Priest Gives Good Advice for Parents And Programs For Teenagers

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

Even though parenting a teenage boy is legendary for its difficulty, Legionary of Christ and spiritual director Father Michael Sliney has identified seven things parents can do to have a better relationship with their adolescent son.

Father Sliney, who serves as spiritual director and confessor for high schools boys said in an interview with Zenit News that parents should keep the following seven points in mind when dealing with their sons:

1. Establish clear guidelines with reasonable consequences from a unified front; cutting slack but also holding boys accountable for their actions.

2. Parents must provide reasonable explanations for their criteria, guidelines and decisions send them to programs for teenagers to help them express themselves.

3. Avoid hyper-analysis of boys’ emotions and states of mind: avoid “taking their temperature” too often.

4. Make unconditional love with an emphasis on character and effort more important than outcome. Encourage boys to live up to their potential while having reasonable expectations. To love them regardless of whether they make it into Harvard or become a star quarterback.

5. Authenticity, faith and fidelity should be reflected in parent’s lifestyles.

6. Qualities of a dad: Manliness, temperance, making significant time for family, putting aside work, and being a reliable source of guidance.

7. Qualities of a mom: Emotional stability, selflessness, loving service and extreme patience.

Father Sliney said that from age 13 on, boys become much more sensitive to being treated like a child. This is when they are discovering their identities and going through a lot of turmoil. Parents need to pray for them and dedicate extra time to them.

Establishing firm guidelines is important, but there are a few caveats.

“Every parent has an atomic bomb he or she can pull out — taking away the Internet, the cell phone, or the driver’s license, or keeping their bedroom door open — but everything needs to be done in a fair way, in due proportion. You can’t surprise a kid with a negative punishment that doesn’t correspond to what he did.”

If you want your sons to “do the right thing,” explain this in terms of “wise” and “wrong” rather than “right” and “wrong,” he said.

“For example, instead of telling your son, ‘Don’t become a drug addict,’ help him to see how resisting the temptation is a great way to forge his character. When the issue of premarital sex comes up, flip it around. Instead of saying, ‘It’s a mortal sin’ or ‘You might get a disease,’ help him to look forward to his future wife, and to think of what a great gift he could offer her if he waits for her.”

He also pointed out that because we are living in a very feminized culture, fathers need to teach their sons what it means to be masculine.

“Being masculine doesn’t mean being a tough football player and lifting weights,” he said. “Manliness means strong character, self-control, quiet strength, and getting through adversity without whining. Kids need to see the example of what it means to be a man in their dad. It’s about having an internal toughness, not complaining, and not letting others tell you what to do.”

Mothers need to realize that boys of this age generally don’t like long-winded philosophical discussions. “It’s generally better for moms not to ask too many questions and to be satisfied with short answers,” Father said. “If moms dig too deeply, kids try to avoid them, because they feel like they’re being probed. . . . Boys don’t want to show their emotions.”

Mothers can make the biggest impact on their sons by giving an example of selfless love and service. “Kids need to feel loved, served, appreciated, because they are not getting that in their competitive environment.”

Parents also need to practice what they preach by maintaining a strong and healthy marriage.

“If these qualities of fidelity and authenticity are not there, and if there is not a stable, happy marriage, it’s chaos,” Fr. Sliney said. “Troubled kids generally come from dysfunctional or broken families. Here we see the importance of a great marriage: If that’s in place, you’ve got a pretty good chance of a teenager getting through in good shape. There are not too many cases of parents who’ve got it together having dysfunctional kids.”

The spiritual life is vitally important for boys of this age, Father said.

“Character and the spiritual life go hand in hand, because grace builds on nature. It is not possible for a kid to be able to resist his passions of disobedience, rebelliousness, vanity, and lust without the help of God’s grace. I always suggest confession every two weeks or at least once a month. Definitely Sunday Mass, and if they can go more often, I encourage it. I also encourage kids to pray a decade of the rosary for the virtues they struggle most with.”

He went on to say, “The most important task is to help Christ become a friend for them, to help them see that Christ is counting on them, and to know that the sacrament of confession is there if they happen to fall.”

© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.

In our show, The Virtues: Teens and the Joy Filled Life, our guest Mary Ann Budnik teaches you how to help your children seek after and acquire a more virtuous life. Available for only $9.99 in our store at

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