One of the great benefits of having triplets is getting to see the different ways boys and girls respond to and interpret the world. All my kids need love, attention, affection, discipline, and guidance, but boys and girls do differ. Sometimes it even seems they speak different languages. Words that land one way with my girls will elicit a completely different response from my son.
Emerson Eggerichs Ph.D., author of Mother & Son: The Respect Effect, explains that girls and boys, in fact, do respond differently to certain words and attitudes. He says that boys have a deep seated need for respect—even stronger than their need for love. Eggerichs encourages mothers to use language that reflects respect and honor to our sons, affirming their character and abilities. Understanding our sons’ need for respect and speaking to them in ways that reflect that respect actually encourages our boys to respond back to us in love—a language mothers know fluently.
Here are some tips from Eggerichs to help you discover how showing respect to your son might be the love he craves.
Use the word “Respect”
For most moms, the idea of unconditional love is a no-brainer. We love our children beyond all comprehension, but that doesn’t stop us from daily telling them how much we love them. But boys also need to hear that we respect them. Boys as young as two or three can be bolstered by, “I respect your willingness to help me put away these blocks. You’re so responsible!” Tell your son the great qualities you see in him—creativity, hard work, protective instincts, insight—and frame it in the form of respect. Remember your son was created to become a man with strong character, wisdom, and integrity. Remind your son of this great truth too, so he knows you see in him the man he can become.
Tell your son the great qualities you see in him—creativity, hard work, protective instincts, insight—and frame it in the form of respect.
Think Shoulder to Shoulder, Not Face to Face
Women are wired for words and connection, and we often feel invigorated by face to face conversation. But boys and men, generally speaking, respond more favorably with side by side engagement. If you want to connect with your son, do an activity with him. Play Legos or walk the dog. My son and I run races together a few times a year and some of our best conversations happen during our training runs. Take the focus away from the talking and put it on an action instead, and the words will flow from there.
Silence is golden
That is, the words will flow. . . unless they don’t. Boys don’t need to talk as much as girls do, and sometimes as moms when all we want is a friendly update on their day, our questions can feel to our sons like an interrogation. As difficult as it is, be prudent with your words with your son. Allow him the space to share on his own, and if you feel he’s pulling away from you, talk less. As women, we love interpreting the world through conversation, but our sons can teach us different—and equally satisfying—ways to connect.
Speak the Truth With Integrity
Speaking respect to our sons does not mean we constantly shower them with admiration. When our sons need correction or guidance we deliver it with honor and esteem for them in our attitude. Respect says I think so highly of you that I won’t let you get away with behavior that dishonors God, our family, or your own integrity. Speaking respect also means we don’t flatter or praise disingenuously. If you can’t identify something you respect about your son in the moment, take some time to think of one before you deliver a rebuke. Our sons can tell when we’re insincere.
What are some ways you show your son that you respect him?