As mommas, we will always see our sons as our little boys, no matter how tall or strong or old they get. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget that they are growing into young men. Maybe it is because it happens so gradually, we don’t even realize it. And maybe it is because we really don’t want it to happen. But they do grow up.
This changing relationship between mother and son can be difficult to navigate. However, I believe if we give our sons the one thing they need the most, it will help us sail the seas of change more smoothly.
So what one thing do they need from us? Our teenage sons have a God-given need to be respected.
In Ephesians 5:33, Paul gave these instructions to husbands and wives:
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, ESV)
Why are men admonished to love their wives, while women are told to respect their husbands? I believe there are two reasons:
- We don’t need to be told to do that which comes to us naturally. Women tend to love—it is a part of who we are as nurturers. On the other hand, men tend to gravitate towards showing respect.
- Women have a deep need to know that they are loved, while men need to know that they are respected.
There is an entire book about this dance between love and respect within marriage by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs: Love and Respect: The Love She Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. I believe it begins before marriage though. It starts with a young man’s first relationship with a woman. And that is you, mom.
How to Show Respect To Your Teen Son
Listen more than you talk
Let’s face it, we often do the majority of the talking. They need our advice and guidance, our instruction and opinions. But there comes a point that they begin to feel the need to be heard. (Actually, they need this from the time they are little boys, but they began to recognize this during their teen years.)
Our sons want us to hear their side of the story, for us to listen to their ideas and opinions. And they want us to hear in a way that says, “Your opinions and ideas matter. They matter to the world and they matter to me.”
At times what seems important to them may seem insignificant to us, but if they know that is how we feel they will stop talking. And they will stop listening, too.
So listen. Listen with a sympathetic ear. Listen with patience. And at times, listen without responding except to say, “I hear you.”
Treat him in the same way you want to be treated
I’m sure you’ve heard The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It comes from Luke 6:31 “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (ESV) We often think of applying this in relation to others, but do we do it in our own family?
I want my sons to talk to me and treat me respectfully. How can I not, then, do the same for them? I want my teens to speak to me and not yell when they are angry. But what tone of voice am I using with them? Are my words loud, angry, or even worse, sarcastic?
So we have to ask ourselves, “How do I want to be treated?” and then act in the same ways toward our sons.
Increase freedom as you increase responsibility
As Peter Parker once said, “Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ This is my gift, my curse. Who am I? I’m Spider-man.”
I heard of this many years ago as parenting in the shape of a funnel. As children grow, we give them more responsibility. But along with that responsibility comes more freedom, too. Our teen sons need to know that we trust them.
Your sons may not be superheroes (or maybe they are?), and the amount of freedom may look different for different families—but I urge you to consider how you can give your sons both.
Allow him to make choices, even if you disagree with them
I know this is a hard one. We realize that poor choices often lead to unpleasant and often difficult consequences. But as your sons become men, they need to learn to make decisions for themselves. Wouldn’t you rather they make mistakes while living under your protection?
For example, one of our sons was interested in going to see a movie with his friends that we didn’t really want him to see. But he was old enough, we felt, to make that decision for himself. We said, “Ok, but first we would like for you to read a review of the movie on pluggedin.com before you decide.” He read the review and chose not to go.
We were so glad he came to this decision on his own. But we were also ready to accept the fact that he might choose to see it.
Tell him he is capable and you believe in him
They long to hear these words from you:
You can do this.
I believe in you.
As moms, we have to encourage our sons in a world that wants to tear them down. I like to think of the word encourage as enCOURAGE. We can speak words that give them the courage to do all that their Father has called them to do. We can be their biggest cheerleaders in life.
Dear Mom, I know it is hard to watch our little boys grow up. But really, our job is to prepare them to leave us. It will happen whether we want them to or not, so let’s help them instead of hindering them. Let’s strengthen our relationships instead of hurting them.
May we find ways to respect our sons. Let the way we treat them reflect not just who they are, but who they are growing up to be.
(Just a note: When I was looking up the exact name of the book by Dr. Eggerichs, I found that he published a book last year I didn’t know about: Mother and Son: The Respect Effect. So I’m off to read it, too…)
Kay Chance homeschooled her two sons for the last 15 years. Now that they have completed their own homeschool journey, she hopes to encourage and equip other Christian, homeschool moms at Cultivate My Heart.