Category Archives: Mothers and Sons
How do we address the problem of teen dating and sexual violence? A conversation with Gordon Braxton, Suzanne Casemento and Quentin Walcott about gender based violence and how to speak our sons and daughters about healthy relationships, dating and sexual violence. We’ll also address bystanders syndrome and how to empower them to speak up.
I had the pleasure of interviewing author, Rosalind Wiseman with Joanna Schroeder, Executive Editor of The Good Men Project. Rosalind Wiseman’s new book, Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Your Son Cope with School Yard Power, Locker Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Realities of Guy World, shows what’s really happening in boys’ lives.
Ms. Wiseman shared key points about communicating with your son, understanding the social roles of boys as well as what boys need from parents to get through the daily challenge living up to the “Act Like a Man” box.
This month’s What Kind of Man Do You Want to Be topic: The Image of a Real Man was a conversation about the image of a real man and how societal and media masculine standards perpetuates male stereotyping.
Panelists for Part I: Enrique Pascal, author of What Does A Real MAN Look Like? and host of Transformation Radio and Alan Bishop, founder of The 365 Effect, producer and creator several television shows .
My son told me the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. Three simple words: “Mom, not guilty”. My 15 year old who has been watching this trial from the beginning. At first I tried to register if he was joking just to see my reaction. As I turned on the news, I stood quietly for such a long time, he had to ask me if I was ok.
My first thought was, “Are you ok?” I was shocked, disappointed and slowly became outraged. Until I looked at my son and realized that this wasn’t about me. It was about the countless “Trayvon Martins” who have died because of gun violence.
Let’s be honest, most of these deaths were black on black crimes and the growing crime rate in Chicago sheds light on the fragility of the life of young black males. As the mom of two boys: a teen and a toddler, I have a visual daily reminder of the developmental stages of black boys. While most adults coo and play with my toddler, they’re apprehensive about my 5’10 teen son. I look at my son through society’s eyes, I wonder if he will be approached by the NYPD for Stop and Frisk? At what point will women clutch their handbags and men shift uncomfortably when he steps on an elevator? At what point will he start thinking less about his comfort level and more about making others feel safe around him?
Jonathan Lethem asks in his book, The Fortress of Solitude, “What age is a black boy when he learns that he is scary?” Last night the bigger question became, “What age is a black boy when he learns the value of his life?” My son learned the answer to this question at 15 years old. When I asked him what he thought and felt about the verdict, he simply responded “I’m shocked”. As an adult, I was barely able to process the information, so I knew that he was still trying to make sense of it all. He summed up his thoughts in a simple Facebook post: “I guess Florida doesn’t care about the life of teenagers”.
His post made me look at the verdict through his eyes. He wasn’t thinking about the complexities of the judicial system or why the jury acquitted George Zimmerman. He was thinking about the value of his life. I thought about how Zimmerman’s defense attorneys gloated about their victory as if they’ve just won an NBA Championship. There was little remorse or respect for the life of Trayvon Martin.
Children are polarized thinkers until they become teenagers. At this point, the world is no longer black and white, so they start to question the areas of gray that don’t make sense to them. They start to question the integrity, intelligence and common sense of adults. How can we tell them to be fair and to think before you act, when we are guilty of doing these things.
How do we explain to them that Stand Your Ground Law gives an adult the right to kill a teen boy? How can we tell them that they are the future but we do little to protect that future?
As parents, we sometimes aren’t mindful of how we speak to our children. Although we think we’re offering constructive criticism, we may be feeding our son’s inner critic.Children internalize the voices from their parents, teachers and other adults in their lives and start to criticize themselves.
Who is the Inner Critic?
The inner critic is that nagging voice that points out our failures, inadequacies, and our shortcomings. Although disguised as constructive criticism, this inner critic sabotages our best interest. The inner critic undermines our belief in our abilities.
In children, the inner critic tells them that they are not smart enough, good enough, or talented enough to accomplish their goals. Children start to use their inner dialog as a defense mechanism against the world. The truth is that criticism can never be constructive. According to Merriam -Webster dictionary, the definition of constructive is: promoting improvement or development, while the definition of criticize is: to find fault with: point out the faults of.
Since the inner critic is so powerful and convincing, how can we help our sons deal with their inner critic?
1. Help your son identify when his inner critic is attacking. Signs of the inner critic are fear, feeling powerless, feeling disappointed or discouraged, feeling tired or sick (such as a belly ache or headache), self blame and lack of motivation. Once your son senses when the inner critic is at play, help him to observe the underlying situation. What is the inner critic telling your son that he can not or should not do? Tell you son to observe what he is feeling physically and emotionally when the inner critic attacks. It might be helpful to have your son write down whatever he is feeling. It could be just one sentence such as: “I am not a good at math.” “My hands get sweaty and my stomach hurts when I have to take a math test.” Have your son do this whenever he notices the inner critic. If your son is young, ask him to draw a picture about what it feels like.
2. Help your son to develop powerful self-talk. Developing powerful self -talk takes time and practice. This is a tool that is useful for parents too! It is very easy for us to name our weaknesses or to recognize our limiting beliefs. However, it takes time for us to identify our strengths and potential. Try this exercise: Ask your son to tell you 5 things he believes is a weakness or something he is not good at. Time how long it take for them to respond. Next, ask him to name his 5 strengths. Time how long it takes for a response again. Most boys who have a healthy self-esteem and practice powerful self talk are able to tell you their strengths much quicker than their weaknesses. You can help your son nurture his strengths by brainstorming on strengths and helping your son to use his strengths more often. Make a list of all the strengths and post it on the wall, where your son can see it on a daily basis.
3. Offer positive feedback. Listen to how your son explains what failure means to him. How does your son react when he fails a test or scores lower than expected? Find out what position your son takes on his accomplishments or failures? Don’t rush to solve the problem or tell your son why he failed. Let him use critical thinking skills to identify what is going on. If you notice your son making excuses or self criticizing, make your son aware of it.
4. Be a role model. Do you have a grasp on your inner critic? Your son notices how you behave when your inner critic attacks. When you are disappointed or have failed at something, talk to your son about it. Be honest with your son about your own inner critic. Notice how you behave when your inner critic attacks and set the example for your son. Let your son see you demonstrating healthy ways of dealing with disappointment.
If you ask most parents what do they want most for their children, the response will more likely be: to raise happy, healthy and successful children. We sometimes forget that what we want for our children has to be what they want for themselves. It’s more important to raise children that have an understanding of their values and do their best to live by them. You may raise a successful child, but if he has no compassion, love or integrity, what good is his success to the world?
The key to raising better children is simple: Live your life as a better person. Yes, this is easier said than done. We are not perfect and sometimes our best isn’t good enough. Even in our challenging times, our children can learn from us and gain a better understanding of how to pick yourself up when you fall down. These five tips are a springboard for you to live life with grace.
1. Teach Your Son to Be Open to Life’s Blessings
Saying yes to life allows wonderful blessings to come to you. Say yes to new opportunities and success. Say yes to a life that you live by your standards. Say yes to making your own decisions and not seeking approval of others. Say yes to a fulfilling and rewarding career. Say yes to a relationship that energizes, supports and stimulates you. Say yes to a promising future. Say yes to living without guilt, resentment or regrets. Say yes to spending more time on your self improvement. Say yes to living an authentic life. Say yes to taking chances and freeing yourself from fear. Say yes to happiness and achievements. Say yes to a well-lived life.
2. Teach Your Son That Love is Unconditional
When was the last time you allowed love to lead? Withholding love as a means of control only leads to distrust and resentment. Loving unconditionally means loving without judgment. Free yourself from unrealistic expectations and accept the person you love for who they are. Do not expect your needs and wants to be fulfilled by someone else. Allow those you love to express themselves without fear of rejection. Do not punish yourself or loved ones for past mistakes. People use the word love very loosely, but do not stop to think of the implications of using the word. Take the time to be responsible in how you show love. Allow yourself to love and be loved.
3. Teach Your Son to Take Healthy Risks
Everything in life involves a risk. Are you allowing fear of rejection and failure to dictate your life? Fear inhibits success. Take chances and free yourself from limiting beliefs. Taking risks empowers you to take charge of your life. Be curious about life; experiment and try new things. Set goals for yourself and take action. Step out of what is safe, comfortable and familiar to you. Examine what feelings emerge when you are thinking about taking a risk. Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” Concealing yourself in a safe container prevents you from exploring other possibilities. Embrace the unknown and anticipate success. You will never know the outcome if you don’t take the risk.
4. Teach Your Son to Make the Most of Opportunities and Failures
It is possible to get through the difficult times in life. Learn from failures and take responsibility for your life. Listening to your inner critic can sabotage your dreams. Silence the critic by reaffirming all the things you are capable of doing. Dream big and be excited about your future. Find and release your untapped talents. Believe in your abilities and discover what you have to offer the world. Think about all the things you can’t do and try to do them. Think back to a time, when something was difficult and you were able to overcome the challenge. Continuing to live life in a safe container doesn’t help you gain anything in life. Take the necessary actions to achieve your goals. Stop assuming and start achieving!
5. Inspire Your Son to Leave a Legacy
What’s your legacy? How do you want to be remembered? The life you live defines who you are and the choices you make will determine what impact you will have on the lives of others. Never underestimate the power of your words and actions. You were uniquely created to make a contribution to the world. It is your right and your obligation to make your mark in this world. Surround yourself with people who are supportive, positive and encouraging. Show appreciation and gratitude to those around you. If you have a message to share, then share it with the world. Staying small and thinking small will not get you where you need to be in life. Starting today, have a new perspective on life. Start a new chapter in your life.
I was so upset when I overheard a single mom at the supermarket tell her friend that she didn’t need a man because her son was her husband. Granted, I should have been minding my own business, but if you talk loud enough, I’m going to listen.
I wanted to find her son and tell him to run for his life. It’s an unfair situation when mothers make their sons their surrogate husbands. These moms feel so deprived of love and attention that they turn to their sons for comfort and emotional support. These moms are either single or in a marriage that is unfulfilled or unbalanced. I’ve seen the long term effect and it can lead to these boys being incapable of having mature, loving and healthy relationships as adults. They will constantly have to support and comfort their mothers.
So how can mom divorce her son? For one, you must set boundaries in your relationship with your son. You are the adult, so be consistent with being the adult. Once you ask your son for advice about personal matters or leave him to make adult decisions, you have placed him in the position of authority. If you tell him, he’s the man of house, he will take it literally. If you try to bring in a boyfriend, it’s going to create a conflict.
You have to get a life of your own. If your relationship or marriage has troubles, do something about it. You should be able to talk and share with your significant other/spouse, not your son. If you decide to make him your marriage counselor, don’t be surprised if he starts to resent his father. You’re not a victim, ask for what you need in your marriage. Your son is the victim because you are engaging him in inappropriate conversations. If you’re single, rely on your friends and family for emotional support or get counseling if you need it.
Your son is not your handy man. Sure, it’s good to teach him to help out around the house, but if you keep calling on him like he’s Schneider the handyman, eventually he’s going to get tired of fixing things. Do yourself a favor and sign up for Angie’s List.
Stop asking your son to attend events with you. I don’t mean having an occasional fun evening with your son, I mean having him cancel his plans to hang out with you because you’re lonely. Not cool. Get a hobby or find some new friends on Meetup.com. Let your son live his life.
Understand your son is not your equal. He’s not your support system, you are his support. When you turn him into an emotional partner, the dynamics of the mother-son relationship are skewed and your son will carry this unbalance into his adult relationships.
On Sunday, May 5 on Life Class on the OWN Network, Oprah Winfrey and Iyanla Vanzant are addressing a sensitive topic that needs more awareness: Fatherless Sons. This two part show is a must watch for families. We need to start the healing process for men who grew up without fathers, we need to set the example for our sons to be better men and fathers.
Tune in Sunday, May 5, at 9/8c for a special two-hour Oprah’s Lifeclass with Iyanla Vanzant.
As moms of boys, our role is to support the needs of the boys and men in our lives. Whether we’re married or single, we need to ensure that our sons understand the importance of a father in a boy’s life. We need to teach our sons to be accountable and responsible for their decisions and actions. Let’s build a strong foundation for our sons to leave a legacy of compassion, respect and responsibility.
Fathers, don’t be an invisible or silent force in your son’s life. You are the man he aspires or does not aspire to be. Your actions and behavior dictate to him all he needs to know about manhood. He needs you to teach him how to be a man. He needs you to guide him through his rites of passage from boyhood to manhood. Be a visible and powerful force in your son’s life. Show him how to be man of character by living your life with integrity, honor, respect. Every day in every way, you are becoming a better man.
Let’s teach our sons that fatherhood is not a casual choice.
To learn that you have a special needs, handicap, deaf child is the most powerful journey I have ever been on. Ethan, who is almost 11 years old is an amazing young man. Life is very normal and easy with him. It was not always that way. He was born with a condition
called “Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct”. I could see early on that “something” was not quite right. Only I was unsure of that “something”. He never startled as an infant, slept 20 hours a day, and fixed his eyes on me. I used to say, “I have birthed an Einstein.”
When Ethan was 5 months old, his condition was confirmed. This news came to me, while we were shopping in a fabric store. He was in an infant front pack and there I was standing at the check-out counter crying my eyes out. My husband called me with this news. Ethan has these stunning blue big eyes and that sweet baby just looked into my crying face with a drooling smile. His world was perfect and mine had just been shattered. I immediately began asking myself questions. No family history, what happens next? He was already learning how to do baby signing so I thought this was going to be easy. The moment I realized that my baby could never hear me singing to him is when hard really started. It was that moment when I cried almost every day for many years.
I was angry. I was mad at God. I questioned my healthy lifestyle. Was I too lean, should I have forced myself to swallow prenatal vitamins? Did I do this to my baby? My thoughts were all consumed daily of his care, his appointments, and his therapy. I was depressed and ate myself into 85 extra pounds. I cried every day and I was distracted away from the care of my husband and family. I tried to work through the loss of that hope I had for this beautiful boy. I was desperate to find a reason that did not reflect on my mothering. I was lost and alone.
I was angry that my husband went off to work each day leaving me to endure the challenges. That little baby boy grew into a toddler that was angry and frustrated. He could not hear my voice around a corner. When he could not see me, his volume was loud. When he wanted something he was even louder. Car rides were intolerable. I was angry and felt I was doing all the work with therapy. I thought my husband should be more involved. He worked 10 hours days at a demanding job. His energy was gone before he pulled into the driveway at night. Even though my husband was grieving, at that time I was only thinking of myself.
One afternoon I called his office and said, “I need some drugs, depression drugs, coping drugs.” I had never been on any kind of medication, so I did not know what I needed. He kindly spoke into me, “This is situational and you are going to be fine.” That evening he showed up with my favorite wine to have when I couldn’t cope. This was his way of saying, “I know it’s hard & we are going to get through this.” Just having permission to sip a glass of wine at 10am was enough of a drug. Funny thing is over a years’ time I might have done that once.
I didn’t know how to communicate my needs, which made it hard on friendships. We had a fourth child, I was tired, and it was too hard to even think of my own needs. Ethan was loud; people could not be around him. Friends were uncomfortable. and play dates that were scheduled over a few hours were cut very short. Slowly friends dropped off and I was very much alone. I felt isolated and accepted this as my journey and cross to bear. I was tired of having to explain over and over that he is deaf. It was exhausting. No one understood him. I felt I had to educate each person. I had few friends who could tolerate Ethan. Not even my closet of friends would come hang out in my home. I had to learn to have grace and understanding for them. It was not easy.
What I had to do was re-frame my thinking and my process. One day I realized that my identity and my structure of life must change. Ethan is a hard child. Hard is what grows us into something. I grew into a deeper, caring and understanding of the human soul. I took that time, leaving my job, work I loved, to understand and grow this boy into a functioning and healthy life. I embraced Ethan, right where he was. The therapist told me that deaf children have problems with balance, especially climbing and parks. I took that boy to the park almost daily. I was told swimming is hard and scary for toddlers who are deaf. He had swimming lessons.
Nothing about being deaf would hold Ethan captive in what he enjoyed. Having people express their discomfort & recognize the challenge in this journey. Doing this by asking questions to draw others out in their process. I began to trust others, and venture out with girlfriends. My husband encouraged many evenings out with friends, so I could have a break. I had to acknowledge my own needs. Most important was realizing that my life could not be dictated or defined by a special needs child.
Insights I learned with a special needs son:
- Ethan’s normal is not my normal. It’s okay to cry and it’s going to be hard to figure all this out.
- People that have not had a special needs child will not understand you. Take no offenses.
- You must take time away for you with alone time or girlfriends.
- Don’t allow the circumstance of a special needs child dictate how you run the household. The entire family is important.
- Have one on one mom dates w/each child away from the challenges. Today, almost eleven years later those one on one mom dates continue. Imagine with five kids how many dates I go on. Even my 23 and 25 year old look forward to those dates. You must stay connected with all your children no matter how much extra time or work.
- Your husband will handle this very different than you. Embrace his journey. Regardless of how tired, mad, disconnected you are with your man, treat him well. I am reaping the rewards and honoring and respecting my husband in those hardest and darkest of days.
No one signs up for the journey of a special needs child. Each has a story that is very different. My hard may look different than your hard. I would walk through this journey again to have that boy named Ethan in my life. He is that boy who sings, and can’t carry a tune. Who loves airplanes and history. His had Cochlear Implants that allow him to function beautifully in a hearing world. His story is still being written and he has much favor in his life. I am blessed to be his mother. That little baby an infant in my arms now as a boy hears me sing. We sing together.
Elizabeth Traub is a Portland, OR mom of 5. She has spent the past 20 years working as a consultant with business start-ups, and existing
businesses. For 15 years, she has also mentored & coached women to live in the design of their dreams and passions. You can find her online at Hung Out To Buy www.hungouttobuy.com and Girlfriends Hub www.girlfriendshub.com.