Mother son relationship

Is a mother’s relationship with her son all that different than her relationship with her daughter? Definitely, mothers and daughters share a lot while mothers and sons start out being different, and they continue to be different as time passes. They are raised in different cultures, so children grow up with a “Male Code” and a “Female Code.” Mothers have to make the effort to learn about the “Male Code.”

Mother Relationship Test

The old adage “like father, like son” needs correcting. More appropriate is “like mother, like son.” For the mother-son connection determines to a great extent not only what sons think about themselves but also what they think about women in general. Indeed, wise women have always known that the best way to determine the quality of a man is to evaluate his relationship with his mother. There’s nothing new about this. It has been known for centuries that mothers and sons share a special bond. This does not mean, by any means, that mothers love their sons more than their daughters. But the mother-son connection seems to be under armed by a maternal attachment that is not duplicated elsewhere.

A strong mother-son relationship starts with consistency, patience, and emotional closeness, which are important for all babies, and the process is the same for boys and girls. Be aware of cultural or family messages that would pressure you to distance from your son when he is very young. Accept the fact that boys have a different communication style. Respect your son’s need for emotional space. Be willing to overcome the fundamental differences of male/female in order to communicate.

The first smile that a baby sees, the first voice that he recognizes, is that of his mother. As he grows older, his mother and her relationships with men — husband, boyfriend, brother, father and friends — are the first and most compelling examples of how a man interacts, or should interact, with a female. “Mothers are the first and most constant expression of what a woman is,” says Ronn Elmore, Ph.D., a minister, family counselor and author of several books on relationships. “A boy’s view of the world is affected by what the mother has demonstrated.”

Other family specialists concur. Milano Harden, a Harvard University graduate student who is developing the Fatherhood Initiative, says a recent study that be and colleagues conducted indicates that mothers “in profound ways” affect a boy’s development. “It’s not so much their psycho-sexual development, but we’re talking about the clarification of the son’s vocational and educational identities,” says Harden. “We often think of identities as having one dimension — gender. But there is a complexity of identities.”

And if the appropriate identity is not nurtured, it will not spring forth. Family therapists say that many of the problems that women have with men can be traced to how men were reared by their mothers. Considering the great number of who are born out of wedlock to impoverished, uneducated and often very young women, it is easy to blame societal ills, such as public education and drug-infested neighborhoods. However many negative environmental factors could be neutralized by mothers and parents in general taking steps to steer their sons (and daughters) in a more positive direction.

Family counselors point that sons are affected by the mother’s relationships with men and the male role models involved in a young man’s life. They emphasize that if a husband is not present in the home, an effort should be made to involved male friends and family members — grandfathers, uncles, cousins. “It is really important that mothers go out of their way to let their sons see them in loving, respectful and positive relationships with men, whether they be co-workers or just friends,” says Dr. Elmore.

The mother’s romantic interests also influence how a son eventually will interact with women. “A son feels that what you say about men, you are saying about him,” continues Dr. Elmore. “Mothers who constantly idolize men or who constantly put men down are sending the wrong messages and images of the boy about himself,” he says. “It is important that a mother do as much as she possibly can to let her son see her engaged in a loving, positive relationship with a man. That’s how sons learn how to give love. Mothers can’t show that alone… The longer the relationship, the more consistent it is, the more committed the relationship, then the better it is for the son.”

Joyce Hamilton Berry, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in the Washington, D.C.-area, says the best way for a mother to teach her son to respect women is by demanding respect herself. “Demand that he carry packages and groceries, that he open doors for you and other women,” says Dr. Berry. “Teach him to speak to women with respect and not call them names… If a man loves, respects and reveres his mother, then most likely he will treat his woman the same way. If it’s a healthy relationship with his mother, that’s good. How much is too much depends on how the mother parents.”

However, some mothers are so over protective the child becomes dependent. Ironically, this dependency negatively affect the son’s development. Sometimes they shirk responsibility because they have never bad to be responsible; when made mistakes, mom made excuses. This dependency carries over into the son’s relationships with women. “There is the belief that no woman can take care of my son as well as I can,” says Dr. Berry. “A mother takes note of how her son’s children are cared for, how meals are cooked, how the house is cleaned. She is concerned about her son’s welfare. Ideally you are supposed to raise your children to grow up and move out on their own so that they can take care of themselves. Frequently, men will remain dependent on their mothers, and mothers enable this to happen. Mothers don’t cut the cord. They become resources for their sons… Some men believe that only their mothers can do it the right way. For instance, they say to their wives, `I want it to taste like mama’s fried apples.'”

Some mothers, unwittingly and sometimes unconsciously, try to replace departed husbands with sons. Jawanza Kunjufu, Ph.D., gives a hypothetical situation in which a divorced mother reasons that her 13-to-16-year-old son can help move furniture, repair the car, do most of the physical work around the house. “Some mothers like this arrangement,” says Dr. Kunjufu, a noted author who runs a family counseling service in Chicago. “So they encourage the son to remain at home until he is 40. He never has to leave. That’s why some males never marry. They can shack with their girl friends, and when she gets upset and wants to put him out, he can always return home to his mother.”

Dr. Kunjufu goes on to say that some mothers make similar mistakes when their sons are even younger. For instance, a single mother might tell her 9-year-old son that he is the man of the house. “It is unfair to put that responsibility on a 9-year-old boy, to tell him he’s a man,” says Dr. Kunjufu. “Secondly, many boys will believe this, which means that the mother had better not have her boyfriend come over to spend the night because he is the man of the house, and he’s not going to like that.”

In an effort to have an intimate, loving relationship with their sons, many women, adds Dr. Elmore, mistakenly turn their sons into mother’s confidant and pal. “And that is something that works to the disadvantage of the relationship,” he says. “It works against the boy developing because it teaches him he is responsible for women rather than he is responsive to women. He feels he has to take away a woman’s hurt and pain. When he is an adult and into his own relationships, he pulls away from women, when he is not able to provide that kind of counsel. He feels that if his adult mother is so immature and needy, that tends to form his definition of what women are all about. It results in him having less respect for women.”

Counselors also point out that mothers often have a double standard for how they rear and discipline their children. “Some mothers raise their daughters and mother their sons,” Dr. Kunjufu explains. “They make their daughters come in early but not their sons. They make their daughters do indoor chores — washing the dishes, making dinner, sweeping — things that must be done daily, whereas the sons have the `outdoor’ chores — emptying the garbage, cutting the grass, etc. — which are done about once a week.” He points out that mothers often make daughters study and do homework, whereas they don’t press their sons to do the same.

The discrepancy could be due to observations of how the mother and her brothers were reared. Or it could be that the father, if one is present in the home, doesn’t want the son involved in domestic chores. It also could be the fear of instilling “feminine qualities” in the son. “Some single mothers feel that if they have their sons do domestic chores and study, it will make them too feminine,” says Dr. Kunjufu.

“Tough love is critical,” says Dr. Kunjufu. “And some mothers, unfortunately, do not want to give their sons tough love. I think that God designed the family perfectly with a father and a mother. One [the father] primarily looks at the law, and the other [the mother] looks at grace. But when the law is missing, then unfortunately many times boys get grace only and they begin to take advantage of it. So a single mother has got to understand that with the father not being there, she has to give tough love and lay down the law.”

Dr. Elmore adds that mothers should give sons options along with discipline in an effort to teach them decision-making rather than how to passively follow instructions. For instance, it can be made clear that if grades don’t improve, then sports and social activities must be curtailed. “You don’t want to cut off the freedom to make independent decisions and learn self-management,” says Dr. Elmore. “A boy who doesn’t master self-management ends up in prison with another set of role models.”

He also says that with boys, criticism is not as effective as rewarding good behavior. “Behavior that you reward is the behavior that he repeats,” says Dr. Elmore. “Approval is a great discipline factor for boys.”

Dr. Berry emphasizes that mothers should start early talking to their sons about what is expected of them. She says they should be given responsibilities and taught how to take care of themselves — how to shop, cook, wash dishes, do laundry, get the car repaired. “Tell them that they are expected to make good grades and go to college,” she advises. “Teach them how to get a job, to earn money, and then teach them to manage their money. Let them know they are expected to get their own places, and then take care of themselves rather than depending on someone else to do it.”

Another challenge for mothers in particular is encouraging sons to communicate effectively. “It is important for mothers to talk to their boys, but also to listen to what they have to say,” says Dr. Elmore. “We tend to let the boys get away with being non verbal whereas we encourage girls to talk. Listen to the son as though what he is saying is extremely important, even if you disagree. Listen, and then comment and correct, if necessary.”

Nearly every mother knows how hard it can be to communicate with her son. Sometimes it seems as her son grows older, he grows more distant. How can we get our sons to talk to us?

Don’t try to approach your son like you would your daughter. Wait and watch for cues that your son is willing to talk. Ease into a conversation slowly and carefully. Give him something to keep his hands busy while he talk. Don’t make an emotional or dramatic response. Remember the “male code.” Let him choose the time to talk.

Counselors point out that many mothers have difficulty finding the right balance of love and discipline. “You can’t be all discipline and no fun and love, but it can’t be all fun and no discipline,” Dr. Elmore advises. “Sons notice this balance between strength and softness… If a mother does the job right, what she can expect is the son growing up and away from her, becoming increasingly independent of her. This can be traumatic for a mother, but it means that she did right rather than wrong.”

What about single mams? If there is no father figure living in the house to help a son feel “manly,” can a single mother ever hope to succeed with her son?

Whether single or married, the mother-son relationship is very important, and single mams can be just as successful as a couple in raising boys. It just takes a very conscious effort to understand and practice the “male code.” Don’t solve problems for him. Let him find “manly” ways to solve his problem. Also, be sure there are positive, trustworthy males in his life to add to what you do: grandparent, teacher, adult family friends, etc.

A mama’s boy who grows up to be a responsible, caring and committed man, one who respects women and makes a contribution to society, is more than enough to make his mother proud.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
  • araina mcclain

    2009-07-12 22:32:56 hello i want to know of fun creative tips on how to bond with my sons they are very young i have four ages 3,2,1,& 2 months so please i am lost with the issue and i want to establish the best relationship that i can with my sons.

  • Gwendolyn McBride

    2009-08-04 06:21:27
    Hi, I have a 16 year old son whom I am trying to bond with. We seem to be growing further and further apart, it is making me feel anxious which I feel is hurting the relationship. What should I do.

  • db

    2009-08-05 17:28:49
    I believe this is probably close to the most positive article I’ve ever read about mothers (single mothers in particularly) and the unique opportunity they have to influence their sons for a lifetime. Most, even our new potus, just presume women’s ability to parent well as solely dependent on her having a marital relationship-w/a man, & when/if that should end, then this woman who carried & bore her child/ren somehow loses her ability to parent well once there is no longer a “man” in her own life. I thought the advice leaned toward mostly-positive and practical and in essence direced toward the same goals 2-parents have for raising their sons. Granted they have an advantage IF the dad is a truly caring, nurturing, involved parent to begin with. Just being married doesn’t automatically mean the 2-parents together have, or practice, superior parenting skills. (remember George W Bush came from a 2-parent home…parents who are cousins, no less!) It takes different efforts for each group to accomplish the same goals. Thank goodness that perspective is FINALLY starting to be recognized & supported. If a single mom is constantly being berated, degraded & stigmatized as nothing more than a breeder with no intellectual capacity for child-rearing until she gets a ring from some man, what kind of message is that to send to her children, sons & daughters? Married or not, women are the Moms! marital status does NOT dictate her compentence to fulfill her God-given role as a mother!
    If this attitude of society were adopted by all moms, single mothers in particular, is it really any wonder they continue to parent ineffectively and produce children who also do not look upon society as a place of welcome where they can succeed and find their niche for a lifetime? Look what low standards and hopes society has for them. What is there for her to strive for if no matter what she sacrifices, plans, how much faith she has or
    “right-livin” she turns in, if the “superior married” society will reject single moms and their children anyway? what’s the point?
    Also, is it any wonder the boys especially eventually grow to disrespect their mothers if the message they constantly get from society is their losers or are nothing b/c their dad or some man doesn’t “live” with them? This to me is one of the main root causes of boys negative behavior. It’s aan effort to disassociate himself from his “weak, ineffective & rejected” mother by society’s standards so he can fit in and belong. societal rejection is partly, if not mainly, to blame for the ills these young men turn to, it’s not all the “evil single mother”. I’m astonished this,the most absurd prejudice toward this segment of society is so easily accepted. It’s PREJUDICED and it must stop if these families are going to have a chance at success in life. Parent & society have got to both do their part to ensure all children grow up happy, well-rounded, compentent, confident & contributing members of society.
    …sorry for the misspellings…I had sticky-keys and also was feeling very impassioned while typing and didn’t check my grammar prior to submitting my opinion–just a few blatent corrections: “directed”; “competent” & “competence”; “…if they’re losers…”; “…boys’ negative…”; “It’s an effort (for a boy)…”; ok you get the picture. thx for posting a good & positive article on an important subject.

  • sheila burke

    2009-08-28 10:22:52
    Ijust found out my 38 yr. old son recently married without my knowledge. When I asked why he didn’t inform me he said there was no need to tell me; no big deal. Our relationship has been strained as I’ve been upset for his not repaying a loan or providing me any update or contact of the issue.

  • Jodi

    2009-09-23 21:14:13
    Is there such a thing about a mother not quite cutting the umbilical cord to her 33 year old son yet? I was dating a guy who had a very strange dynamic with his mom and 2 sisters. Help!

  • jenny

    by jenny
    2009-10-05 21:53:09
    My boyfriend is 38 and still at home with his controlling mother. This article is true because he still hasn’t gotten his finances together. Every year he says he’s going to move out on his own but he doesn’t, much less even try to. Something strange about this.

  • Lina Sola

    My son is turning 30 years old tomorrow. I want to write something special for him, but it’s so hard to formulate the words. I think this article will help me with the outline for those key elements that I want to address. I have never felt such a strong love for another person in my entire life as I do for my son. Even through all the “trying” years, he has always been my first concern. There are so many things I wished I would have done differently, but all I can do is keep readjusting until we have the right mix.

  • Stewart

    We are.six months into our divorce. His out bust of anger are begainning to be more frequent.
    I think his daddy is tring to malnepulate him. When he is with me it takes at least to days to get him uncontrol. His father said what happens at daddys place stays at daddy’s place. He says things like dads going to get me a cell phone so you can call and talk to me privately.it’s just feels like everything I do or say is wrong or it’s incorrect. He corrects me all the time. He’s nine and we are going through a coustoy suit. His father want the parental dession making. What my son doesn’t realize if this happens he’s dads going to sent him to boarding school. His dad went to boarding school when he was in third grade. Im in the house and dads all set up his man cave.
    I feel I’m being ganged up on. What can I do? I’m scared to dead. I’ve been a stay at home mom for 15 hrs. Am I paranoid or is my husband teaching him how to push my buttons????

  • mike van john

    Help!! After 3 years of being a relationship I’ve had to end it as the relationship between my girlfriend and her 25 year old son was too intrusive, he would bang on the bedroom door, interupt our quality time and want to come out with us.She would spend time on the phone with him when we had arranged to be alone.Complete lack of discipline and she would do all the chores and not share making excuses up. She would endorse these actions as it would hurt his feelings if I said anything.She openly admits that they share a special relationship and he is her best friend and can share anything with him.She would phone him up when we were out together asking him to jopin us in case he was lonely. I do have 4 daughters of my own that do not have these same issues.
    She had a very abusive marriage and managed to leave after 15 years,the father refused to help with the children and never saw or helped them so in my eyes has become very over protective. Surely this behaviour is not normal???

  • Addie

    great article….wanted to know who wrote this. There is a lot of information, I’m writting a paper for my Sociology class about a mothers relationship with her son and how if not established at a young age how it can affect his future relationships with other women…I would love to use this as a source but will need to cite and give credit to the arthor..can you please share with me the names of the persons and books you got this information from. Thank you

  • Anuradha Sampath

    I came to know many new things after reading this.  Informative report

  • Tenny

    Great informative post. Your article was an eye opener for me and my son.  I did not know that his view of men will be defined from my relationships with men.  I thought his dad had that duty!
    I have become friendly and tell my son a lot about my personal life and don’t like to hide things from him so that he knows everything about his mom.  I feel this is empowering for him rather than being left in the dark with little information since we have been separated.
    I really enjoyed reading it with my son.  My son and I have an interesting relationship.  He will complain at times that I am annoying.  And my complain with him is that he doesn’t listen or communicate effectively.  I am a full time student so that limits my time with my three kids, however, I feel that I have built a very strong bond with each of them.  One that is nurturing and loving but critical and demanding at times.
    I happen to come from a highly descipilined family myself but I am finding that my family is different.  Today’s kids have different needs and soical standards that we have no prior example of. This makes parenting in today’s age more difficult.
    Upon finding free time, I am planning on getting more involved with him and his friend’s families.  I believe the more involved I am in his life, the happier we will both be.

  • ed

    its tough raising boys as a single mother,or married this site can help you do it better..
    http://mysonsbehaviorproblemsolutions.renthandy.com/

  • Pingback: Birth Mother Search - Happy Ending for Mother and Son | I Was Adopted Blog

  • kathy

    I am divorced and have been since my 2 sons were very young. Their father never visited, called, wrote (nothing). My oldest son was my best friend. I loved him so deeply. A couple of years ago he got a girlfriend and they now have a beautiful 2 year old. I am heartsick because my son has not spoken to me, does not answer my calls or emails. It feels like he hates me. I was respectful of his relationship. I did not get in the way. I really don’t understand why he wants nothing to do with me. I have not seen his or my grandson since the baby was 6 weeks old. I am heartbroken and I don’t think it will ever go away. I am depressed and worry I will never see him again. If anyone thinks they can help me please email me with some advice.

  • Burgess Fannie

    i am a mother , a mother of 3….i have two girls and one son …and he is my heart,yes he has a girlfriend ,and i hate that. in all the years that gone by,  he has always been by my side. and i love him so much for that ,because he has been like a husband to me ,made sure that i was fine ,so i hate to loose him to another woman.i can not tell you ,and it would take part of my life to do so,what all he has done and paid for me .but in return i has did a lot too!!!and he always had a good sense of directions,from the time he born.   even when i birth him into this world ,that was ez.first i should give thanks to God.not too many mama”s can say this .i maynot help no one out there with what i am saying, but it’s important to at least say how you feel.i would love to answer anyone”s questions if they have any.because i has had lots of experiences with raising children, and it’s a job.oohh and my son is 32 yrs old. i love all of my children but,he just sooo special.”””” and my girls are 29 and 25,and i am 52..

    • Neelamma

      Hi Burgess,

      I understand and respect the relationship you share with your son but please don’t treat him like your husband. Also, dont be selfish and hate his girlfriend or later his wife. Please dont do all this because at the end of the day you are harming your son. If he is unable to form a relation (romantic) with a woman, how will he have children of his own and a family of his own someday. Please if you love your son dont do this to him and ruin his life and the life of the woman he will love. If he loves a woman romantically, understand that she has a place in his life and you have your own place in his life..as his mother..not his romantic interest. I hope i can tell u this before its too late because I know where these kind of mother-son bond will lead to. I honestly dont understand why ur comparing yourself to his romantic interest. Please dont view yourself as his wife. Let him move on with his life and become a “man” and form a family of his own..so that when u r no more (and everyone has to die someday) that your son isnt sitting alone and facing depression. Im sure no mother would want that for her son if she truly loves him. This doesnt mean that u will be out of his life but let him create a relation with a woman and have a future when u r no more to nurture him…just a thought..

    • Just Someone

      I’ve been in a relationship with a man who has a mother like you for over 2 years. I’m actually dumping him because of his mother. She’s like you, treats him as HER HUSBAND instead of as HER SON. She even gets jealous when he hugs and kisses me (if she’s around she’ll even then try to force him to kiss her). So I’m done. I’m breaking his heart because his mother is just like you. Some day you’ll feel like shit when he gets dumped because of you being a selfish sorry excuse for a human.

      • Nancy

        I suffered too because my ex’s mother thought he could do no wrong and he did EVERYTHING wrong while we married. Threw him out by police force – a friend who knew him said he was a dangerous man but I didn’t know till after the wedding!!

  • Nancy

    I married a momma’s boy and after many yrs of BS and his drugs, I thru him out and am happier single and just dating. Also, my mother kept telling my sister and I she wants 2 sons instead of us so when we had to put her in a nursing home because of alztheimers disease, my sister said this is what she gets for being an SOB for yrs to us. Period!!