In honor of Father’s Day, we have a guest blogger who is a dad and a psychologist with a practice in New York City and New Jersey. If you’re a father (or mother) of a teen boy, Dr. Adam Price offers some extremely helpful tips for averting clashes with your son, especially during the summer months. I hope you find his insight as useful as we do.
–Cindy and Raquel (moms of teen boys)
The first things that comes to mind about boys and summer is to let them enjoy it. I often get concerned when parents say they want to make sure their sons’ don’t lose ground over the summer, and enroll them in academic enrichment courses, test prep courses, etc. There are some wonderful programs at college for students, but it has to be something the teen wants to do.
Kids are under so much pressure these days, and I really think they need time to decompress. That being said, they still need structure and supervision. A few weeks of sleeping late and lazing around is ok, but a few months is too much.
A summer job can be a great opportunity for a young man to take responsibility, feel effective in something other than school, and learn a little about ‘real life.’ So many boys I have worked with who have struggled in school really thrive at a job, even if it is scooping ice cream or working construction. If no job is available perhaps parents can pay their son’s to take on a project at home. One summer a friend and I painted my parent’s house. Not my favorite summer, but it worked out.
Depending on a family’s budget there are also many wonderful opportunities for travel, camp, etc. However, colleges are less impressed by a teenager whose parents paid for them to travel the world than one who went on a church-sponsored community service trip. One young man I worked with went on a Habitat for Humanity program and learned that some of the families he worked with lived on less money than his parents gave him each month.
If you are pushing your son this summer and he comes across as lazy, you must realize that the phenomenon that presents itself as teenage apathy can have many sources, including adolescent psychology, parenting styles, family dynamics and sometimes learning disabilities. Laziness is not on the list. Calling your son “lazy” will only make him more oppositional than he already is. Here are a few other parental habits worth breaking (and summer is a great time to start!)
Stop telling your son how smart he is. Better to praise him for working hard. My son has 15 soccer trophies sitting on his shelf, most of them earned just for showing up to practice, a vestige of the 1960s self-esteem movement. Constantly telling children they are good at something actually discourages them from trying harder at it.
Stop doing the dishes for him. Teens are not helped when parents take care of household chores because their children are “too busy” with homework, sports, a summer job or other activities. Treating teens like royalty whose only job is to bring honor to the family gives them an unrealistic message about life. Successful people tend to be those who are willing and able to do things that they really don’t want to do.
Don’t let him off easy. Clinical psychologist Wendy Mogul has written that it is easier for parents to feed, shelter and clothe their children than it is for them to set effective limits. But not enforcing consequences for the indolent teenage boy reinforces the notion, yet again, that he is special, and that the rules of the world do not apply to him.
Don’t make him shine for you. In a culture where teenagers scramble to amass credentials and gain admission to the best colleges is more intense than ever, being considered average or even a little above has become unacceptable. But by overlooking the good in the quest for the perfect, parents saddle children with unrealistic expectations. A college counselor know likes to say that a good college is one that fits your kid, not one whose name adds class to your car’s rear window. Think about this during the summer months and let your teen boy be a teen boy. Most important, you be the parent who teaches him how to grow up.
To learn more, check out Dr. Adam Price’s Book on Amazon, He’s Not Lazy: Empowering Your Son to Believe In Himself.