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Do you have a ‘Mama’s Boy’? Good!

I’ve been reading, “The Mama’s Boy Myth, Why Keeping our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger,” by Kate Stone Lombardi, and it made me wonder if I owe you an apology?


For years I have been encouraging mothers to “let their sons go towards men.” What I mean by this is for moms to take every opportunity to encourage their sons to ‘hang out’ with dad, uncles, elders, coaches, etc. — even when they are longing to spend their own time with him.

Best case, your boy is able to TELL YOU he needs his dad.

A mom called me because her son (8 yo) was having an overnight hospital stay and only one person could be with him. Mom called to ask me- nay, wanted me to TELL HER that she should be the one to stay with their son. When I asked her what her son had said, “Oh, he said he wants his dad to stay with him.” “Well, there’s your answer,” I said. She didn’t like that, not one bit. SHE wanted to be the one to stay with him – FOR HER – not for her son.

That’s the rub. When are you deciding for HIM – and when are you deciding for yourself?

She clearly wasn’t ready to “let her son go towards men.”

Boys carry a deep-seated question their entire lives: “What is it to be a man?”

Mom and other women are the primary influence in a young boys’ life – often up through the end of elementary school. This influence is vital – but it also means our boys miss out on having their primary “What is it to be a man” question answered each and every day.

Now the apology.

I apologize if I’ve led moms to believe that they should ‘back off’ or ‘opt out’ of mothering their sons. No, not that. I encourage you, dear mama, to balance your influence – even off-set – your influence and make sure there are strong, good men around to influence him, too.  And be ready to defer to them, more often than you might like.

In her book, Lombardi comments that moms are often looked at askance when they are “too close” to their boys.

Here’s what some Boys Alive! Facebook moms have experienced:

“By a man in a store. He kept glaring at me…”

“I was told I shouldn’t be walking my son into class or waiting by the classroom at the end of the day to pick him up. He still wanted me to do this so I kept doing so. At the end of the day you’re his mother, and you need to do what’s right for you and your son!! And bugger what anyone else says.”
“My boy is 12 now and no he doesn’t need me to walk into class with him anymore( though I do ask every now and then lol) but I stopped doing so when it was right for him not when everyone else told me to!”
“My almost 9 still asks to snuggle on a daily basis. I’m gonna snuggle as long as he wants because I know there will come a time he quits asking.”

Moms do experience some push-back from husbands and others, “You’re babying him.” “You’re going to make him a girl.”  In the research for her book, Lombardi, uncovered a deep cultural fear that by holding our boys close, they will be ‘sissies.’

This cultural fear, she writes, “…diminishes or ignores anything positive that women can and do contribute to their boys. It leaves both mothers and sons feeling confused and anxious about their relationship. And because of this distorted lens, the mother-son relationship has become the only parent-child combination in which closeness is viewed so critically and with such suspicion.”

We know we want fathers and other men to be “role models in teaching emotional literacy” to our boys. The problem is – many men weren’t raised to articulate their feelings. In many cases, men just don’t have it to give – they haven’t been shown the way.

That’s where mom comes in.

If she’s alert and aware, (and gentle about it) she can also help dad/husband/parenting partner to learn emotional literacy right alongside her sons.

In a study of how boys switch from being emotionally expressive as young boys to adopting a more ‘tough-guy’ approach as a young man, a researcher discovered the “one major factor that mitigates boys’ move toward toughness and autonomy is their closeness to their moms.”

So, moms, this Mother’s Day – celebrate your son and the emotional warmth you bring to him. Your nurturing and communication skills give him the tools he needs to be that next generation of fathers who really can help their sons express their emotional literacy, alongside of you.

And then he’ll have even more answers to his fundamental question: “What is it to be a man?”

Another great book on building your boy’s emotional vocabulary is: “Boy Talk How You Can Help Your Son Express His Emotions” by Mary Polce-Lynch.


Happy Mothering Day.

Kate Lombardi, author of “The Mama’s Boy Myth” just wrote THIS BLOG POST about her son whose is getting married. She concludes, “I’m not losing a son. I’m gaining a daughter.” That’s what we all want, eh?

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4 Responses to Do you have a ‘Mama’s Boy’? Good!

  1. Barb says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could all start over & do more things better-given the scientific & medical information we have available now?
    I enjoy listening to people who have figured out to research online & read about issues that affect their family members & others. You know when you cross paths w someone who isn’t on that path. I’m thankful for Janet, Dr Gurian & other professionals like them, who keep examining these issues. Our knowledge base has changed so much because of technology and there is lots of help if we just look for it. Bottom line-boys & men have feelings, too.

    • Janet says:

      Hi Barb, Thank you for sharing your thoughts… yes, bottom line – boys and men have feelings, too. And when we women see that while those feelings may be expressed differently, they are so valid, too. Janet

  2. Beth Black says:

    A cautionary tale: as the founder of a therapeutic boarding school for struggling middle school boys I want to emphasize one comment that was made in this story.… it is critical for moms to understand the difference between being a helicopter mom, an enabling mom, and knowing what YOUR SON needs versus what YOU need! Many well-intentioned moms stay close to their son not recognizing that this is more about them than it is about him and his needs. Remember that when you do something for your son that he could do for himself what you are really saying is “I don’t think you’re capable of doing this yourself”. Wow! Powerful! This is never the message we intend… We meant to say “I love you”. There is a time when you must surrender to your growing son and let him know that he is capable of handling situations on his own and that you will be there to support him all along the way. Our job is to get them prepared to handle the world on their own. The toughest job for a mom is to know when to hold on and when to let go. It reminds me of the writing of Appolinaire” Come to the edge… We can’t, we are afraid. Come to the edge…we can’t, we will fall. And they came to the edge, and he pushed them and they flew.”

    • Janet says:

      Oh Beth – You’ve said it so much better than I did in the article. Thank you for emphasizing the need to surrender and let him see how capable he really is! You do amazing work at Cherokee Creek – helping those boys see how high they can fly! Thank you! Janet

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