In "The Good Stepmother," authors Karen Savage and Patricia Adams note that "adolescence is perhaps nature's way of preparing parents to welcome the empty nest." While this statement may have an uncomfortable ring of truth, it is also true that your relationship with your teenage boys doesn't have to be endured with gritted teeth and fingernails that you've gnawed down beyond the help of a manicure. Changing your patterns of interaction as your sons move into this new stage of development can help you enjoy a better relationship with them.
Ask your sons' permission before offering them advice, says psychotherapist Michael Stoller on his website. Instead of telling your teenage son that he's sure to be sorry if he doesn't take calculus, first ask him if he'd like your opinion. Chances are he'll give consent and will then be more receptive to your recommendation. The end result, even if your sons reject your advice, will be an atmosphere of increased respect.
Accept that a certain amount of conflict may be inevitable in your relationship as your sons seek to gain independence. Rather than arguing, simply state your position and then listen to your sons. For example, if your teen tells you that you're being ridiculous because you won't allow him to attend an unsupervised party, listen to his concerns while maintaining the boundaries you set. Resist the urge to become offended, reminding yourself that it is a teen's job to strive for increased freedom.
Speak positive words to your sons. Let them know you love them and that you are confident that they have the character and intelligence to be successful, says Stoller. Don't let your words become rote. Think of different ways to communicate these ideas to your sons every day. One day you might tell one son that you're impressed with his dedication to practicing guitar -- the next, you may let another son know that you think he's a gentleman.
Follow their lead. In a November 2010 article in "Psychology Today," psychologist Carl Pickhardt explains that while you might have had a good time fishing with your sons when they were younger, the teenage years are a time when they are ready to explore their own interests. So if today your sons are interested in skateboarding, give them the opportunity to teach you about their new skill, says Pickhardt. You don't have to learn how to shred the streets alongside them; rather, you might play an active role in helping your sons find the fastest wheels for their boards, or give them and their buddies rides to the skate park across town.
Avoid power struggles, advises Pickhardt. The role of adolescence is to psychologically separate from the parent, which paves the way toward a successful and independent life. If you insist that your teenage sons do it your way or not at all, you set the stage for rebellion. Respect your sons' choices, even when they are different from what you might do.