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Harvard Study Finds Warm Mothers Have Successful Sons

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A Harvard study that has followed hundreds of men for 70 years found that those who had a “warm” relationship with their mothers earned $87,000 more a year, were healthier and were more effective at work. Who knew that a mother’s love could be so powerful?

I’m raising a son. He’s 13 and no longer tunnels under his covers at bedtime and asks me in a sweet little voice, “Would you sit with me, lay with me, and hold me?” Now I hear, “Mom, I’m going to ride my bike. Can I go to Hayden’s house? Why can’t I stay up?” But one thing has remained the same over the years, my son and I have a warm relationship, and I am very thankful that we do.

How can you be a warm mom?

Be your son’s greatest audience.

A highly successful action star said that when he was a little boy his mother beamed with pride as he mimicked Donald Duck and made up funny skits. This mom cheered on her son in sports, acting, and whatever else her son attempted. How does this superstar describe his mom? “She was warm, generous, and kind.”

Be your son’s fan and cheerleader. Encourage him more than you advise him. When he finishes a soccer game instead of pointing out what he could’ve done better, shower him with praise for what he did well.

Believe in your son.

My son struggles with academics. It’s a familiar story to many moms — your son is bright but he’s not working up to his potential. Sometimes I get so frustrated that I want to throw in the towel and tell him it’s hopeless. But a warm mother gives her child a vision. Yes, she corrects as needed and stays planted in reality, but she never gives up on her son. “I know you can do this,” she says. “And I am here to help you figure it out.”

Respect your son.

All people are due respect — even boys who assert themselves and are learning to deal with rising testosterone levels. Even boys who get sarcastic with their mothers and disobey. Warm mothers don’t call their sons names or label them. Warm mothers let their sons try to figure things out without jumping in at the first sign of frustration. They don’t say things like, “Here! That’s not going to work. Let me do it.”

Try to respect your son even when you’re disciplining him. Target the action or attitude, not your son personally.

Balance firmness and love.

iMOM Founder Susan Merrill has a warm relationship with her sons. One of them wrote a paper in high school that described her as his hero. “She thinks that I have lots of potential for things even when I don’t think I can do something. She is very hard on me but, in the end, I will probably look back and be happy that she did push me.”

Susan knew how to balance firmness and love. If she had been overly firm she would’ve created long-term resentment in her son, but instead, she showed enough love so that he knew her instruction and correction were coming from a sincere desire to help him.

Show him you love him every day.

Use your words, “You are wonderful, son. I love you.” Pick some phrases from our list of 38 things accepting mother say. Use your actions. I still call my six-foot tall son over for a 10-second hug. I started that when he was young so he’s used to it. I keep it light and fun and let him jump around if he wants to. Use your ears. Listen to his stories with your full attention. Let him talk without interrupting him. Let him give his opinions.

Develop warmth with your son now. It will help him in the long run, and it will make your life richer too. Need ideas to make the most of your time together? Use this Mother Son Bucket list.

You can also help your husband have a warm relationship with your son. (The Harvard study says that will have huge benefits for your son, as well.) Encourage him to start or attend an All Pro Dad’s Day breakfast at your child’s school. 

What’s something you can do today to show warmth to your son?


What words would you use to describe our relationship?

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