Letting Your Rebellious Son Do His Thing

Anyone raising a boy needs to remember the toddler years when the word "no" was frequently uttered by your toddler boy. It was a natural and even expected part of that developmental stage.

Saying "no" in words and actions is also a normal part of your son's developmental stages as he ages. The "no" you hear now might be louder or seem a bit angrier, but pushing the boundaries is as normal with your now-older son as it was when he first was toddling about.

Maybe you are thinking that your son is pushing too many limits, reveling in his rebelling. What do you do? I suggest you give him the freedom he needs to discover his personality, intervening into life-threatening behavior. Otherwise, take a parent-as-coach approach with your son as he sails through some tough waters.

Here are a few things to keep in mind with your rebellious son:

1. Choose your battles.

I write about this frequently, but sometimes parents need a reminder. In your own mind, know what the real and absolute limits are for your son's behavior. If everything he does is wrong, soon he will know that you have no idea what are your true boundaries for him. Learn to pass on the trivial things. Hair length, clothing and music choices are among the items that you should pass on. His tastes will change as he grows older. In his own good time, he will most likely abandon things that are really foolish.

Be aware, too, that your sons go through hormonal swings and changes just as your daughters do. Adjusting to his new hormone levels and how they effect his mind and body will lead to erratic behavior. It is part of growing up.

2. Interfere with life-threatening activities.

Keep a close eye on his activities and get involved when know he is engaged in life-threatening behavior. Shoplifting, prescription-drug abuse, carrying genuine weapons and improper use of an automobile are a few of the areas where you will need to intervene. You might be screamed at when you step into a critical situation. Remember that yelling alone cannot hurt you and his biology makes him ready for a shouting match up if you give him one. A good rule about arguing is to remember that the louder your son becomes, the lower your vocal volume should go.

3. Is his behavior a veiled attempt to communicate?

In a boy whose brain is still forming, who does not yet have the verbal skills of an adult, rebellious behavior may be a cover for another need. Is that annoyed, defiant boy in front of you using anger or lethargy to cover for his pain? Ask him if you any suspicions. Has a love interest spurned him? Are his friends mistreating him? Is he struggling with a physical issue such as acne, headaches, depression or physical developmental delay? Ask the questions and wait for the answer, which may take days. If he knows you are open to non-judgmental discussion, he will most likely come around. Keep the door open and be sure he knows you are ready to listen and help.

If you have honestly and patiently tried to speak to your son and he will not communicate with you, help him find a strong mentor who can listen without judgment. A good mentor will alert you when an issue needs your attention.

4. Don't be concerned about the opinion of others.

As a parent, you need to do what is right for your children in your particular situation and circumstances. While you might seek the counsel of your own trusted mentors, the opinions of your extended family, in-laws, friends and church leaders really are not important. Do not sacrifice the mental health of your son by responding to what "they" think.

Likewise, if your son has moved from simple rebellion (that is, it just makes you uncomfortable) to life-threatening behavior, seek out professional help. Any simple article on the Internet (including this one) should substitute for professional or medical assistance.

You are not alone in your frustration with your son. Parents throughout history have struggled with the fun and frustration of raising a boy. Do not take his rebellion personally but consider this part of his life as a discovery journey.

For more information about issues with your son, please see the website at

Sean Buvala has worked with hundreds of families in his work in non-profit organizations. He is also the author of the book, "DaddyTeller," where he teaches parents to better bond with their kids and pass on family values via storytelling. There are plenty of free training videos at the website.

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