Jim sat in my office telling me about one failed romantic relationship after another. These relationships were never going to work because he was looking to these women for the approval he never received from his mother. No matter what he did, his mom was never satisfied, always expecting more from him than he was able to give.
What sons learn from their mothers is distinct in helping them discover who they are in relation to women and how to connect to women now and in the future. You are the one he needs in ways no one else can provide. Approval is just one of the 5 things you have the privilege of teaching your son.
Just like Jim, boys need to know they are good enough. This starts with listening to them. They start out as kids saying, “Mom, watch me do a flip!” When they’re older, they tell you all about something mundane that just happened. They need to know you’re paying attention and that you are proud of them. They need to hear affirmations on a regular basis. Make sure to give them seven affirmations to every one criticism.
Yes, their father’s example is important, but boys can learn what is and what is not acceptable by how you allow them to treat you. Make sure you have healthy boundaries for yourself and point out disrespect. Guide them in how to express their needs and feelings in a respectful way.
When opportunities come up, talk to them about how women and men differ and what women need from men. If you share with them how you think and feel about things, they’ll naturally start to understand more about how women tick. This free printable, 5 Things Moms Must Teach Their Sons About How to Treat Girls, is a great visual tool.
Healthy Physical Touch
A boy also needs regular hugs and gentle touches from his mom. He needs to know to be gentle in return. Often, boys only know touch through roughhousing or sexual activity. What sons learn from their mothers is how to express love physically but in a non-sexual way. You can sit close enough to touch, tousle his hair, and give a loving arm rub—and lots of hugs.
Trust and Confidence
Any boy needs to know he is trusted by his mom. Often, insecurity and failure teach him he is inadequate. But knowing his mom believes in him undergirds him to try again until he does succeed. When you don’t give up on your son, he is less likely to give up on himself. He will want to work harder and do better because you believe he can do it.
On the other hand, if he knows you don’t trust that he can fight his battles, he will soon fear them and either shut down or rebel. When he makes mistakes, tell him you love him no matter what. Remind him of who he is and that he can overcome anything.
Women tend to relate to others more emotionally than men do. Therefore, moms have the unique ability to help their sons develop emotional intelligence. A great way to do this is by bringing their attention to their expressions of emotion. A good question would be, “I can see that you’re sad/angry/hurting about something. Can you tell me what happened that led you to feel that way?”
Moms can draw attention to the feelings of others around their sons by saying, “How do you think your brother feels about not being allowed to play with you and your friend?’ Asking him feelings-related questions helps him develop his vocabulary of feelings and the skill of being empathetic toward the needs of others.
What are some other things boys learn from their moms? We want to hear your stories in the comments.