16) on cheek, close-up





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