Teenage son who’s approaching his first sexual encounter.

March 11, 2014

Dear Wayne,

I have a teenage son who appears to be nearing his first sexual encounter. We have a great relationship. We talk about everything. I was pretty active at an early age so I don’t have a problem with all of this. But his mom—we’re divorced—is having a BIG problem with it. Not sure how to deal with her. Any suggestions?


Divorced Dad


Dear Dad,

It seems to me there may be a couple of issues going on here. First, perhaps your ex is having more a problem with your lax attitude toward her son’s sexual awakening than with the inevitability of the act itself.

Secondly, have you been crystal clear with your son regarding your views on teenagers and sex…and drugs, for that matter? Are you even clear yourself about where you stand, your core values, and your non-negotiable, unalterable terms (N.U.T.s) regarding your son’s behavior while living in your house? If you’re not clear, how can he be?

Here’s what I told my son, and something I often share with the men I coach:

Son, drug and alcohol use is unacceptable while you’re living in my house. Period. And I advise against having sex with anyone until you’re older. Why? You’re too young. When a kid engages in substance use or sexual activity, any number of problems can arise, both physical and psychological.

At 16 or 17, do you have the life experience to know how to handle them wisely? Or will you panic and make the situation worse? When you’re high, you’re in no condition to help yourself or others. And the undeniable truth is that things can and do happen at this age that can change the course of your life—and not in a good way.

Problems occur for adults all the time when it comes to love, sex and substance use. The hope is that, as an adult, you’ll have gained the experience to know how to deal with these problems intelligently.

As your dad, it’s my job to help make sure you grow to become that intelligent adult. I know it’s awfully appealing to engage in what the other kids are doing. But don’t be in such a rush. It’s time for you to start behaving like the man YOU want to be. Every choice you make will have a consequence. I can tell you what my rules are and be very clear about the consequences if you don’t honor them. And I can tell how I personally feel about these issues and my concern for your safety. But in those moments, when I’m not around, it’s going to be all up to you.

I love you more than you’ll ever know, and I’ll do everything I can to encourage you to make the right choices, even if it pisses you off. Because when it comes to your health, I’m more interested in being your dad than your friend.

So dad—and all you other dads listening in—get clear about your rules so you can effectively father your son into manhood. And once you’re clear, share that clarity with your son’s mother. Let her know—and feel—that your son has your undivided attention during this critical life passage.

Because we did certain things when we were young, many of today’s parents tend to be somewhat laissez-faire when it comes to their kids’ choices. It’s a mistake. You can’t keep them on a leash, but you can make sure they know where you stand—consistently—on these and other important issues.

It’s our job to parent our kids. I encourage everyone to challenge yourself by asking this question: Am I being the best parent I can be? If the answer is no, then ask for some help and become that better parent. Your kids’ lives depend upon it.