Growing Up

Question: I have a son who is in 6th grade. Throughout all his elementary years, we were always so very close. If there was a function at school he wanted me to volunteer. If there was a class trip, he would hope that I would be the chaperone. If he didn’t have a friend over he would ask me to play video games with him and we would lie side by side on the floor together. So many times when I would tell him how big he was getting he would pat me on the back and say “don’t worry mom you’ll always be my best friend”.

Well independence has found him. There is such a change in attitude i.e. hang out together, no way; chaperon the upcoming field trip, I don’t think so. Disrespect has also found its way into our lives. Though after the second bout of my son calling me stupid he learned that I will not tolerate such behavior (I was bringing his friend over to stay the night, once he made the remark his friend was returned home. My son was not happy, but I stated you will not speak to me in such a manner).

His friends think I am a pretty cool mom, unfortunately my son no longer sees me in that fashion. The many parents that I have spoken to say this is just a phase and he will come back. If so, how much space do I allow him? Should I let him know that this hurts me?


“Feeling Left Behind”


Today’s answer is provided by Odelia Schlisser. Odelia Schlisser is a life coach with a Masters Degree in Sociology and a Masters Degree in Education, and is trained in Family Therapy. She currently lectures Psychology and Behavioral Science in Mercy College and has spent the past several years counseling children, teens, and their parents and teachers. She can be contacted for coaching at

Dear “Feeling Left Behind”

I appreciate you openness and honesty regarding your feelings. Not everyone is able to do that, and I find it refreshing that you are so emotionally aware.

I have to say that I understand your hurt, but I am also glad that you recognize that this is an important part of his growing process. It’s wonderful that you are able to be firm and won’t tolerate disrespect. Too often parents in your shoes will let it slide in the hopes of remaining popular and cool in their kids and their friends eyes. It’s imperative that you remain the parent, and that your son understands that.

You do not mention a spouse or other children, so I don’t know whether you have any. Now would be a good time to invest in you, in your work, career, hobbies, or relationships. Your son is growing, evolving and developing. So should you.

When you ask how much space you should give him, I think the rule is as much as he requires as long as it’s safe and healthy activities and relationships that he is involved in.

I think it’s ok and even advisable to schedule some alone time with your son. Do something that he enjoys together. It’s alright to tell him that you want to do things together. It’s not ok to make him feel badly for growing up, and hanging out with his friends rather than his mom.

There is a parallel growth process for both of you. I congratulate you on recognizing and identifying your feelings, and I hope you take advantage of this opportunity.


  1. My oldest child is 10, and he still shares so much with me. I’m afraid that he is going to become a teen or even ‘tween’ soon and stop sharing his life with me. I understand that it’s a normal stage, however it must be difficult to accept that this small souls, whom you cared for since Day 1, now wants you to drop him off a block away from his friend’s house- which, incidently, I used to ask my Mom to do!

  2. My boys are both grown and living on their own now. One of the things I did when they were “tweens” and early teens was be available to drive their group places. I would drive and listen. I said little unless asked a question. But I learned alot by listening. Plus I was always fairly sure where the boys were, as I would take them and often pick them up as well. The other parents and my husband thought I was “spoiling” the boys by providing transportation. But it met my needs as much as it did theirs. Both boys and their friends still thank me for being so supportive when they needed transportation and for always being available when they needed someone to talk to.

  3. Hi Moms: I too have a 10 year old and he and I are buddies. As I’m interacting with him, I’m reminded that he will one day be someone’s husband and so with that in mind, I remind him that he needs to communicate with me and I remain available at all times to hear him out. I tell him that I’m on his side and I would never do anything to hurt or embarrass him, etc. He, in turn, trusts me and is pretty open with me. I can’t control what he picks up outside of our home but I can control what’s in our home (love, respect, tenderness, communication and an intolerance for poor for the opposite of the aforementioned). I’m teaching my kiddies about boundaries and self respect and above all, I’m teaching them the Word of God and within that there is obedience, discipline and a willingness to be taught. I pray that parents get a clue that our kids don’t need them to be their friend right now. Parents need to parent and later their kids will regard them as their very best friend. Blessings….

    • I’m a mom of an 18 1/2 year old wonderul son. I have a daughter that’s 2 years older, and have always been very close to her. We give each other a lot of feed back and support. My son, on the other hand, was very affectionate and wanted to spend lots of time with me or at least know I was in the vicinity till sometime around the age of 12. Then it all seemed to cease at once. All signs and symbols of affection….gone. Gradually talking became taboo and pretty much any activity that meant Mom would be around. He was definately going through puberty; growing in height, growing facial hair, change in voice, acne…. you name it. That was 6 years ago. Although he’s just starting to show signs of real emotional maturety towards me, the feedback from other adults shows that he behaved very mature and respectful to others. May I mention that he never showed any signs of disrespect to his fater, whom he helps (we live on a farm) when ever he asks. But through the years he always came to me if he needed or wanted anything.
      I respect his need to grow up and separate himself from me. I always respected his privacy, something I learned from my parents. Another thing I learned from my parents was to remember you are a parent not a friend, keep communication pathways open always, but let your kids know what you expect of them. When I found it hard to talk with my son….because he wasn’t willing, I wrote notes to him…..gave him time to think about what I said……then react.
      When dealing with your kids, especially, let the love shine through……I always do.

  4. Funny, I just blogged about this very subject. It isn’t easy to let them go, especially when they still try to hang on at times. In those moments nwher he wants his space I try to remind myself that later there will be a moment when heants my undivided attention and support.

    We’ll all get through it and, with a few blessings, will know we’ve done well as we watch our children become parents.

  5. My only child is also 10 (I am a single mom) thereforee, we are very close. I hate the thought that someday (soon) he too will be a teen with all that comes with it, but the response from Odelia Schlisser was wonderful and I feel better after reading her suggestions. Thank you!

  6. Carol Staab says:

    WOW! I have been going thru this exact same thing lately. Our first born turns 12 this Saturday. He is also in the 6th grade. Even though he is still a “very young 12″ I have finally realized what everyone has said to me in the past…”the time will go by so fast.” I believe 6th grade is the turning point for me on this statement. But, as I tell him and his younger brother, every night, and have since they were BABIES…”You can always talk to me about anything and I will always love you and be here for you”.
    Ok, pass the tissue.

  7. Dear Feeling Left Behind,
    I don’t think you received enough of an answer from Odelia Schlisser. And I really don’t think it’s relative whether you have other children or a husband. My son is also in 6th grade, also displaying the same behaviors, and really has a negative attitude towards a lot of things. I also talked to friends and they also gave the same advice. I think you handled the disrespectful backtalk perfectly. That’s what I would have done as well. I think you should indeed tell him that it hurts your feelings when he does. You don’t sound like a mom that would whine about it, and make him feel guilty. I tell my son that I understand he’s going through a lot of changes, but that it disappoints me when he treats me with disrespect and ungratitude. He must know that the world does not revolve around him and to consider the feelings of others around him. I give him slack, but like you, I never let it go too far. He’s moody and hormonal and I ignore that as much as I can, but I do talk to him about it when he’s not all hot and snappy about things. And I remind him that he can always talk to me about anything. I think you have good instincts and that you are a wonderful mom. Believe in your instincts, be who you are and don’t let your kid walk all over you…he still needs boundaries and is still looking for them at this unstable time in his life. Trust your instincts. Good Luck!

  8. My daughter is 11 and I too am a single mom. We are very close but the attitude and sassy mouth have already arrived. Even though I do yell, I’m learning that taking things away is far more effective. We spend a lot of time together but I’m learning to let her make her own mistakes and make some of her own choices. Nothing that isn’t safe but if you don’t let go, just a little, they will never be able to figure it out on their own. I am not looking forward to the teen years but I am hoping and praying that she will make the right choices. We are church goers and our youth program is excellent. I think that the choice of friends is really important.

    • It’s really nice reading about these issues and knowing you are not alone with similar problems. I have a 14 and 17 year olds plus an 8 year oldand having been a stay home mum for so long makes things a little difficult when it comes to letting go. Sometimes it drives you crazy with that attitude. Friends tell me it’s just a phase all parents go through. So I’m praying too that they do not mix with the wrong crowd.

  9. I am a mom of a 15 year old and he and I are very close. I was a single mom until he was 12. Around age 11, he began to push back a bit- some disrespect, some “testing” of my boundaries. The biggest gift I gave to him was to be very clear and consistent- I explained up front what consequences would arise from actions and stuck to my guns. I think it helped him feel safe, even when he did end up with a consequence now and then. I also began to schedule surprise “adventures” for us. He loves them and even asked me this morning, “mom when I am driving next year, can I DRIVE to one of our adventures”?

    It is hard to separate from our children- we want to keep them close and little forever- its also amazing to watch them blossom. I am so proud of the young man he is becoming and I am learning to trust that the universe is helping both of us as we grow older :>

  10. Dear “Feeling Left Behind”,

    I’m remembering a very distinct moment when my relationship with my son changed. I needed to let go a bit and was not willing to do that, but my instinct told me I had to. It got to the point where I was really exasperating him and while I never tolerated disrespect, and there were consequences, I also realized that he was trying to do what is natural. That was to be more independent of me, to start the process of becoming a man who will lead, protect and take care of his own family one day. He needed to have that opportunity. Little by little I let go and let him make decisions, do his own laundry, learn how to take care of himself, etc. In turn, I got a much more mature realtionship with him. It’s great to sit with him and talk about current events and hear how he is maturing into a fine young man. He doesn’t share everything with me like he used to (some things he’d rather share with dad), but our relationship could have gotten much worse if I had tried to hold on too tight. And now there are times when he just hugs me or wants to sit close and talk. We also enjoyed “dates”, precursors to the real thing! He’s 18 now and will be going away to college. It’s breaking my heart, but like Odelia said, we have to grow in our own personal lives apart from our children. I’m looking forward to this next season of my life. God Bless!

  11. My son is 9 and my little one is 18months and i have experienced the same sort of behaviour. I have been wondering if it is him growing up or if it is finally the reality of his little brother arriving or a combination of both. My heart aches because we don’t have the same relationship that we used to have before his little brother arrived and why he seems to irritate me so much. I have consulted many friends and my numerous parenting books and all seem to conclude that it is just a phase and that it will, in time, pass. I think the only way that i can deal with it is to remain flexible (within limits) and encourage him to share his feelings. We have also just started running together (beneficial for all of us – we get alone time together, we are exercising and dad gets to bond with baby – great!) which i hope will continue to bond us. I love my boys and dread the day that they will be all grown up but i pray that i can grow them into wonderful men and that they will never go to far! Let them know everyday that they are special and loved!

  12. I am the mother of 5 boys, ages 24, 19,16, 14 qnd 12. The 12 year old still adores me. When the 24 year old started seperating from me at age 12, I was devasted. But remember this. These babies and young children are the center of our lives for quite a while. Everything revolves around keeping them safe and healthy. The day they seem to stop wanting that you almose feel lost. Your “role” seems to not be needed. They do need you, but they also need space to make the transistion into manhood. Because no young man wants to be seen as “clinging” to his mother…or her “clinging” to him. So as nature changes them, we too have to make the adjustment…that fine line of allowing them to grow and make some mistakes, but also guide them so that they don’t make huge mistakes. My 24 year old has turned into a fine young man, and I feel that the wonderful personality that I saw when he was little, is returning. He is not “threatened” by being close to me anymore…I guess as he becomes more confident in his capabilities, he’s ok with my nurturing. I try not to overwhelm him. He lives 3 states away from me, and I miss him a lot. We talk often on the phone, and I have to remind myself…I brought him into this world, and he and I did the work of having him grow up to be a healthy, independent man. I am proud of him.

  13. Ramona Berkey says:

    Children need a time to separate from us. Letting them go is a hard part of our
    job as parents. Teen (or almost) years are usually the time. On the other hand,
    it is never acceptable to be disrespectful. No one deserves verbal abuse. You will
    need to judge the degree of “tone” in your son’s responses. Is he just exerting
    his independence? or is he being downright disrespectful? One is understandable,
    the other needs to be addressed. Another part of the role of parents is to help our
    children know how to relate to other people in an appropriate manner, other people
    including us!

  14. To all you moms: I am the mom of 3 sons (49, 40, 34). I also was a teaching assistant for twenty three years at their school. This being said, I found that the one rule that seems to have a lasting effect on all my boys is “Always remember that no matter how young or old a person is, each of them has feelings, too.” Butting heads goes on within the majority of households. How you handle it is something else. To parents with 11-13 year old kids, my standard response is: Don’t worry….adults are nothing but dummies without a logical thought in their head. In fact we are nothing except a strange person in their home who must be tolerated at best! HOWEVER, by the time they reach the ripe old age of 17 or more…we all of sudden become rational humans with great advice, sometimes even their best friend. They may look back on their behavior with horror or just plain old disgust. Apologies may be given but the best thing is we have ourbabies back!

  15. I have just started reading a book titled “Hold On To Your Kids” about this subject.
    Just know that what your child is doing is normal and part of his growth.
    I like to use the phrase, “They need you, but they hate that they need you.” to describe what they must be feeling.
    I too had the same sweet, mommy is the center of my universe kid and it’s sometimes painful how he now acts toward me.
    Alone time with my 12 year old is almost always welcomed.
    If you weren’t doing the right things, he wouldn’t be going through this stage. You’re doing a great job!

  16. I too was always considered the “cool mom” by my son’s friends and having gotten divorced when my son was still an infant it was always just the 2 of us. He also went through that phase when it was longer cool to hang out w/mom. Unfortunately it is a rite of passage, more so for boys I think. They have to establish that break w/mom and start to become their own person. My son once commented to me that he was so tired of being made to feel special. This also came during his senior year of high school and after he had been accepted to The Ohio State University…mind you we live in NC which is over 10 hours away. My response was”Well I am soooo sorry that I have done nothing but make you feel special your entire life. I am sorry that I was always there for all your concerts and performances but when you’re in Ohio you can feel just as unspecial as you want!” My child is now a sophomore and had a really big concert coming up. He called me and said, “You know I’ve got a concert in the spring where I’m going to be conducting. I think I may fly you in for it.” My response was, “So, do we want to feel special now!” He also made a post on his Facebook page that “I have come to realize the my mom is a lot smarter than I give her credit for!” So there is hope, he will come around and although it is heartbreaking at first to be pushed aside, that bond you two share will come full circle and will be even stronger than before…

  17. What about a 16 year old boy who is not close with his mother? How do you get the connection back? This is my son who literally lifts up his hand next to his eyes to block me out when I am speaking to him. I cannot go very near him. Not sure how or when this started but I’ll just say there is not peace in our house due to me and his father not getting along. How do I get the connection back when he doesn’t like when I talk to him about anything serious? It has gotten a little better over the past year because I work very hard at it. How do I get the connection before it is too late? Instead of, like all the other mothers -thinking about starting to let go it is like I have the opposite scenario. This is very hurtful. My other two boys are not like that at all. He is a middle child but the other two could talk to me about almost anything. I consider myself a pretty “cool” Mom but this is really heart breaking and I am the type of Mom who is home often and do things with my kids and put my kids first. Any suggestions? Thank you.

  18. My 14 year old son is in 8th grade and he and I go to the gym together. It was his idea! He wanted to join the gym because a lot of his friends were getting memberships, so this has been a win win situation for us. He gets to hang out with his friends, they all get some exercise and I am doing something good for myself too!
    He has grown so much this past year, and we have our arguments about schoolwork and the length of his hair. I try not to sweat the hair issue. I know that this is just a phase, but I am very insistent that he does not slack on the school work. Taking away privileges works best when he does not take the school work seriously