As a four-year-old, Tom used to cling on to his mother at every possible chance; fast forward by ten years he wouldn’t want his mom to enter his room; and now, when he is 25, Tom wouldn’t share his problems with his mom lest she gets worried. Isn’t that so typical of sons? A mother-son relationship is an emotionally overwhelming relationship that evolves.
So what makes this relationship so special yet complicated? MomJunction briefs you about the importance of the mother-son relationship, the influence of a mother on her son, and ways a mother can improve the bond with her son.
Why Is A Mother-Son Relationship Important?
Men are what their mothers made them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mothers have a significant impact on their sons to the extent that the way they behave in their later years is attributed to their relationship with their mother. No other person understands a child better than a mother. Right from the time he is born till his adult years, a boy nurtures a deep-rooted bond with his mom. And this relationship is imperative for the overall development and emotional health of the child. Let’s see how a mother influences her son:
- Emotionally intelligent: Boys who share a healthy relationship with their mothers from their early childhood are emotionally strong and are believed to have less behavioral problems in their lives. The strong bond between the mother and son makes him feel secure and confident. Studies indicate that boys who do not have a healthy bond with their moms in early childhood could be hostile and aggressive in their later years.
Dr. Pasco Fearon from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, says, “Children with insecure attachments to their mothers, particularly boys, had significantly more behavioral problems, even when the behavioral problems were measured years later.” (1)
- Emotionally strong and independent: A boy, who is loved and cared for by his mom, turns into a confident man. A study published in the August 2011 edition of Child Development says that unconditional love and acceptance of the mother reassures the son that he is lovable and capable of being a good friend and lover. The study also reveals that the more loving a mother is the fewer are the chances of the boy being distant and cold.
- Good at academics: A mother who takes a keen interest in her son’s education helps him be good in his academics. Besides imparting education, she also helps him become emotionally adequate which is an absolute necessity for healthy living.
- Have control over their behavior: Emotional intelligence imparted by the mother helps the son develop the ability to articulate his thoughts. Thereby, he develops self-control in the classroom and social settings.
- Don’t believe in male stereotypes: Boys raised by mothers don’t believe in being tough always or fighting to prove their manliness. They believe that there’s nothing wrong for boys to cry or express their emotions. They have long-lasting friendships.
- Respects women: A close relationship with the mother will help a boy appreciate her role in his life and her contribution to the family. He will learn to respect women in general because he is less likely to have superiority issues with his female counterparts.
- Less risky behavior: Boys who are close to their mothers involved in less-risky behavior. A positive mother-son relationship reduces the peer pressure influence. A study (2) reveals that the boy’s mother has a major influence in his attitude toward alcohol, drugs, and sex.
- Likely to become successful: A mother, who involves in her son’s education and life, helps him become successful professionally and personally. She becomes his friend, guide, philosopher, and shows him the path to success.
- Improves communication: A mother who is open in her communication becomes her son’s confidante. Her son can talk and share anything with her even in his teenage and adult years. This helps the sons communicate without any fear and inhibitions.
A mother is always seen as a loving and caring parent. A mother’s love for her son is more visible than a father’s because she expresses it in several ways. However, the expression of love changes as the son grows from a baby to a man.
How Mother-Son Relationship Evolves Over Years:
The mother is the primary caretaker of a child in his early childhood. The first physical and emotional relationship between the mother and son is established between the two right after birth. The child depends on the mother for almost everything, and this secure attachment with the mother forms the foundation for a strong bond. Let’s see how it evolves in the three different phases of the boy’s life.
- Early childhood: The bond between the mother and the baby begins right inside the womb. The son picks up his first emotions from the mother and as the nurturing continues, he grows up to be emotionally intelligent and strong. Research indicates that a good mother-son bonding will ensure lower levels of psychological stress in children (3). When his needs are being taken care of by his mother, he learns to trust and feel emotional security.
- Teenage: Adolescence is a tough phase for boys where they struggle to deal with a lot of changes internally and externally. A mother helps her son get through the tough teenage years. During this stage, boys could succumb to peer pressure and experiment with smoking, drugs, and alcohol.
When a mother communicates openly with her son and explains the worldly ways, it helps boys differentiate between the good and bad. An affectionate and empathetic mother provides stability and gives moral guidance to the boy.
Teenagers like to be treated as adults. So, when a mother seeks the son’s inputs and suggestions in general or involves him in family discussions, they feel respected. It also helps in increasing his self-esteem and confidence.
- Adulthood: This is the time when a mother counsels his son about his career, love, and marriage. Mothers, though known to be emotional, are practical as well. They help their sons stay focussed on their career and let them be realistic. They pursue their sons to follow their passion and dreams.
When a man shares a strong relationship with his mother, he gains a lot as it directly affects his relationship with his spouse. A man who loves and respects his mother, also loves and respects his wife. Happy marriages are associated with warm and secure mother-child relationships.
While it is essential for the mother to love and support her son at various stages of his life, they cannot be over-protective or possessive of them. So, how would we know if a mother is close enough or too close to her son?
How Close Is Mother-Son Relationship
If a man is too close to his mother, he could be labeled a mama’s boy, and if he is not close enough he might be judged for ignoring his mother’s love. How can a mother decide how close or far she should be from her son? Here are some parameters:
- Physical connection: Physical touch between a mother and her child is necessary in the early childhood. Boys require the warm touch of their mother. However, the need for physical touch changes as the boy grows. Mothers usually tend to treat their sons as kids even after they grow up. But do not be annoyed if your son tells you not to kiss him while dropping him at the school or when his friends are around. Respect his feelings. And when he turns to a teenager, the physical gap between you and your son widens. Therefore, stop showering affection in public places, if he does not like it.
- Emotional connection: Unlike physical connection, emotional connection is there forever. It might take a beating in your son’s teenage years, but once he is past the adrenaline rush, he will realize the need to be emotionally connected with you, and he understands that you are one person who is always there to fight for him and support him. Of course, do not be annoyed if you are also his punching bag because every time he faces a problem, you are the easiest target for him to yell.
- Lifelong connection: The bonding with the mother is always there. But when the boy grows into a man and gets married his priorities change. He has his family to take care of, and he has to maintain a balance between his kids, wife, and career. His bond with his mother will flourish if the mother understands this paradigm shift. Give him his freedom, let him take his decisions, and allow him to consult his wife on important matters. Above all, accept his wife into your family. This will increase your son’s respect for you.
It is good to assess your relationship occasionally, or at each stage of your son’s development. The bond is not rigid; it needs to change as per the changing times. Lack of flexibility could bring cracks in the relationship.
Mother-Son Relationship Problems
Most boys experience conflicts with their mothers during the teen years but they settle in the late teens. The problems could crop up again in the adulthood when the boy gets married and has his own family. Let’s see the typical problems in this relationship.
- Annoyance at the rules: As teenagers, boys want to explore the world, spend more time with their friends and come home late in the night. The rules put forth by the mother or the probing questions she asks, annoy the teen, and make him think that his mother is interfering too much in his activities.
- Demands for money: Teen boys need money to go around with friends, splurge on luxuries, buy a bike or costly clothes. They want their mother to give them money whenever they ask for, but wouldn’t want her to ask any questions on how they are spending the money.
Once the boy grows up and gets married, here are the problems that could arise between him, his mother and his wife:
- Inability to balance between mother and wife: Some men continue to take suggestions from their moms, let their moms interfere, and take charge of their lives even after marriage. The man needs to take a stand and speak up for himself and strike a balance between his mother and wife.
- Obsession: Being obsessed with his mom can stem from the over-protective nature of the mother. When the wife realizes that her husband is giving more-than-required attention to his mom at the cost of her and the kids, she might turn a cold shoulder and even decide to leave him.
- Inability to let go: Some mothers just can’t let go of their sons. They want to involve in every tiny detail of his life, control him, and continue treating him like a child. Mothers should let their sons lead their life, give them their space and leave room for him to deal with situations. It enhances the respect they have for each other.
Problems are common in a relationship. And if you are serious about it, you can make an effort to resolve the matters. But what if the very bond is dysfunctional?
Dysfunctional Mother-Son Relationship
A mother and son relationship is emotionally overwhelming. It is sensitive too. Shortcomings in the upbringing of the boy or unpleasant circumstances faced by the mother could mar the relationship. Let’s see why unhealthy mother-son relationship develops:
- Momism or overprotection: When the mother protects the son so much that she shadows him in every walk of his life, it is called ‘momism’. Mothers can be protective of their sons, but when it goes overboard, it could make the boy meek and dependent.
A boy expects similar treatment from everybody when he is a child. After he grows up, he might feel suffocated and would crave for freedom from the clutches of his mother. This results in cracks in the bond.
- Single mothers: If the boy is growing up only with the mother, due to the divorce of his parents or the death of his father, he would not get the love of his dad. Also, the single mother will not be able to spend enough time on the boy, as she needs to single-handedly take care of several other things in the family. This lack of bonding time will bring fissures in the relationship.
- Too many rules: The mother needs to relax certain home rules and amend a few others, as her son grows up. As a teenager, the boy wants to be independent. He would not want his mother to tell him what to wear or whom to have as his friends. As an adult, he would not appreciate any rules at all. Too many rules such as stay close to me, meet me every weekend, call me every day, and so on, can cause a rift between the mother and the son.
- Undefined boundaries: Boundaries are applicable in a mother-son bond just like they are required in any other relationship. They need to make sure that each other’s privacy is not being infringed. For example, when the son is out with his wife and kids, his mum calls and insists that he speak to him or intrudes their privacy. In such a case, the son can perhaps say, “Mum, I would love to talk to you, but can we talk later, so that I can give quality time to my wife and kids.”
Likewise, if the son is calling on his mom too many times to seek advice, then the mother can perhaps say, “I really appreciate that you want my advice, but you need to manage things yourself.”
A mother-son relationship is delicate. As long as it is going smooth, the boy can flourish under the care of his mother, but when trouble seeps in, both need to make an effort to fill the gaps.
Ways To Fix A Broken Mother-Son Bond
- Help yourself: The first step to healing a broken relationship is to help yourself, that’s the best thing to do. Don’t get bogged down by your past; take charge of your life and live in the present.
- Seek counseling: Take help from a counselor or therapist and share your pain and concerns with them. Sharing your concerns with a third person who is objective can offer an unbiased solution to the problem.
- Take responsibility: Take responsibility for whatever has happened and let your son/ mother know that they were not at fault and you don’t hold any hard feelings against them.
- Talk it out: Break the ice by talking to your son/ mother. Share your feelings and emotions with them and let them know how much you love them. Reassure your son/ mother that you will be there for them always.
- Be patient: A little patience can go a long way. Give your son/ mother space and time to accept reality. A calm mind sets things in perspective. Your son/ mother will get a cue and understand your intentions to fix the relationship. So, be at it with utmost sincerity.
Beautiful Mother-Son Relationship Quotes:
Son, you will outgrow my lap, but never my heart.- Unknown
Sometimes when I need a miracle, I look into my son’s eyes, and realize I’ve already created one.- Unknown
A man who treats his woman like a princess is proof that he has been born and raised in the arms of a queen.- Unknown
Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. ― Erich Fromm
Despite the varying dynamics in the mother-son relationship, the bond calls for celebration and is one that is unmatched. A mother’s love is unconditional, and a son’s love for his mother cannot be explained in words.