Men respond to respect. And there’s a man inside every boy. But do moms know this? This may explain their confusion and sense of disconnection from their precious boys as their sons grow.
As I talk to mothers and tell them that there is a man in the boy, some respond with curiosity about who that man might be. As one mother said, “He can be ‘all boy’ one second and the other the most sweet little thing ever.”
Note her contrast: The “all boy” is not sweet to her. Another mother writes, “It seems easier to give ‘love talk’ to our two grown girls because we’re both in the pink. It was very easy to ‘love’ my boys when they were younger, but as they grew I’ve found that I had to switch gears.” As they grow, boys need to be treated with more doses of respect as compared to the doses of love you extend to them.
Yes, mothers need to go beyond their love and apply unconditional positive regard toward their sons. This is not about respecting bad behavior, but about acting with respect — particularly as you discipline, but also whenever possible. No boy responds to the feeling that Mom does not respect who he is as a human being.
When a mother and son get into a conflict — usually a stressful event for both — the son may feel more disrespected than he feels unloved because he craves respect more than love. For this reason a mom needs to ask herself, Are my words going to sound respectful or disrespectful to my son?
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Every mom needs to recognize and accept that her son filters disagreements with her through his respect grid. He is not wrong for this, just different.
The good news is that once Mom sees this need in her boy, she can use this information with prudence. When upset, she need only say, “I am not trying to show you disrespect when I confront your misbehavior.” Just using the word “disrespect” may ease his stress.
Try it and watch what happens.