As boys stumble through the transformation into men, their squeaky voices aren’t the only things to make us wince. For many young men, 15 seems to be the magic age at which even the generally compliant types tend to balk at female authorities — especially you, Mom. Even though your initial reaction may be to treat his changing attitude toward you as a rebellious act, you may want to reconsider what’s really behind his behavior before you respond.
The same chemical that promotes armpit hair and odor can make it hard for puberty-stricken teens to control their emotions — yes, I’m referring to testosterone. As their apparent manliness increases, teen boys can begin to expect a greater amount of autonomy and respect in an almost patriarchal sort of way. When their immature — and culturally irrelevant — expectations about gender norms are cut down to size by assertion of female authority, their frustrations are not easily masked. Disrespectful, angry reactions often result.
As moms and other female authorities respond to unacceptable behavior from teen boys, a mother’s more strongly asserting her authority may not be the best response — in terms of the relationship or the young man’s development. We have to remember that maturation is a good thing, and we want our sons to become men in every sense of the word. Whether or not we’ve enjoyed the leadership of a loving provider and protector in our own homes, we want our sons to be those kinds of men, don’t we? Then we don’t want to treat their emerging manliness with disdain or respond to them in emasculating ways. Instead, we need to nurture their strength while requesting (requiring?) that they submit to all legitimate authority — what a challenge that can be!
Once you’re at a time of non-conflict, you’ll want to sit down with him and interact on a peer level, explaining the fact that you know he’s a man, affirming his strength and potential for great good. At the same time, you need to communicate the functional authority structure of your home and your own parental responsibility toward him. (Consider the godhead and the Father’s authority over the Son.)
Let him know that as long as he does not resist your respectfully stated requests and expectations, you will try your best not to “lord it over him” or unnecessarily assert your authority, but if he pushes you, you will do so, and he will be held accountable for his reactions. You can ask him what you can do to make him feel more like a man, and less like a little boy. While his words may be hard for you to hear, this kind of open communication is what you want.
While it’s hard to realize that your little boy is no longer little or just a boy anymore, the goal has always been to raise him to be a good man, a godly man. When you just want to hold your little boy, take comfort in the fact that you’re achieving your goal.