Top Ten Lessons I Have Learned From Parenting Three Teenage Boys

This is a guest post written by my friend Susan Shisler. She has had two boys in my ministry over the past few years. This post is overflowing with wisdom.

I am a boymom (a mother to only boys) and I absolutely love it. Along with my husband, I have the privilege of raising four boys into men. Currently we have an 19-year-old, a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old, and a bonus little guy who is 6 years old. By the time he is a teen I hope to have this whole “motherhood” thing down.

Susan and her boys.

I have learned a lot along the way but have by no means perfected my parenting. Despite the varying personalities of our sons there are several things that have remained the same while raising them as teenagers.

Here are the top10 things I have learned from parenting teenage boys:

Why 8th Grade Is Difficult

Friendships Get Waaay More Complicated

Do you remember 8th grade? When I reflect on my 8th grade experience I can recount a few notable moments:

  • The 9/11 terrorist attacks happened that year. We were in Mr. Bratcher’s band class when we found out and immediately turned on the TVs to watch the events unfold.
  • I had my first and only foray into theater by portraying Peter, Anne Frank’s flirtatious love interest, in The Diary of Anne Frank.
  • I got braces.
  • I met someone who I thought would be my best friend. It turns out the friendship crashed and burned less than two years later.
  • I told a girl that I thought she had big thighs.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/Syda Productions

Something else happened in 8th grade that marked a shift in my social life. Things started to get waaay more complicated with my friends. This transition happens at different times for different kids but it seems to be most prevalent with 8th graders.

10 Ways to Build and Maintain Trust With Middle Schoolers

Trust is valuable. We all need people we can trust, especially when life is unsettled and chaotic. There’s plenty of craziness in the lives of middle school students, so they crave connections with people they can trust.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/Yuriy Seleznyov

Middle schoolers are generally naive and more willing than high schoolers to trust an adult, but they won’t trust freely. As with anyone at any other age, trust must be earned. Since trust take a long time to build and can quickly be lost, it’s important that we protect the trust middle schoolers give us. Here are ten ways to build and maintain trust with middle school students:

Why You Can’t Freak Out

Positional vs. Relational Authority

When kids are younger it’s easy to think that we have control over them. In some ways controlling younger kids is easy, especially when they’re physically small. For example, when they were acting up or having a tantrum what did you do? You picked them up, restrained them, or removed them from the room.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/master1305

It’s not as easy to control middle schoolers. Good luck trying to pick them up to put them in a time-out! So, what’s the best way to achieve anything resembling “control” with older kids?

5 Interesting Things High Schoolers Said About Middle School

I recently met with a group of high school students who had gone through my middle school ministry. They’ve all gotten taller and the boys’ voices are deeper but they’re still the same wonderful people I used to know. It’s fun to see how much they’ve matured since 8th grade. I love staying in touch with former students.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/yanlev

The purpose of my meeting was to grill them with questions about their middle school experience. I was curious about what they remember and what was impactful during their time in my ministry. I was hoping to get insight into how I can improve my current ministry with middle school students. Here are five of the most interesting things that they said:

Article: 36 Things No One Tells You About Parenting An Almost-Teenage Boy

Happy Spring Break! Lori Garcia wrote an article on that provides a fun perspective on parenting a middle school boy. Her post is called 36 Things No One Tells You About Parenting An Almost-Teenage Boy. I encourage you to check it out.

Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/atikinka2

I’ll return with regular posts next week!

The Painful Process of Letting Go

I love being a middle school pastor! At this point in my life, there’s nothing else I’d rather do. I love the variety of tasks involved, I love seeing students’ energy and excitement, and I love sharing special moments with them during a critical part of their lives.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/luismolinero

There is one small part of my job that I consistently dislike: Graphic design. So, you know what? I got permission to pay a graphic designer to do all that stuff for me. Graphic design issues: Done. Outsourced. Passed on to someone else. Move on. Next task.

There is, however, another BIG part of my job that I dislike even more: Transitions.Saying goodbye to students once they leave middle school for high school. Letting go.

Guess what? You can’t outsource that task.

8 Ways to Help Every Middle School Boy Relate to Girls in a Healthy Way

...Regardless of How Interested He is Right Now

Do you remember the first time you liked someone of the opposite gender? For me it happened at the beginning of sixth grade. There was a girl in a lot of my classes who I thought was the most perfect girl ever. She was smart, pretty, quiet, and confident. My face turned red and my heart raced whenever I got close to her. I didn’t know what to do or say, so I resorted to acting awkward and abrasive when I was around her. Long story short: It never worked out between us.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/carballo

Figuring out how to relate to the opposite gender is tough! It’s one of the most complicated parts of the teenage years, and one reason why most of us never want to return to middle school. However, as adults we have the chance to help middle school boys as they begin to navigate those same tricky waters that we faced years ago.

The Most Amazing Boys

Young Men Who Make a Difference

A few years ago, a middle school dad sent me a text message immediately after we had returned from a weekend retreat. It’s always nerve-wracking to get a text from a parent after a ministry trip. Sometimes it’s for a bad reason. This particular dad had an eighth grade daughter who had been on the retreat with us and and she was new to our ministry.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/valiza14

It turns out she had had an excellent experience throughout the weekend. PHEW! Big sigh of relief.

The text message went something like this: “Hi Joe. My daughter had a great experience this weekend. She said she met the most amazing boys at the retreat.”

At this point I rolled my eyes and expected to hear about how this girl fell in puppy-love with some cute boys and had their numbers and wanted to date one of them. And how she obsessively talked about them all the time and Dad was upset with me for creating an environment for her to meet those boys.

Boy Meets Girl

A Letter to Boys About My Middle School Daughter

This is a guest post written by my friend Kimberly Stuart. She is the mom of a student in my ministry and a published novelist. Kimberly just released her latest book, Sugar. If you enjoy Kimberly’s punchy wit in this post, you’ll love Sugar.

Dear Young Dude,


I’m the mom of that girl I saw you checking out today, but don’t get nervous. I just want you to know some stuff about middle school girls and their parents. Pop open a Coke and take that entire new bag of Doritos hiding in the back of the pantry and let’s have a chat. I won’t tell your mom and dad about the Doritos.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/ulkas

Remember when girls were full of cooties? When the only interesting girl in your class was Jenna C. because she picked her nose and ate it and Maddie M. because she could rip off twenty-five pull-ups in P.E.? Those were the days. Now that you are older and wiser, you know lots of girls are actually kind of great, even the ones who can’t crush a pull-up. They’re great, but some days, you probably wish they came with operating instructions. Or some kind of app. The Girl Translation App, some kind of guide to make sense of the rules that seem to change, the behavior that doesn’t make sense.