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Maci Bookout Says Teen Years with Son Bentley Are an 'Absolute Blast' and an 'Absolute Struggle'

Maci Bookout McKinney and son Bentley https://www.instagram.com/p/Cg3XbxbsRXY/
Maci Bookout McKinney and son Bentley https://www.instagram.com/p/Cg3XbxbsRXY/

Maci Bookout McKinney/Instagram

Maci Bookout is loving the stage of motherhood that she's in.

Speaking with PEOPLE about her life and what fans can expect from Teen Mom: Next Chapter, the mom of three, 31, celebrated that her kids are "all in a really fun stage right now."

"Jade is 7 and Maverick is 6, second grade and first grade, so they're really getting into the groove of who they are in school, in sports and with their friends," she says. "They're becoming older and growing into the actual humans and personalities that they have."

Fans of the MTV franchise who have watched Bookout's story from the beginning are now getting to see her dynamics with her oldest son Bentley, who turns 14 in late October.

"Teenage years are an absolute blast and they are an absolute struggle," Bookout says. "It is difficult because it's gotten to the stage where he wants to make his own decisions and deal with the consequences of those."

As a mom who remembers her own teen years clearly, Bookout says she finds herself "biting my tongue all the time."

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Maci Bookout
Maci Bookout

John Phillips/Getty

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"I'm like 'Maci, you just have to let him like just let him do it,' " she says. "Even though you know it's totally not going to work out, you just gotta let him learn."

Admitting that "it's a struggle," Bookout is learning that "parenting is hard in general but teenage years are fun but they're tough."

Maci says that shooting the MTV series comes as second nature to Bentley, but that all of her kids know their boundaries are respected throughout the process.

"Bentley, he's the oldest Teen Mom Kid. He was born on TV, so it's kind of normal for him," she explains.

"As he's gotten older, obviously sharing things that are personal to him, is always been under the same set of boundaries. If he doesn't want to film — or Jade or Maverick — then they don't film. If they don't want even to put a microphone on, they don't put a microphone on."

"There's always a conversation that I have with them before we film it to see if they're okay with it," she continues. "And then again, with a producer too, to find out 'What's off limits? What are you good with if you're good with, if anything at all?'"

Bookout praises MTV's production team for always being respectful of what her kids decide. "So they know they kind of run the show," she jokes, adding, "but they don't want to, they don't have to."

As for her own growing up on TV, Bookout believes that "even though I've changed a lot, I think if you watch it, I'm really still just Maci," just, "a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and a little more educated."

Making it to where she is today, married and navigating life with her three kids, has "taken a lot," according to the MTV star.

"I think, first and foremost, it took the good to get here and took the struggles to get here," she says, noting that it also "took a lot of the viewers to get here."

Bookout explains that fan feedback throughout her time on 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom has meant a lot to her.

"Hearing viewers' feedback and them sharing their stories and experiences, it doesn't go unnoticed," she says.

"Sometimes, if I'm sharing something that is raw and real and making me feel very vulnerable, knowing that they're watching and they're able to relate — and they share their stories with me — I also then feel like, 'Oh man, I'm not alone,' " she says. "I very much appreciate the give-and-take relationship that I have with the viewers."

Teen Mom: The Next Chapter airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on MTV.