Calling Your Son Up to Respectful Behavior
About the Guest
Finding it difficult to connect to your son or stepson? Communication expert Emerson Eggerichs, along with author Ron Deal, share practical ways for moms to relate to and honor their sons. Even when upset, moms need to continue to speak respectfully, so their sons will continue to feel positive affection for them.
Emerson EggerichsEmerson Eggerichs, Ph.D., is an internationally celebrated communication expert and author of Love & Respect, which is a New York Times bestseller, Platinum and Book of the Year award winner, and sold over 2 million copies. Dr. Eggerichs’ newest book is, Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache. As a communication expert, Emerson has spoken to groups such as the NFL, NBA, PGA, US Navy SEALs and members of Congress. Emerson and his wife Sarah live in Grand Ra...more
Ron DealRon L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series
Emerson Eggerichs, along with author Ron Deal, share practical ways for moms to relate to and honor their sons. Even when upset, moms need to continue to speak respectfully.
Calling Your Son Up to Respectful Behavior
Bob: It may seem counterintuitive to you, as a mom; but Dr. Emerson Eggerichs says your son isn’t longing to have an extended heart-to-heart conversation with you. He would prefer that you show up and that the two of you are active together.
Emerson: We encourage mothers: “Just do an activity with your son. Watch him. Don’t even about—just be there and don’t say anything. Don’t have a phone there. Just watch him for 15 minutes, just be shoulder to shoulder.” You’re going to find an energy going into him that you think would only come about through a wonderful, quality conversation about our feelings. Shoulder-to-shoulder activities with him, without saying anything, can be as effective in his spirit as a two-hour discussion might be with you.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April 10th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I’m Bob Lepine. There’s a lot about being the mom of a teenage son that is counterintuitive. We’ll get some insights on the subject today from Emerson Eggerichs. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You think it’s different for a mom trying to be a mom to a six-year-old versus a sixteen-year-old? Do you think there are some differences there? [Laughter]
Dennis: Are you kidding me? [Laughter] I will never forget when we had two teenage sons. I forget who it was—said it to me—but someone said: “A teenage son is tough on a mom, because she used to have these boys / these cute little boys that were just kind of the apple of her eye. Then they grew up and went, eye to eye, with her.
Dennis: “Then they passed her; then they started looking down on her.” That was a tough time.
Bob: Well, share with our listeners—you haven’t shared this story in a long time—but talk about the breakfast that you had with one of your sons, where you had to do a little correcting between him and his relationship with his mom.
Dennis: We have two sons. You can guess which one it is; he knows who it is. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: He was not dealing kindly—should I introduce our guest, by the way?
Bob: Yes; do that.
Dennis: Ron Deal joins us, again—who heads up FamilyLife Blended®. Welcome back, Ron—
Ron: Thank you. Good to be here.
Dennis: —a regular guest, here, on FamilyLife Today—and Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of a brand-new book called Mother and Son: The Respect Effect. That ties into his other best-seller, Love and Respect, which has sold bazillions of books. Emerson, welcome back.
Emerson: Thank you.
Dennis: So, here is the story, Emerson. My son was prosecuting/persecuting—I don’t know if there are enough adjectives—[Laughter]—with his mom, but it was a hostile takeover. I was coming home from work. I was not liking the condition / the emotional condition of the love of my life / my wife at the end of the day.
Bob: Now, how old was your son at this point?
Dennis: I think 15/16, maybe.
Bob: Okay; right.
Dennis: He might have been 17, but I would hope not. Anyway, I said, “Son, come with me.” We went out and had breakfast. It was what I would call, Emerson, a come-to-Jesus breakfast.
Dennis: With this particular son, I said, “You’re prosecuting/persecuting your mother. You just need to know that behind your mother stands your dad. You just need to know—you can see my jaw—how tight my jaw is right now—see this right here? You’re not going to win; you will not. That’s a promise, Son.” I have to admit—it didn’t work after the first come-to-Jesus meeting. I think I might have tightened my jaw a bit more, and increased the intensity, and called my son up and away from treating his mom, without respect, as a woman. It was a corner-turning day in our family—a lot nicer to come home to at the end of the day.
Bob: Is it common for a 16-year-old son to become disrespectful to his mother and to just start to assert himself?
Emerson: We call a 16-year-old boy a sophomore, which is a compound word for sophos, wisdom; and mōros, moron. [Laughter]
They come in and out of wisdom.
Dennis: Say that—say that again! I just kind of—that was sweet!
Bob: Wisdom moron—I love that!
Dennis: Wisdom moron. [Laughter]
Emerson: Yes; so the emphasis is more on moron. This is one—the larger point here is why I encourage women to read Love and Respect because, if you chop the knees out from underneath your husband by contempt, for years when your boy is little, there is going to come this moment when he is 16 years old. You’re going to need that father, who he does respond to as that male authority.
There was a little boy, lipping off to his mother, calling her a dummy. He was ten years old: “You, dummy.” He didn’t know his dad was home; and this big hand comes around and grabs him by the shirt. His dad says, “Who’s a dummy?” The little boy goes, “I’m a dummy,” [Laughter] “I’m a dummy.” Well, the truth is—little boys love that—it gives them security.
But there is this point you are making of tremendous disrespect. That’s exactly why I preach this, because there is coming a moment when that 16-year-old boy will take on his mother. The question is whether the father is going to step to the plate, at that point, and say:
“You know what? We’re not going to do this. This is not honorable. It’s not right.”
Young boys need that, because they don’t have the self-discipline. Your son did not want to be the way he did. I remember when I used to throw temper tantrums. I was sent to military school for five years—from eighth grade to twelfth grade. I would react in ways I didn’t want to. I needed someone who cared enough for me to get in my face and help me develop the inner-discipline that I didn’t have. Mothers are not designed to do that with a 16-year-old boy, but you were.
Those moments are critical in the life of a family. It’s important, then, that we understand that there are seasons in our parenting. We must always recognize there will come a moment when that father will, in fact, move forward in a critical moment that will set the course for that boy’s life forever. You may be changing your son’s diapers all along; but there’s going to come a season when that man steps to the plate and does what will cause that boy to become something that you dreamed he would become because of the father’s intervention.
Bob: One of the reasons we wanted Ron to be in and be a part of this interview is because the dynamic in a blended family is often challenging, because those lines of attachment and connection aren’t what they are in a bio-family. Ron, as you’re hearing Emerson talk about the important role a dad plays and the disrespect to a mom—and you’re putting that in the grid of a blended family—all of a sudden, there are challenges to trying to work this out that moms and dads just throw up their hands and go, “I don’t know what to do here.”
Ron: Yes; exactly. You know, one of the things Emerson does in this book is talk about the G.U.I.D.E.S. that you want to give mother—that’s an acrostic.
Ron: That acrostic—you flesh out some of the things that you want moms to be able to do. One of the things I want people listening to hear is that this book has as much application for stepmoms as it does biological moms and single mothers, who are trying to manage it, all by themselves, with their sons. One of the things you talk about in the G.U.I.D.E.S. is understanding—
—understanding so a child is not provoked or exasperated. I’d love for you to unpack that.
In particular, one of the things I’m interested in is stepmoms understanding that. I have this theory, Emerson—I don’t know if I’m right about this—but I think that stepsons have an even heightened sense of a need of respect from their stepmothers simply because: they are feeling imposed on; they are feeling challenged in their relationship, perhaps, with their biological mother and their loyalty to their mom; they are feeling life has thrown them a number of curves and: “I’m not feeling stable or certain about the future. You, stepmom, are kind of the embodiment of all the things that I’ve had to go through and deal with,” and “If you are here, and I feel safe and comfortable with you, then all of a sudden, I feel a little more peace in my life; but if I feel challenged by you / if I feel like you don’t understand me at all, then I’ve got another reason to feel upset and angry at the world.”
Who is that going to come out on?—that’s going to come out toward the stepmom, in particular. Unpack a little bit for us the importance of understanding your son and his need for respect.
Emerson: Well, that understanding is the “U” of G.U.I.D.E.S. There’s “Giving,” which is the “G.” “U” is the “Understanding”; “Instructing”; “Disciplining”: “Encouraging”; and “Supplicating,”—concepts that are salient Scriptures that deal with parenting. I looked at everything the Bible says about parenting—not just principles.
The one you referenced, both in Colossians and Ephesians: “Do not provoke your children to anger and do not exasperate them so they lose heart,”—the Ephesian/Colossian passage. That’s true for father’s provoking their children. My dad provoked me / my dad exasperated me—I lost heart; I just closed off to my dad.
The same thing can happen for a mom toward her son or her daughter; but particularly, in this case, where you see this dynamic. One of the things I know about a stepmother—she wants to love that boy. It’s within her nature to love. She wants to love, and she’s going to be very intentional about that.
She’s going to try every way that she knows to send the message that she loves him; but when she gets upset with him—and he’s going to do things that are going to hurt her—it’s very easy for her to come across in a way that feels disrespectful to him.
First of all, he may not be assured of her love; but I will tell you this—if she thinks more about how to honor his spirit / respect his spirit—not just love on him—but respect his spirit, he will begin to feel affection / positive affection for her. It doesn’t seem natural to a woman, because that’s not the way you operate; but trust me—when you honor his spirit / when you respect his spirit, even though he has failed you, he will begin to have fond feelings.
Will he cry? Will he write poetry to you? Will he come to you and put arms…? No! [Laughter] He will be very withdrawn, but there is a thought process that’s going on that’s magnificent. I want you to just trust me—take it by faith. If you read this book and you start doing these things, as a stepmother, toward that boy—who is elbowing you, verbally—just stay the course; don’t get defeated; just keep on this. Trust me—
—you’re being principle-driven here, and the principle will work. Is it a guarantee that he is going to be a perfect boy? No!—but you’re not a perfect person. I will tell you—he’ll be far less imperfect. You don’t want this to move into chaos; and when you keep this honor language going, it’ll contain that.
Bob: There’s another acronym in the book that helps us understand what’s going on in the heart of a teenage boy—or a younger boy, for that matter. It’s the acronym, C.H.A.I.R.S.
Bob: You use that to get to: “What are the inner-desires of a boy?” If we understand those, it’ll help us with how we relate to our sons.
Emerson: Correct. In our Love and Respect Conference, I talk about what God has said to wives to understand about men and masculinity. These, again, are salient Scriptures. C.H.A.I.R.S. deals with that. Men have a need for conquest; they have a need to offer their insight; they have a need to relate with you, shoulder to shoulder, without talking.
For instance, on that point, we encourage mothers: “Just do an activity with your son. Watch him. Don’t even about—just be there and don’t say anything.
“Don’t have a phone there. Just watch him for 15 minutes, just be shoulder to shoulder.” You’re going to find an energy going into him that you think would only come about through a wonderful quality conversation about our feelings. Trust me—take it by faith. Shoulder-to-shoulder activities with him, without saying anything, can be as effective in his spirit as a two-hour discussion might be with you.
Bob: There’s a reason why guys get together and play pickup basketball and why women get together and have coffee and talk; right?
Emerson: It’s the way people bond. Women develop rapport by giving a report. Men build rapport with each other by being active together—feeling like: “We’re in this together,”—a sense of comradery / it’s usually activity-oriented. Ninety-nine thousand men go hunting in Michigan on opening day. Why?—you have to be out in the field, and you can’t talk. [Laughter]
Dennis: I want to read just the beginning of Chapter 4, which is “Seeing the Man in the Boy”—it’s subtitled “His Six Desires.”
That’s back to what Bob was talking about—C.H.A.I.R.S. Here’s what you say—I think this is just a great way for a mom to think about her son:
Who is the man in the boy? The best way to see a man in the making is to recognize the six desires God seeded—that He placed in your son. God designed him with the desires to:”—and then you list six categories—“Number one: to work and achieve. Number two: to provide for, protect, and even die. Three: be strong, lead, and make decisions. Four: analyze, solve, and counsel. Number five: do friendship, shoulder to shoulder. Number six: to sexually understand and know.
Now, we could comment on a number of these.
I want you to comment on the last one because I think this is a big mystery for men and women today in relating to their sons. What’s going on in a boy, who is seeded with these desires, and he’s emerging through puberty?
Emerson: You’re talking about the sexual component there—that last one?
Dennis: Yes; yes.
Emerson: Well, that’s a huge one; and it’s very difficult. It also explains why boys are quiet, because boys are visually-oriented. They are very aware of nudity / they are very aware of the anatomy of the female, but they know that they shouldn’t give voice to that. Sometimes, you’ll see boys being quiet. You ask him what he’s thinking—he’s not going to tell you what he’s thinking. You just need to understand, though, he’s becoming aware of his world. It’s important that a mother not shame him for that.
I think that’s, again, where the role of the father can come in; but definitely, he is going to have an interest in human sexuality. It doesn’t mean that he’s going to cross over on the line; but it definitely means he’s going to be very aware / he’s going to be very cognizant of this, and he’s going to be wondering about this.
This is where the father can come in. This is where—if you’ve got a family unit, where the older men—
—the uncle or whatever kin—can begin give voice to this. What’s happening today, quite often, is boys are not having anyone to talk to them about this. They’re getting this exposure from a peer—they’re getting pictures and so on and so forth. Our boys are not the enemy in the pornography area—they are the victim of the enemy.
It’s the women involved in this industry and there are men involved in this industry that ought to be confronted, because they know exactly what they are doing. Don’t see your son as the enemy here if he’s crossed that line. I think, in the broad brush stroke, we’ve got to just take a breath here. I talk about Shaunti Feldhahn’s work there—about her boy and some of the four-year-old comments. It begins, early on, and “How are we going to begin to address that?” In the book, we try to unpack that.
We just need to realize God made this / He designed this. It’s going to be part and parcel of this kind of thing—you’ve got to just accept that and not shame. The important thing is not to shame the boy, particularly if you see him looking at something.
I remember our boys—there was pornography on the pathway; you know? We just said, “If you see something that’s not right, let us know.” Jonathan came to us, and I honored him for that. I honored him rather than: “What did you do? Did you look?”—no: “Thank you for telling me.” I honored the integrity—
Emerson: —of him following through instead of shaming. I know that he’s going to want to look at that—I would’ve wanted to look at that. It’s a matter of coming to this realization, but also having the father speak into this; because it’s very difficult for a mother to fully grasp this. It’d be so easy to begin to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with him.
Dennis: It’s not a matter of if your son is going to see this stuff—
Dennis: —starting at younger and younger ages—down to eight/nine/ten. You can do a good job in your home controlling things; because this is a screen generation, you can’t control what is put in front of your son’s face. I think the coaching you just gave moms—to be a shock-absorber, at the point, maybe, their son—
Emerson: That’s a good way of saying it.
Dennis: —gets exposed; but to step in and keep loving and say, “I’m so glad you trusted me.”
Bob: You’ve been a bit surprised by the response mothers have given you to this book; haven’t you?
Emerson: Oh, yes. You know, you’ve got story after story—you know, like—it happens, not just to four-year-olds—it is 22-year-olds: “My relationship with my 22-year-old son improved overnight. Who knew that simple changes in words could make such a difference? Now, I tell him how much I appreciate him,”—that would be one of those synonyms—“and he tears up. Before, I told him I loved him and got back: ‘I know. I know. I love you too, Mom.’ Learning the right words to get my feelings across in a way they can be assimilated was so easy.”
That’s one of the points I want to make: “Don’t make this more complex.” Women start beating up on themselves at a certain point. They move into shame, because they look back. Boys do let certain things roll off their back like water off a duck’s back. They don’t personalize it in the same way, maybe, a daughter would toward a father. Boys know Mom loves them. So, you have a lot of grace here / a lot of room.
Do not move into shame, and do not beat yourself up; because here is what happens.
A mother wrote: “If my son does something that is not worthy of respect, I can quickly fall into this trap of disappointment and even disdain. It, then, gives me a feeling of—‘Oh, he might never change.’ Then, I feel like a bad mom; because I feel, indirectly, that his behavior is somehow my fault or reflects on me. After this, I probably give off this attitude of disappointment, and I know only too well that my son can tell. The very hardest thing, then, is to see your son defeated and down. As mothers,” she said, “we practice and look for ways to love; but maybe, more importantly, we should look for opportunities and ways to respect our sons.”
Another woman—this is like an 11-year-old boy—“When my son gives me his insight”—here would be the G.U.I.D.E.S.’ ‘Insight’—she said, “When my son gives me his insight, I say, ‘I really respect what you have to say,’ or ‘I respect the way you handled that situation,’ or ‘I really respect how you are taking initiative to get things done and follow through with.’”
She said: “These things have made my son smile like I have never seen. I talk more about respect with regard to sporting events and showing respect for other opponents. My son knows, without a doubt, that I love him. Now, I feel that he knows that I value him and value his ideas, which I may not have done so well in the past. Thank you for sharing God’s message.”
Ron: The key words that I’m picking up—whether you’re a mom or a stepmom—“appreciation” / say the word, “compliment,”—give compliments to your son; praise him for something; show honor to him and use that word, “You’re honorable,” / “You’re worthy of respect.” Those words are speaking directly to his soul.
You keep using the word, “spirit,”—it’s to the inner-core of who he is. I had a guy say to me once, “Ron, I’d much rather admit that I’m a sinner than admit that I’m a failure.” We carry so much weight on us, as men, and boys are feeling it already.
It’s the language of our heart: “Are we enough?” When Mom says: “You are enough. I love you. I care for you. I really approve of who you are. Now, I didn’t like what you just did. Knock it off.”
Emerson: Right; correct.
Ron: There’s a balance there that just opens him up to Mom’s guidance and leadership and where she takes him.
Emerson: It’s important to honor those character qualities, not just, “I just really respect the fact that you’re so handsome,”—he didn’t have anything to do with that. Unchangeable features are not what we’re talking about, but character qualities—thinking about that—but also, trying to see the good in the bad.
I had a mother, this week, with an adult son, who doesn’t—he’s rejecting the faith, at this point, and doesn’t want to participate in some of the Christian things that they’re doing—and was very open about that and just said to his mom, “No.” She’s very sensitive, so—but he’s an adult, and he just kind of said it.
I said: “You can honor him for his integrity. I want you to write him a note and say, ‘You know what? I really appreciate it—I know that was not easy for you to do; but you’re seeking to be a man of integrity, who is true to your own convictions right now.
“I know that wasn’t easy for you to say, ‘No,’ to that; but I just want to express my honor to you / my respect for your integrity in the family unit.’”
Ron: I just want to jump in here and say I think that is very significant—what you just said—because our tendency, I think, in the body of Christ, when we have a concern for somebody’s life—in this case a mother and her son and his lack of faith—we feel like: “If I say anything nice, then I’m somehow blessing their lack of faith / I’m somehow giving permission to it; and I don’t want to do that.” So, what we end up doing is saying, “Well, the better thing for me to do is to emotionally detach, and unhook, and show them my disapproval for who they are.” Well, wait a minute / wait a minute—no, no, no. If you want to gain influence / increase your influence, move toward him with words that affirm his spirit.
Bob: I’m thinking about the first book you wrote—and it was about marriage, not about parenting—but one of the chapters in that book was the power of positive words. At the core, that’s what we’re talking about here.
Our words have great power in each other’s lives.
Dennis: Yes; we talked about how our words are like seeds: “What you plant is what you grow, so be careful what you sow.”
Moms, you’re powerful—don’t forget it—very powerful in a boy’s life; a young man’s life; and an older, young man’s life, by the way—all the way into adulthood. Don’t miss what Emerson said, there, at the end: “Adult children are still impacted by your words.”
Get this book—dig into it; it’s valuable.
Bob: It’ll give you the words to use so that you can connect, heart to heart, with your son. Again, the title of the book is Mother and Son: The Respect Effect. The subtitle says: “Love is important, but it is respect that is the key to your son’s heart.” The book is by Emerson Eggerichs, who has been our guest today. You can order your copy when you go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order:
1-800-FL-TODAY is the number. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com; and the toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I know a lot of our listeners have been to one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. I know even more of you have never been. In fact, we run into listeners all the time, Dennis; and we say, “So, have you been to one of our getaways?” They say, “Oh, we’ve always wanted to go, but we haven’t done it.” If you’ve never been to a getaway, you need to invest in your marriage. Get some time / get away; and enjoy a weekend together, where you learn what the Bible has to say about building a strong marriage.
If your pastor has never been to a getaway, why don’t you let him know that, at FamilyLife®, we cover the registration cost for pastors and spouses to attend.
We want them to be—I was going to say, “…our guests”; but really, they are your guests—because we cover this cost because we have a scholarship fund, where listeners have contributed so that we can make sure pastors and spouses are able to attend.
Right now, that scholarship fund is—the funds are getting a little depleted. This month, we’re asking listeners, “Would you help us be able to continue scholarshipping pastors and spouses to a getaway?” You can do that by contributing to the scholarship fund, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to contribute: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number. When you designate your gift for the scholarship fund, all of those funds will go to covering the registration cost for a getaway for pastors and spouses. Again, you can donate at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to donate: 1-800-FL-TODAY. Your donations are tax deductible, and make sure your pastor knows about the scholarship fund and encourage him to get a weekend away with his wife and enjoy a getaway.
Now, be sure to be back with us tomorrow when we’re going to talk about some of the hardball questions that teenagers sometimes toss our way, as parents—things about what’s going on in the culture, ideas they’ve heard at school, things they are wondering about. Have you ever wondered, “What’s the best way to answer some of these questions?” Well, Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica Thompson are going to be here tomorrow to talk about answering the tough questions your kids ask. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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