Categorized | Features, Laurie's Scribbles

What I Wish I Had Known About Raising Teenage Boys


Laurie with her boys, Paul (l) and Patrick.

By Laurie Stone

The other day I overheard two women talking about their high school age sons. “I can’t motivate him,” said one with a sigh. “He’s smart, but his grades are awful. I don’t know what’s going to happen with college.” The other murmured in sympathy. Their conversation caught my ear because I used to be that worried mother. And yet many years later, I had one word of advice for her…


I remember those days when my older son Patrick, my budding musician, hated high school. Socially he was fine with a close group of friends, many guitar and bass players themselves. I’d listen to band rehearsals in our basement and although they sounded great, I noticed schoolwork took a backseat.

“Aren’t you going to study for that math test tomorrow?” I’d ask Patrick on a Sunday night. He’d sit in the kitchen, casually plunking chords on his bass. “I’ll get to it,” he’d say. It was 9 p.m.

mother, worrying, hopeful, boysMy husband Randy and I attempted everything to get his grades up — tutors, bribery, grounding him on weekends, the carrot, the stick, everything — but nothing worked. It was frustrating because Patrick was smart, perceptive and sensitive, but I couldn’t get him to study Western Civilization or Algebra II to save my life.

Other moms (mostly of boys) told me the same.

Finally, one day during his senior year, I decided to let go. I realized you can’t motivate another person. They have to do it themselves. I prayed a path would light up for Patrick.

And over the years, it did.

Coming Into His Own

After graduating high school, he squeaked into a local college and that’s when we started seeing changes. His first shot at motivation began — he wanted out of that school and into Fairfield University, a better-rated institution. But first his grades had to improve.

And they did.

Patrick even made the Dean’s list, an honor that came with much applause in the Stone house. Two years of hard work and Patrick made the grades to get into Fairfield U.

I know other motivationally-challenged high school boys who went on to become entrepreneurs and engineers and commercial artists.

Once there, he had to work to stay. More motivation. To his credit, he buckled down and graduated. My son who would barely crack a textbook in high school now had a psychology degree.

Over the years, Patrick tried several careers —  music management, web design — but ended up coming back to his first job out of college — counseling adolescents with autism. Yes, my son has a gift for helping those with mental disabilities. He’s been working at a local high school for special needs students for five years and he loves it.

Recently he applied for a master’s degree program in clinical psychology. We all held our breath. We knew how badly he wanted this. We knew how hard he had worked. We also knew that only a quarter of applicants were accepted.

And then came the news.

Patrick got in. The boy I had fretted about in high school (and worried and kvetched and tore my hair out over) had given everything he had to go to grad school.

And no (sniff) I didn’t cry when I heard.

A Waiting Game

I guess the moral of this story is … time. We all need space to grow and Patrick was no exception.

I know other motivationally-challenged high school boys who went on to become entrepreneurs and engineers and commercial artists. Their mothers had ranted and raved, but their sons had eventually found their passions. Do males go through this more than girls? I’m not sure, although I’ve heard this dilemma from women with sons more than daughters.

I wanted to tell that mom in the grocery line everything I had learned over the past decade, but by the time I had the words, she and her friend had moved on. (Plus I was embarrassed to admit I’d been eavesdropping.) I wanted to tell her that her son will change — or maybe stay the same — but a new, hidden part will emerge, a part more adult, responsible, and even ambitious.

Maybe we mothers must also learn as we go.

Sometimes all you can do is stand back … and let their path light up.

Laurie Stone writes from the woods of Easton, Conn. Her blog,”Musings, Rants &Scribbles,” shares thoughts on growing up, older and (hopefully) wiser. Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

4 Responses to “What I Wish I Had Known About Raising Teenage Boys”

  1. Diane says:

    Ohmyword! “…stand back…and let their path light up.” You’ve just given the perfect description of parenting! (And you’re right. After raising four sons and two daughters, I have to admit I tore my hair a little more over the boys!)

  2. Adela says:

    I didn’t have any brothers close to my age when I was a teen. However, my best friend did. She said that teenage boys walked around like they had worms. All they did was plod around, eat, and sleep. Her words came back to me when my brothers did reach that age, and again when my sons did.

    You are so right. We all grow a different rates and practically no one can motivate a teenager. Experience and time will lead him there.

    Hang on! I’ll never forget my -please-clean-up-after-yourself son coming home from his first apartment and adding cleanser, bleach, and windex to his take home basket. “My roommates are such slobs. The sink is a mess.”

  3. Laurie Stone says:

    Diane, Can’t believe you have six children! You seem so calm and collected, but that must come with experience.

  4. Lauren says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I see my older son is not very motivated by much other than Fortnite these days. I can’t get him to read a book to save my life. I pray he outgrows this.


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