Warrior or Wimp: How Not to Raise a Mama’s Boy

mamas boy

Several years ago I had to get tough with one of my teenage sons, even though it was not easy for me to do. It happened after he forgot, for the third time, an important meeting he had to attend and called me at the last minute at work to ask for a ride. I kept my cool and firmly told him that he would have to walk…the entire 6.9 miles. And he did.

Mamas love their boys, but at the same time, we do not want to raise a mama’s boy. Even knowing that though, it’s still hard not to coddle or rush to the rescue of our sons. Need some resolve not to coddle your son? Here are 3 great tips to avoid raising a mama’s boy by author Vicki Courtney.

Warriors are not couch potatoes.

Boys are wired for adventure. Tell a young boy not to play war games and he will still figure out how to fashion a weapon from a stick on the ground or a celery stalk in his lunch box.  I knew I was going to be okay when one day I pulled up in front of my house to find him (sixteen years old at the time) rolling down our steep one-hundred-foot driveway on an old office chair he had discovered in the garage. As if that wasn’t enough to cause me to grab my heart, at the bottom of the driveway was a skateboard ramp with a pile of cardboard boxes on the other side, no doubt to cushion the blow. His friends were cheering him on as he flew past them at rocket speed. When he got up from the box heap and limped back up the driveway, I casually swept past him on my way into the house and said, “Hey, if you’re going to do that again, come tell me so I can get it on the camcorder.”

I do not let up on obvious safety precautions such as my boys wearing helmets when riding their bikes or buckling up when they get in the car. My goal is to encourage moms to evaluate whether they go overboard in their attempts to protect their boys from doing things that are ingrained deep within their souls.

Warriors are not coddled.

If there was ever a lesson I have had to learn the hard way, it is that boys resist coddling moms. It is a mother’s nature to rush to her son’s side when he falls down, and in the early years, her son expects and desires that she will be there. His expectation and desire usually will change over the years, but a mom’s nature will tend to remain the same. As mothers, we must resist the urge. Coddling a son past his infant/toddler years can produce one of two outcomes: a son who is emotionally enmeshed with his mother even in his adult years (a.k.a. mama’s boy) or a son who harbors bitterness and resentment toward his mother.

In the book Wild at Heart, author John Eldridge has this to say about clingy, coddling mothers: “I’ve found that many, many adult men resent their mothers but cannot say why. They simply know that they do not want to be close to them; they rarely call. As my friend Dave confessed, ‘I hate calling my mom. She always says something like, “It’s so good to hear your little voice.” I’m twenty-five, and she still wants to call me her little lamb.’” Somehow he senses that proximity to his mother endangers his masculine journey as though he might be sucked back in. Ouch.

Warriors are not timid.

Ryan was my bashful child and we had to work with him to overcome it. I recall a time when we came to a standoff over his bashfulness. He was about ten years old, and I had told him that we could rent a particular movie he had wanted to see. When we pulled up in front of the video rental store, I told him that I would wait in the car while he went in to ask if they had the movie in stock. He begged and pleaded for me to go in and would not budge from the car. I stood firm and told him, “Ryan, you have to learn to take care of things like this. This person behind the counter does not even know you. You have nothing to lose.” Finally, he gave up, faced his fear, and went into the store.

If timidity is allowed and even cultivated in our sons’ lives, it can breed a spiritual timidity over the years. If our sons are allowed to shy away from uncertainties, what will keep them from shying away from matters that require faith?

How do moms sometimes baby their sons too much?

Taken with permission from Your Boy by Vicki Courtney.


  • MrsArmySpouse

    While I agree with the parenting advice, I think we need to stop using the phrase “Mama’s Boy” negatively. My son wants to know why “Daddy’s Girl” is a compliment and “Mama’s Boy” is a slam.
    As a military child, he has spent more of his life with me and we are close. I don’t coddle him nor have I made the effort to feminize him. I am, however, making the effort to raise all 3 of my kids to be compassionate.
    Yes, yes, it’s just a phrase. But how many phrases are there that are dismissive to girls/women? Throws like a girl; Cries like a girl; Mama’s Boy, etc. As adults, WE should be leading the way to change this vocabulary.

    • Jessica

      Thank you for sharing I was thinking the same thing.

    • I disagree. It’s completely different. It’s by design that men are to protect and take care of women. Being a Mama’s boy is the opposite of what should be happening when men are grown. Dad is to be protective towards his girl, where Mom has to let her son grow up and learn to be the protector. The “Mama’s Boy” phrase implies that she’s the one taking care of him, not the other way around. There are too many grown men who “need Mama” to do anything. This article was great because it got me to think about how I’m treating my teenage son, who has autism. We have been raising him to be independent and strong. I need to be careful how much I step in. I believe, from what the author of this article wrote, that my husband and his mother have a strained relationship because of her over protective nature of him growing up. They love each other, but he has shared that she would not let him do things because she was always afraid he’d get hurt, etc.

      • MrsArmySpouse

        You missed the entire point of my response…or perhaps you didn’t miss it – you proved it perfectly!

        It is the TERM “Mama’s Boy” that I dislike, not what the term has come to mean.

      • Glow

        So that means that a momma’s boy will do precisely that- grow up to protect his momma.

      • Kevin Kylie

        Men are, by design, supposed to protect women? Isn’t that just a social construct? Why should men protect women at all? Are women not capable of defending themselves in this day and age?

        As for the term “momma’s boy”, I too don’t understand why it’s meant to be an insult.

        • Evaklr Juice

          Yes men are built more physical and think off circumstance and are more physically driven. They hunt, labor, farm and protect. Women are more emotional, nurturing and caring and they are the glue that holds the family together spiritually. They care for the young and raise them until they are old enough to train and learn the skills of their same sex parent to be prepared for when they are ready for families and their roles. As a child mama’s boys are okay it’s natural, however a man that never grew from that to become the warrior protector and provider to be dependent of his mama as an adult is not a good thing. That is a soft weak individual that falls short of a man’s duties. My son is 5 and is a mama’s boy and yet daddy’s lil man. You watch his actions and how he plays he is developing his daddy’s character and wants to be just like dad and please dad in his effort. He already wants to learn his role, but loves his smoochies from his mama. In a few years that will slowly go away as he will more than likely start focussing on becoming a man and trying to be like his daddy.

    • Sandra Spinning-Wilson Hendric

      I probably don’t qualify to even submit a response here (having raised a girl that’s as strong and strong willed as an ox!); but after reading all the responses – it surprised me how ‘sensitive’ this topic is on parenting. I also only had the ‘one- child’ experience (lost two). However, use of ‘phrases’ represent the society ‘that is’ (or was). Societies may change ~ but manhood and womanhood will never change because God that made them “man” and “woman” never changes! Perhaps our society (as divided as it may be on this) should consider being more ‘positive’ in their choice of phrases. For instance, saying “Mama’s little man” – signifies the intent that Mama’s boy is growing up to be like Daddy – or “Mama’s strong boy” is growing up to be strong for “Mommy” (like Daddy already is!)~! A little boy who grows up like “velvet and steel” is a well-rounded Warrior~! Thanks.

  • amphitrite

    My eldest son has been our only child for 7 years. I love hugging him but when he started school, I learned to limit coddling him. I rarely blink an eye when he comes home with a scratch or wound on his knees. I will just ask him if the nurse already treated the wound and if he still feels pain. He often says that he’s ok and would tell me an awesome story on how he got the scratch. As scared as I was to hear his story, I needed to be excited for him too. But I tell him to be careful with his head and bones next time, because he won’t be able to play his extreme games again if he is on the hospital bed. Great article by the way!

  • Davemaster

    This is the worst parenting advice. Please stop. And please get a reality check.

  • Stephany

    I definitely liked today’s blog/post. I have a 6 1/2 year old son..who loves to be with me, at least 70 percent of the time (lol) He compares me to cute girly figures and calls me names like “hey vanna banna” (from veggietales) or “batgirl” “supergirl” and other cute girly figures. I know that time will pass and he will grow out of it, so I’m enjoying it as much as possible, and also go with his flow and call him boy figures name like “robin” (since dad is “batman”) “spiderman” etc. I see him growing up fast. When he was two he would give me hand picked grass, leaves or flowers to say “I marry you mama”..that has slowly changed, he now hand picks his plants and hands them to dad to give to me 🙂 There is a time for everything (Ecc. 3) and I can say I have been blessed to say that my son and I have come a little/long way for his first 6 years of life. In addition, He is also starting to have more dad and son time with daddy. As I get to have mom and daughter time with my 3 yr old. (that means play set up and barbies more) Sometimes I wonder how it will be when he is a teenage boy…so in a way I want to say that my 6 year, soon to be 7, is still my little boy, Mama’s boy does sound a bit negative, depending on the tone of voice..So I would like to use the term, Mommy’s lil daddy (aside of our little disagreements, and “mommy’s crazy” comments, he takes care of me like dad does) I totally agree with parents being a role model to their children, as well as their guidance in life. If they don’t have us, then who will then have other than God…they can’t walk this alone.

  • Specializinginraisingboys

    I am so disappointed with this article and the language in it– inflamed really. I have the privilege of raising three amazing emotionally healthy sons who are now 18, 16, and 10 and am so tired of the “mama’s boy” concept that frightens moms into thinking they cannot be close with and — gasp — “protective” of their sons or they will become “wimps”. Boys who are discouraged from having a close trusting relationship with their mother begin to shut down emotionally and are at risk of becoming emotionally unavailable husbands. It is also disturbing that in 2014 it is suggested that women/mothers need men to “take care of them”. Furthermore, to lump all boys into the “warrior” category lest they be considered “wimpy” is as dangerous as lumping all girls into a “girly girl/weak” category. Many boys are highly sensitive and not inclined toward playing war games and there is certainly no shame in that. I highly recommend the work of Dr. Ted Zeff for anyone interested in empowering mothers to raise emotionally healthy — and yes, sensitive, boys. And to all mothers out there — do not be afraid to nurture your boys. I will not deny that it is good parenting practice in general not to swoop in too quickly to “rescue” children; i.e. let them figure things out for themselves, self-advocate, speak up, but that applies to all children, not just boys.

    • Chicho Blanco

      I like the article. It’s natural for a mother to be protective over her sons but there is a fine line between being protective and being a helicopter mom. Being “weak” doesn’t mean being an alpha male who can take out an entire biker gang. It means you are self sufficient and don’t run to mom every time you have a problem.

  • Paige

    I completely disagree. If more sons were taught love and to be loved. Care and compassionate instead of shutting down emotionally to women then maybe the wives of the grown men wouldn’t be expected to take on the role as a mother. It’s easier to raise a child rather than fixing an adult. I’ve found the men who did not receive the nuturing from their momma expect and require to be “coddled” by their wives. So creates “NEEDY” men. Not the example I want to set for my son or daughter.

  • Rachel

    I suppose I am late to the discussion, but I found your blog while searching for advice on how to coach boys who are emotionally soft after years of being coddled by their mothers. I coach YMCA swimming and the teenage boys are increasingly incapable of taking criticism, even on subjects as unemotional as a habit that endangers the health of their shoulders.

    I tend to think that women raising mama’s boys are manifesting in their sons a neediness and affection they’re lacking from their husbands.

    Thank you for allowing your sons to be challenged and toughened. Ultimately, yours will be the men that make strong husbands and fathers because they can be emotional equals to their future wives’ fortitude and confidence.

  • Alexis

    I personally liked the article. The author gave great tips. I think the point of the article was to know how to love your children without inhibiting their growth as a person. Instead use your love to strengthen them.

  • Erica

    I love this article. It really is a struggle. My boys are 5 and 4 and I just adore them. I’ve noticed my 5 year old, who’s about to start school has grown more independent. He doesn’t want my help, so I’m learning to back off as long as he’s safe. The other day we got a toy truck woodworking kit. He wanted to put it together himself. He cried from frustration and it took forever, but was so proud to finish it. The one thing I don’t like about this article is that although we want boys to be strong, independent, etc. It’s not an excuse for them to behave uncivilized. They need to learn manners and how to sit still at times too.