What mom wouldn”t love a mama”s boy? In theory, it”s adorable! Being the apple of her son”s eye. But in the long run, it”s exhausting. And damaging.
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Full disclosure, as they say when guilty, I am the mom of 5 sons, mostly grown. Well, four are grown and one is sort-of grown at 19. A couple of these guys were clingy as youngsters, and one took decidedly longer to grow out of it. The one who took longer used to be unhappy if he was farther away than my shadow. He wouldn”t be happy for anyone to babysit for any amount of time, be it a favorite grandmother or cool, fun teenager…. or even Dad (although dads do NOT babysit their own kids, really)!
He wanted no substitutes for mother. And it was exhausting for us all. Eventually he grew out of it, because, and this is probably most important, I didn”t want him to be a Mama”s boy. Every mama”s boy has a complicit mama, who secretly or not so secretly created the situation where he would become such a boy. Note I said boy, not man, because if you parent a child to remain dependent on you, you never prepare him or allow him to become a man.
While he could fight to break free and be a true independent man, many find it easier and more familiar to continue on that same course. So mama”s boys all have guilty, if originally well-meaning, intentioned mothers. So here are things moms might be doing that, in the long run, could create a mama”s boy!
15 Rush In To “Save” Him
Mommy”s have soft spots for all their children, but just as dads can have blind spots with their daughters, so too can mothers. And it can begin while baby is still in the crib. How? While I believe in being an attentive mom, and boy there are people who will attest to this, I also know it”s important not to break your neck rushing in every time you hear a whimper or whine. Why not? Because if you do you are teaching your baby that he cannot solve any problems on his own.
You are his light, his dark, his food source, his comfort, his be all and end all. And while that may feel rewarding and warm at first, later it will be at best a pain in the posterior, and at worst a horrid codependent pairing that effectively lames your child for adulthood. Give baby a minute to calm himself before you sweep into the room. Let him fuss a second when he loses a toy, or bumps his knee.
Let me do a dad infomercial. There are awesome single moms out there who are doing, and have done, amazing parenting jobs with success, and this is not to take a single bit of credit from them. But dads are important, too! As important as moms. Period. Kids that are down one parent are robbed of something special, and that”s not fair, and of course, neither is life. But in an ideal world a child would be blessed with two loving parents.
If your child is such a child, why on God”s green earth would you ever do anything to distance your lucky child from one of his best resources and gifts in this world? Why would you criticize, put down or alienate your child from his parent? This is an atrocity and a form of child abuse. Never push dad away or encourage a child to turn from his father.
Dads and moms can have decidedly different styles when it comes to parenting, and handling minor bumps and bruises is often one area that”s easy to contrast. Dad may look son in the eye and ruffle his hair saying, “Oh, you”re OK, buddy! Let”s go back to playing!” and baby will quickly return to play. A mom determined to make a mama”s boy will give an Oscar-worthy performance of panic and grief as she does a thinly veiled job of putting on a happy face.
But what the son will see and make of it all is “Oh, god! She is freaking out. That must mean I”m really hurt! This must be serious!” It becomes a pleasurable event, as well, to have someone make such a fuss over you that mama”s boys will seek it out whenever possible.
I”m going to tell a story about a relative now. It”s my sister. She and I do not see eye to eye on many things, I will readily admit. But I know she loves her only son dearly and does want the best for him. However, even she would admit her worst parenting fault has probably been being too involved. I remember watching my nephew, Jaden, get a nosebleed one afternoon at her home. It wasn”t unexpected; he had sinus and allergies, and she and I both have a lot of nosebleed experience ourselves.
He wasn”t a baby, or even a toddler. But she let herself get panicked over this ordinary event, putting a fake smile on top of a shrill, nervous voice as she rushed around aimlessly seeking paper towels and such. Her behavior betrayed her panic, and immediately his panic matched hers. Her actions said to him, “This is scary to Mom! Crap, this is bad!”
It”s great for parents to play with their children and have meaningful interactions. However, every time your son is playing baseball, Legos or with his action figures (dolls), he doesn”t need you in his face. He really, really doesn”t. I remember with my daughter she was busily playing with some little figures and their adorable cottage and accessories, and I just walked into the room. She stopped cold and stared. “Uh, Mom. I”m good, I am playing myself now.” Ouch!
She not only didn”t need me, she didn”t want me at that particular moment. She wanted some “Jilah time.” And all kids need that–unsupervised, unstructured play time. If you arrange, direct and intrude on every instance of free time…it”s no longer free. And you are impeding their natural curiosity and sense of play and imagination.
When I was kid there were no cell phones. No organized play groups. No micro-mom-management. I knew it was important to let children be somewhere between totally reined in (playpenned) and totally free range. My advice, have a safe space for when you need to go to the bathroom and such, and otherwise be a wise childproofer. You want your children to have a safe area to roam and explore, because, frankly that builds confidence, independence and intelligence.
So pick up Great Aunt Alice”s precious vase and get the tripping hazards off the floor and let Junior have at. He needs to run, toddle and roam without you being underfoot and making him nervous or irritated. Mama”s boys become fearful of freedom if they don”t taste enough of it!
While this adorable pic of mother and son isn”t a horrible parenting critique, people that live like this full time can cripple their sons. If you make a point of always twinning, or always do everything together, dressing alike, sharing all past times, it is problematic.
It”s not cute, and it”s not healthy. You make your identity intertwined with your child”s so he doesn”t know where you let off and he begins.
He may be afraid to develop interests outside of yours or express opinions that counter yours. He needs to develop as his own whole person, not a mere mirror of you. It”s great to share common hobbies and traits, but don”t always frame everything as if you are the same. “Junior is just like me! We love the same things and do everything together.” Eww. Seriously, give the kid some space!
It”s fun to share interests and passions with your child, and great if they end up sharing that love for positive things, whether it be yoga, photography or the Chicago Cubs. But if you don”t really give an option and actually just force your interests on your child, either passively or aggressively, that”s a problem. For instance, if your son doesn”t want to be a firefighter like mom is, and for Halloween resists your attempts to buy him a fireman outfit, but rather wants to be a mad scientist, it”s a bad sign if he sadly goes trick or treating dressed to please Mommy, not himself.
Expose your child to your interests, certainly, but never push or cajole. Make it your aim to discover with your son his interests and loves. Learn with him, and then let him blossom on his own.
As you may remember, Marvin Gaye, the legendary Motown artist, died from a gunshot wound inflicted by his own father. Stories made it clear Marvin was rather the mama”s boy of the family, and a weird triad forced conflict between father and son. While this would be a bizarre outcome of a mother isolating her son from his dad or his dad”s influence, negative consequences are likely from doing such selfish things.
Boys who are pitted against their fathers for attention, and win, will have mixed feelings and guilt. They will miss out on learning about manhood, what it means to be a man, and having a positive male role model. If dad isn”t in the picture, it is still important for mom to seek out positive men to have a good influence on their son.
While you probably wouldn”t go so far as to turn your son into a brainwashed assassin in order to win, you may be tempted to interfere and intervene to save him from the stings of failure. Anyone who”s kid has played goalie has felt the utter despair of wishing you were allowed to scream, “Sub!” and get your kid outta there in key, tense moments. But we must resist such motherly impulses.
If we always set the odds in our son”s favor and interfere to soften every blow, what have he taught him? What will he do when people don”t applaud his screechings as opera or his scrawlings as poetry? He must experience obstacles, failures and misses in order to grow, become strong and ultimately succeed on his own. Don”t rob him of this!
Many years ago when I was a preschool teacher I encountered a certain type of mother. She would drop off her child, her son, and explain how hard it was for him to separate from her. As I would try to entice him with fun things to do, or engage him with groups of children, she would step in and remind him she was leaving, and ask repeatedly, “Are you OK? Will you be OK without Mommy?”
She”d hang out in the hallway, most conspicuously peering through the hallway windows at him. If he had stopped crying and began playing, the sight of her there would set him off again. It was so unnecessary. When moms would smile, give their boy a quick kiss and remind them, “I”ll be here right after work to get you. You”re going to have fun today!” They”d sniffle for a moment, then adjust much more quickly.
Sometimes the guilt trip isn”t just a movie comedy; it”s mom”s main method of disciplining her son. “What– you don”t want to join the orchestra? Mommy dreamed of watching you play her old tuba, though!” or “Do it for Mommy!” whether it”s a chore, toilet training or marrying the girl she picked out for him. “If you don”t do this,” she”ll warn, teary-eyed, “Mommy will be sad. Do you want to make Mommy sad?” Geez!
Of course he doesn”t want to make his mother sad, but that is such an unfair technique to manipulate a child to do what you want. Someday it will backfire, either as a pathetic man who cannot feel free to do anything without his mom”s approval, or a son who fights his mom at every turn, anxious to be his own person. Either way, the whole thing has blown up in mom”s face.
Researcher Richard Fletcher works in the field of fatherhood and child development and as part of a 2011 study stated, “Rough and tumble play between fathers and their young children is part of their development, shaping their children”s brain so that their children develop the ability to manage emotions and thinking and physical action altogether.” Hear that, mother of Mama-boy-to-be?
It”s important to let dad have some physical play with his son. It teaches him important life lessons. Yes, it may make mom gasp at times, but they are likely to collapse not in pain, but giggles. If it really bothers you, then go elsewhere. Don”t stand guard like you are protecting your son from some foreign force or influence! Dads have a natural style of parenting, and if you interfere you are supposing your different way is superior; it”s not.
When a woman pits her husband against her son either knowingly or unwittingly, the outcome is never good. While it was played for laughs in the sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, in real life it”s less likely to garner chortles or chuckles. The love we have for our children is a different kind of love than we have for our spouses, but it”s important to stand as a team as parents. Mom should not pick her son”s side over her partners. If she disagrees with hubby, she should speak to him in private apart from the kids.
She should never give the impression that she is choosing sides and son is the winner. In doing so, she is sabotaging her son”s relationship with his dad and making manhood a steeper climb. And she is also making her own relationship with her son a poisonous one.
In Steve Harvey”s film, Think Like A Man, one of the men he warns women against is the mama”s boy. Having a relationship with one of these guys is fraught with drama and you will never measure up to mother, mostly because if you are sane, you won”t even try. A woman who cultivates a mama”s boy purposely is a profoundly selfish person who is grooming her son to be her personal, lifelong buddy to the exclusion of all others.
That means she wants him to be dissatisfied with all other women in his life. She doesn”t want him to have a fulfilling relationship with anyone. Imagine; depriving your child of the love of their lives because you are so manipulative you desire that position in his life! Sounds cruel, but remember it didn”t happen when he became a young man. This process starts out at the outset of her relationship with her son. The choices we make today as moms impacts their tomorrows, not just ours!
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Katrina is a mom to 7, stepmom to 2 and an English tutor to kids in K-college. She has a Master”s degree in writing and enjoys travel whenever possible! Katrina is passionate about education topics as well as social justice issues.