Moms and Sons.
Whether we are snuggling our baby boy, or asking our teenager to open the jam jar, relationships between Moms and sons are precious.
We bawl through Munsch’s Love You Forever. And the toughest football players look right into the camera beaming, “I Love you Mom.”
We have a unique role in the lives of our babies even when they tower over us and need to shave.
Many great writers remind us the mother-son relationship is important:
- Men are what their mothers made them. ~Ralph Waldo Emmerson
- All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. ~Abraham Lincoln
- …and she loved a little boy very, very much. Even more than she loved herself. ~Shel Silverstein
What if We Have No Experience with Raising Boys?
I grew up in a very pink world with three sisters.
So when I gave birth to boy after boy after boy….[no, I was not trying for a girl]…after boy, I knew I would need help understanding these mysterious creatures.
Blue was baffling and I was ill-equipped. Boy Mom bootcamp quickly taught me:
- even grilled cheese sandwiches can be turned into guns
- bathroom humour is always hilarious even when it’s not
- brothers wrestle to show their affection
But as the boys grew, I wondered if I was missing the mark communicating from my heart. I felt too mushy. I felt too pink.
So I did what any proactive mom would do – I googled. Questions like:
- how do I best show my boys I love them?
- what does every Mom of boys need to understand?
- how can I train my boys to put the toilet seat down?
Emerson Eggerichs wrote Mother & Son: The Respect Effect and boy is it rocking my world. Here are 6 truths about the importance of Moms showing respect to our sons.
1. Moms miss the mark, but it’s not our fault
We were never coached to use respect-talk so we use what comes more naturally to us, which is love-talk. And while some love-talk works with our boy, we may be missing out on opportunities to let him know we respect who he is becoming.
And if we keep missing the mark, it can lead to a lot of tension. Eggerichs writes, “Without respect a son reacts without love, and without love a mother reacts without respect….It gets really crazy, really quickly.” (p. 5)
But the good news is that Moms are quick learners and highly motivated to improve relationships!
2. Moms must offer boys respect, unconditionally.
This may seem like an impossible and even unfair task. Because I equated respecting my son with respecting his behaviour.
It is obvious we must love our daughters unconditionally, not based on their behaviour…or ANY other factors. We would never withold our love based on a string of poor decisions by our daughter. That would be unthinkable.
Communicating conditional respect of our sons is devastating.
Ping! [insert epiphany]
I appreciated the sample conversations of how to communicate honestly with sons, while still being respectful. Without condoning poor decisions or attitudes, our words should come from a posture of respect, and he shows us how.
We know that our husbands thrive when they know we trust them, admire them and believe in them. And Shaunti Feldhahn’s research for her book For Women Only took that understanding one step further. She shared that men would rather sense the loss of loving feelings from their wives than to be disrespected by them. Seriously? Men would rather feel unloved rather than disrespected?
No wonder I was missing the mark with my boys!
3. Moms can learn the respect-talk dialect
nagging repeatedly reminding her son that his Dad didn’t want him jumping on the furniture, one Mom phrased it like this: “We need to respect how hard dad has worked to be able buy things for our family and his desire to take good care of them.” (p.9)
This wording would not have occurred to me. It makes sense when I read it, but it wouldn’t be how I would have phrased it. I can blame it on my pink lens.
I recently had a chance to take a small step in this area. Brother #2 hurt Brother #3 because Brother #3 was tormenting Brother #4 (are you still with me?). There were tears and hurt feelings. Instead of rushing in with a rebuke, I took a deep breath and thought about how to communicate with Brother #2 using respect-talk.
I tried a new approach: “I know you wanted to protect your little brother from being upset, and that’s honourable. I admire how you are defending him. How can you accomplish that without hurting your other brother?”
I was able to see the parts of the fight that had honourable roots, in a way I never would have before. I do believe I actually spoke blue!
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4. Boys need respect in distinct areas
So many aspect of our boys’ lives are impacted by respect. Eggerichs explains how to communicate respect to our growing men in these six areas. We can say, “I respect your desire to…”
- work and achieve
- provide, protect and even die
- be strong and to lead and make decisions
- analyze, solve and counsel
- have a shoulder-to-shoulder friendship
- have sexual understanding and ‘knowing.’
Isn’t this humbling to be a Mom to boys who are wired for all of these achievements?
And while you may admire these traits in your husband, you are also now raising someone else’s husband.
5. Boys personalize disrespect
This one section in the book was worth its weight in gold.
Daughters tend to understand that they need to talk things through until they reach an apology and a resolution. Yet when a Mom approaches her son to talk about a conflict, he may go into self-preservation mode.
Did you catch that? Even a casual comment like, “Hey buddy, we need to talk later” triggers a son to feel attacked and start building up his defenses.
But we can simply change our wording to help prevent a son from pulling away during conflict.
For example, we can say, “I am not trying to disrespect you. My goal is to honour you, not dishonour you….My goal is not to put you down. That would be disrespectful….I am only trying to address the issue, not attack you as a person.
What happened when I tried this approach?
One of my boys was getting a bit lippy and I could see he was gearing up for an argument. I calmly said, “Look. I am speaking to you respectfully and I need you to do the same for me.” I wish I had a video to prove how well this worked. These words instantly broke through his anger. His shoulders relaxed and his whole demeanour changed as he calmly said, “Alright.”
6. Moms’ efforts will bring results
Timely respect-filled statements will “ring in a boy’s ears for a long time. He remembers these comments. He feels energized and motivated by them.” (p. 103)
If we can learn to get this aspect of communication right, we will see results. Eggerichs explains that “Respect-Talk” ignites affection and endearment in a boy.” (p. 5) Did you hear that good news? Could we ask for anything better?
By speaking a boy’s language of respect, we will have the added blessing of being loved in a way that is meaningful to us as Moms.
But if you have a ‘win’, don’t smother your son with kisses and blow up pink balloons. Make sure your enthusiasm isn’t too mushy for sons, especially as they get older.
That being said, I recommend this book for any Mom raising sons.
I’d love to hear how you have learned to use a blue lens with your son(s). Let’s get practical!