Four Moms: Teen Boys, Roosters, Playdates, homeschooling gaps, parental authority, culture….

4moms35kids-1I want to stress that these ‘answers’ are to be seen more like a conversation, or even a peek into my diary of thoughts about what we do and why. Nothing here is intended to be a criticism or a refutation of what you do, even if I answer your question with ‘we don’t do that.’ I’m an INTP– big on conversation about ideas and principles, not very emotional or, ehrm, what normal people perceive as ‘tactful,’ I cannot handle small talk (it makes me want to scream and run out of the room, and I actually hung up on my husband once for calling me from out of state to chat about the weather),  not so strong on the emotional, interpersonal, touchy/feely stuff. So think of this as a sort of a conversation with Spock, except I am a woman from earth, not a man from Vulcan, and can’t raise one eyebrow and I don’t have pointy ears. Plus, I’m not that smart, and I have lots of emotions, we just haven’t ever formally introduced ourselves so I don’t recognize them very well.

But otherwise, we’re exactly the same.

So, w/o further ado:

Q. Are any of you struggling or have struggled with the changes in personality of teenage boys? Specifically having a compassionate, obedient child taking on a confident, self-focused personality/behavior?

Well, I only have the one boy, so I’m not sure how applicable this is, but I think boys are like…. roosters.  Bossy, bossy:

Young Roosters: Some of us notice that at some point, formerly sweet, thoughtful, considerate boys seem to turn bossy, asserting their wills over smaller children, their sisters, their mothers- it takes different forms. You might find wrestling play suddenly becoming a little rougher- sometimes because the bigger boy doesn’t know his own strength, especially if a growth spurt is ongoing. Sometimes it’s a kind of officiousness- you ask him to do one thing, a small act of service, and he brusquely, perhaps a little arrogantly, goes far beyond what you asked, and probably beyond what you wanted- I might ask for the laptop to be carried from one room to another, and will find it plugged in, set up, even furniture moved to accommodate ease of use in the boy’s opinion, all very rapidly. While it sounds like service, there is something arrogant about how it’s carried out. This is a male-child asserting his will over his tasks, his surroundings, his environment.  I want my son to be a leader, so I don’t want to squelch that. But I do want to squelch arrogance and disrespectful behavior towards women and elders.

More about that here, which is the source of the above paragraph about young roosters.

I think sometimes moms have to be especially careful not to make feminine standards *the* standard for right and wrong- there is a balance. Probably we wont’ all agree on what that balance is.   I will never be convinced that jokes about passing gas and making your armpit sound like you have a gas problem are ‘manly,’ but I will accept that this juvenile behavior is popular with the male sex in America, so I tell my son to keep it strictly with the male gender.

I have observed that behavior I consider more like a drill sergeant than a friend, along with punching each other, seems to cement boy friendships.  I have also observed, as have all our daughters, that our Boy is something of a drill sergeant with the two Little Boys (Blynken and Nod, now 6 and 9), and with his two nephews, and yet all four boys absolutely adore the Boy- he is their favorite person among our entire family.  We call it Stockholm Syndrome, but I think that this is just something boys relate to for reasons utterly beyond me and I just try to help him distinguish between bullying and leading.  It’s not easy, but boys and girls are different, which means that mothers and sons are different, too.


Q. How do you determine how closely to supervise small kids (preschool-ish) when at playdates? When it isn’t a safety issue, but a coaching-in-correct responses issue…When we’re at home I watch my boys like a hawk because I see many teachable issues and want to catch them. But I don’t want to be hovering, especially with other moms I respect whose kids are also well-behaved. Guidelines to share?

A. We did not do many playdates for a variety of reasons, so I am not sure I can help you with this one.

I found the idea a little artificial and very First World (that’s kind of redundant), and I was not inclined to parent by First World standards. I didn’t see a need for my kids to have a chunk of time carved out specifically for the purpose of letting them play with age-mates. I consider this a product of the process of age-segregation in schools, which is also something I do not approve of. 

I know, I sound like a crank.  But that probably really only because…. I kind of am.  But at least I know it.

Now this doesn’t mean we never had get togethers with other families- we did.  We got together with other families and played, read, cooked, and sang together, mostly as families.  We prefer to socialize as a family- we like to invite other families over, sometimes families with kids our kids’ age, and sometimes not, and we have a lot of single people over, too. We like to play multi-generational games, and we like our kids to listen in on multi-generational conversations. We think service projects are a fabulous way for kids to develop friendships, and we aren’t especially concerned that their friends be their own age. Shared interests are more important than matched ages.  Occasionally the children went off to do their thing, but they were still closely supervised- usually nearby.  I generally got together with other moms and their kids for one of these reasons:

1. we were likeminded and enjoyed each other’s fellowship.  This meant we were all agreed on hovering and taking advantage of teachable moments and without being paranoid,  not taking it for granted that everybody was safe and trustworthy, or if we were not exactly agreed on the *how*, we were all agreed on the issue of respecting one another’s parenting.

2. I was mentoring somebody, which meant that I did not care if I hovered, both because  without being paranoid, I could not take it for granted that everybody was safe and trustworthy, and because I wanted to be the sort of parent I naturally was without worrying about it.

3. We were working on a project together- putting together Christmas boxes for needy children, having a family sing, planning a trip to a nursing home, making cards for the sick, fixing a meal for somebody- and so I wanted all my kids in the vicinity to help or at least absorb some of the helpfulness going on.

If you are intrigued, you might try to get your hands on The Socialization Trap, by Rick Boyer. I strongly recommend it.

I do realize that kids *enjoy* a lot of time with their friends, but I really do not see that it’s necessarily all that great for them. I see peer dependency, and its good friend age segregation, as serious problems in the church and in our culture. These have not been good for us as a whole, and I don’t see it getting better. I don’t mean they should never have friends their own age, but I do think less hanging out with friends exclusively their own age is better for them rather than more.

And I think it’s okay to step in and correct and instruct your child when the child is behaving in a way that is unsatisfactory, for whatever reason, and you believe that if you step in for instruction in righteousness, that will help the child.

Question for Thursday Q and A: I know most of you have been hsing longer than I. This fall will be my 9th year. This past year has been a life lesson learning year with very little bookwork; dealing with aged parents and a husband commuting back and forth to a new city for his job. Not complaining, but how do you decide where to pick back up? We follow AO and I can honestly say I have no clue even where to re-start. If my kiddos were younger I’d just grin and bear it, but I’ll have a new “high schooler” in the fall and this past year was supposed to be the “catch up” year- you know, somehow fix/teach what was missed. To top it all off, we’re in the process of moving and it’s hard to even think about next year’s schooling in the midst of this new phase. To give some perspective, I’m one of those who usually plans the next year in June and I don’t even know where we left off this year. How do you go about regaining the joy of hsing and regaining your footing when you’re at the bottom of the hill?

A. I don’t know, but here are some suggestions.  Think carefully about what has been missed and how important is it that you ‘catch up.’  And if you do catch up, what else will you have to miss?  With math, for instance, it’s probably best to pick up where you left off and cover what was missed before moving on.  With art, just start with where you’d be if you hadn’t had to miss some material.  Other subjects will be somewhere in between.  Look at the booklist of the material list and ask yourself any of those books are books that you cannot imagine your child reaching the age of 18 without reading them, reminding yourself all along that learning will NOT end just because you are no longer in charge of homeschooling your children.

Or just ignore everything I said and pick up with year 9.  Or 10.

Will there be gaps?  Yes.  There are going to be gaps anyway, and there would be gaps if your children had been diligent members of a public school all this time.  I wrote about gaps before here, and in part I said:

So we do what we can. We teach, we learn, we study together. Christian parents pray and attempt to discern what God’s purpose for this child (and He has one for every single life on earth) is so that we can support it rather than hinder it. We learn to homeschool proactively rather than reactively- what the public school does or does not do no longer has any bearing on why we homeschool or even how we homeschool. After all, the menu at the local hospital cafeteria has no bearing on what or how we cook for our family meals, because the two institutions of hospital cafeteria and family mealtime have little in common in regard to goals, mission, or circumstances.

So we make our homes centers of learning and we help our children learn and grow, and we understand that nobody can do everything. There will always be gaps no matter how one was educated. Most importantly in our home, we keep alive a thirst for learning more so that our children ever will be learning, ever will be growing, ever will be *alive,* not merely existing.

Q. do you take your (adolescent) boys to the swimming pool when you know there will be lots of girl skin around? How do you encourage them to be responsible for their thoughts and still protect them? Do you just skip the pool all together? If so what summer water alternatives do you suggest?

We don’t take anybody to the swimming pool, and we try to find less populated areas of lake-front or ocean front when we have gone there.  We have a creek on our property and we bought an above ground pool, but if we didn’t, we still wouldn’t go to the local swimming pool.

As for encouraging boys to be responsible for their thoughts- I don’t have a lot of experience in this area.  I’ve asked parents who do, and it’s like self-discipline in every other area- it takes time, practice, constant reminders that ultimately, they are responsible for their thoughts, and lots of memory verses and instructions to look away and think hard about something else, anything else, reciting memory verses to themselves if need be.

My husband says he tells our son that every action begins with a thought, so he must control his thoughts and if he can control his thoughts, then Satan has lost the battle, and if he cannot control his thoughts, he cannot control anything.  Our son likes control, so this is useful for him.  Husband says he also tells him Jesus’ words about not lusting after a woman.  As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he, etc.  And they read Every Young Man’s Battle: Strategies for Victory in the Real World of Sexual Temptation (The Every Man Series)together, although another friend of ours thinks this is far too strong for teen boys.

At what point do you allow your teen that is learning to drive, to drive the car with your little ones in it?

A. At about the point that I am willing to get in the care with the teen who is learning to drive which is almost the time that person is no longer a teen.  I kid, I kid.

Okay, not really.  I have only recently begun riding in the car with my FYG driving, and she is 17 1/2 and has been driving almost two years. I have only once ridden with her on the highway.  However, I have PTSD and my biggest trigger is being in a moving vehicle, so there’s that.  I’m not rational about it, but the main reason I wouldn’t get in the car with her driving was not because of her driving but because I did not want to be the cause of her own PTSD because of my not always easy behavior in a moving vehicle.   OTOH, once the kids can calmly continue driving as though nothing has happened when I am a passenger, they can pretty much handle anything.

I know, not much help, because not every mother can be a PTSD trainwreck of a passenger. It’s a special gift.   I would say… check your laws because there may be limitations on the number of passengers they can have anyway, and  keep this in mind- one issue for me was not just ‘are they safe enough drivers,’ but also, “are they mature enough that if something bad happens, even if it isn’t their fault,  is this going to be something they blame themselves for forever?

This one is probably for Kim C, but maybe DHM as well. I have a 22 yr old (married with 3 kids of her own), and a 21 mo old. How did you/do you help a grown sibling and a new child develop a sibling relationship when they will never live together? Kim C, how did your parents handle this, and how many of your siblings were born after you were married?

Not me- my eldest was 15 when my youngest was born.  I do think the dynamic will just be different- more like aunt/niece or nephew, maybe, than sibling, but that’s also okay, presuming it’s a close aunt/niece or nephew relationship.   Or maybe not- our sons-in-law have sibling relationships with their youngest in-laws.  I tend to think the adult sibling will make ways for this to happen on their own, and if they don’t, there may not be much you can do about it.

How to ‘be the boss’ or establish clear authority with your children without being… A jerk. I know I need to address my own heart issues of selfishness and impatience, but sometimes when directly challenged, I feel like I have to ‘win’ and I never come out feeling like I’ve established authority. Picking battles vs. being consistent…

I was not really all that big on the picking battles philosophy. Partly this is because I have always been quite comfortable with my authority as the parents.  Partly this is because most of the parents I knew who suggested that I pick my battles? Well, let’s just say they usually were not parents I felt had much authority in their homes.  That doesn’t mean there weren’t times when I thought, “Whoa. If I had known this was the direction we were going, I never would have started this-” but to my mind, it wasn’t about me picking a battle, it was the child who had chosen to plant his flag on that issue and make a battle over a non-issue, and once the child decided to engage in a battle, I could not in good conscience raise the white flag.  In spite of my language here, I actually tried not to think of things in this adversarial fashion, pitting me on one side against my child on the other. I saw my wielding of my authority as something that was for my child’s good, in their best interest, even though often it would have certainly been easier just to let things go (and call it ‘picking my battles’ ;-D).

People assume that strict parents will have children who will rebel.  I don’t want to make a faulty blanket assertion of my own to counter that one, but I have seen that it’s not the authority wielded- it’s the imprudence and lack of justice in the use of that authority that causes the spirit to rise up in resentment.  More about that (it’s from the rule of Benedict) here.

More about my parenting style here, although it would be interesting to see what my children will say about that when I am gone.=)

Some of your favorite books?

Too many to list, but I did put together a list not too long ago of some of my favorite free books for Kindle or other e-readers (you don’t need an e-reader to take advantage of them) that I think everybody should read.=)


This was not a four moms question, but I thought it was interesting, and it was more or less posed to our daughter Jenny-Any-Dots who recently went on her second mission trip to the Philippines. She visited many of the same families, all of whom have met with dozens and dozens of other Americans over the years.  And this time they said to Miss Jenny: “You’re not really a typical American, are you?” and they wondered why.

I think this is the reason why.

Be sure to see which questions Connie at Smockity Frocks and  KimC  at Life in a Shoe: the methods and madness of one family of 12 chose to answer.  Kimberly is taking a hiatus, but her blog is always good reading, too, and it’s exciting to read about why she’s been so busy.

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