From the very beginning, boys learn from their mothers’ important life lessons about themselves and how to trust others. The connection a son has with their mother instills a sense of safety, not fear, courage, not passivity and the need to protect a woman, not be dependent on her as another mother. A loving mother can create a sense of safety and connection with her son. This provides a boy with the confidence and motivation to explore the outside world. A loving mother actually plays an integral role in helping a boy develop his masculinity.
A boy’s emotional development can become subdued due to an unhealthy mother’s neglect (abandonment), emotional incest (mom using the boy to meet her emotional needs) or being a domineering, critical parent. In the early years of a little boy’s life, he longs to explore, climb, jump, and run with friends, and yet, he also needs to stay in close proximity to other adults (especially mom) in order to feel secure and loved.
Some mothers have a tendency to believe that they should push their sons away emotionally or onto other men, boyfriends, etc. (substitute fathers) as a method of “toughening them up” or helping them “man up”, while they selfishly pursue their own agendas. It is critical for a mother to have confidence in herself so her son has a positive view of her (opposite sex). A boy absolutely gets his first impression of females from mom.
For some mothers, it is hard for them not to continue to “mother” him. She tends to struggle in seeing him as a young man and not “her little boy”. Some unhealthy mothers may sabotage his moving toward independence so he remains dependent on her so she continues to feel needed or “loved” by him. For some moms the need to be controlling and overly involved in his life can send him the message that he is not capable of doing for himself.
By clinging too tightly this can create unnecessary power struggles, rebellious behaviors and even substance abuse (especially during his teenage years). This unfortunately continues the cycle of dysfunction between mother and son. Some mothers will see their sons as defiant or argumentative when they express their own interest or ideas. A son’s desire to do things for himself, to be self-sufficient is a positive trait of masculinity and growth into manhood.
Some characteristics of men with poor relationships with their mothers early in their life include:
- Low self confidence and poor self-esteem
- Poor adult female relationships
- Overt or suppressed anger or rage toward women
- Continued dependency on females (adult sons look for “mom” in their wives and girlfriends)
- Tend to struggle with pornography or substance abuse and objectify women.
- These men tend to act as “children” seen as selfish or immature by other adults. (i.e. today’s video games are marketed to males ages 21-35. Twenty five years ago video games were marketed to males ages 11-18).
When a healthy mother creates a sense of belonging and acceptance in her son, she teaches him to be loving and empathetic. He learns how to treat women, he knows how to establish boundaries with others, he learns to trust others and to face responsibilities and challenges of this world. He is taught to identify and express his emotions as well as making good decisions and to listen. A strong and loving relationship with a good mother can help a boy learn the skills of intimacy, communication and to support and respect for women in future relationships.
One of the ironies of parenting is that if you do your job as a mother, your son will eventually leave you to be the man God intended him to be. As parents, we are merely stewards of them, to teach, love and guide them with honesty, kindness, discipline and truth from the Word. We’re not meant to be their friends!
By stepping back to let him learn from his own experiences and his own mistakes, he matures and gains valuable understanding about himself, becomes confident and how to live responsibly and productively.