The Secret to Raising a Teenage Boy: Learn to Listen

But the biggest change is how quiet he has become. He has moved from a chatty, goofy middle schooler to a strong, silent man. Seriously, the number of words he utters a day is easily 75 percent less than it used to be. At first, this change was scary. Was he depressed? On drugs? Hiding something? What was wrong with my kid that he practically stopped talking? Then the change was annoying. Can he not answer my question with something other than a grunt or a mono-syllabic word? The change was frustrating for him too. He has an older sister that has no shortage of words. He often got angry at her for talking over him or not leaving any space in the room for him to speak. And then there was me. I compensated for his lack of words by increasing mine. If he was not going to talk to me, I was sure going to talk to him.

“Are you wearing your rubber bands the orthodontist gave you? Insert speech on wearing rubber bands.   “Have you done your homework?” Insert speech on the importance of good grades.
I acted as if I could push him through his awkward period with speeches that were alternately motivational and guilt-ridden. And then, one day I lost my voice. Allergy season hit me hard and at some point, my vocal cords gave out. I first noticed it on a Sunday after I had been cheering at his robotics match the day before. The combination of an inflamed throat and screaming did me in. The ride to church with him that day was strangely silent with me not speaking. I was too tired to care and he was probably relieved. Then something happened. We were in church singing communion hymns. Not everyone sings the communion hymns in our little congregation, but our family does as we all love music. However, that day there was no singing for me. But as the organist finished the intro a clear voice rang out throughout the church. A beautiful deep baritone coming from the front of the church. The voice of my son. As I sat and watched my man-child singing away before me, tears began to flow down my cheeks. How had I never noticed how beautiful his voice was before? How had I never taken the time to listen to my son sing?

The truth washed over me that my voice is often so loud and prominent I don’t leave space to listen to my son.

So the next week I committed to listening to him. My son remained quiet a lot of the time, but when he spoke he often had something important to say. He surprised me with his insights and his humor. There were moments he sounded flat-out wise. As I continued to make space to listen to my son, I found he did have questions. But questions that would only come if I have taken intentional time to listen to his concerns without lecturing him. Questions that needed to be listened to more than answered. Now that my vocal cords have mostly healed, sometimes I am tempted to talk over my son again. But I am trying to develop the discipline of listening. I am committed to letting there be enough silence that this shy but powerful new voice of my son will have space to shine. We have a lot of high school years left and I am really curious as to how my son will keep changing. Curious to see the man that will emerge and what he has to say.  ]]>

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