Science supports that boys benefit in any number of ways from having a close relationship with their mother.
My two boys have a few activities that interest them right now. They enjoy creating mud holes in the back yard and then wrestling in them. They also enjoy viciously attacking each other with wooden swords they bought with their birthday money. Yesterday, I came home from work to find that they had driven their poor mother to her wits’ end. All day, they’d wrestled under the dining room table. Wrestled in the kitchen. Wrestled their sisters. My wife asked me to do something to calm them down — so I wrestled with them.
This is to say, they’re all boy. These are boys, though, who love their mother. I often find them sitting on her lap or hugging her around the neck. Sometimes I find them in the kitchen helping her prepare dinner or holding her hand while they walk in the park. When they’re upset, they go straight to her for comfort. When they’re feeling chivalrous they help her carry groceries in from the van. They love to spend time with her, even if she isn’t interested in wrestling.
There’s something about the mother and son relationship that’s irreplaceable.
The Church celebrates the feast day of St. Monica this week and that of her son, St. Augustine, the day after. Even in death, the two are inseparable. During his life, Augustine was doted on by his mother. She always prayed for him and supported him. Their relationship was so close that in her old age she ended up moving from the family home in North Africa to live with him in Italy. Augustine was there at Monica’s death and he promised to remember her always and take her memory with him to the altar when, as a priest, he offered Mass.
Augustine and Monica have me thinking about mothers and sons. The closeness of boys to their mothers has sometimes been misunderstood as damaging to their development as men. It’s said that they’re “mamas’ boys” and the apron strings need cutting. There is a fear that if boys aren’t separated from their mothers, they’ll end up emotionally co-dependent and overly feminine. Studies show, however, that this fear is entirely mistaken. In fact, boys benefit in any number of ways from having a close relationships with their mothers. Here are five lasting benefits that boys experience from a strong bond with their mothers:
They have fewer growing pains
Boys who have a strong bond with their mothers are given a sense of security, a safe place they know they can always go to when in trouble. Because of this, they’re able to reach autonomy more easily and enter adulthood with more confidence. Boys who know they are loved don’t act out to gain attention. They also learn from their mothers how to respect other people, particularly women.
They do better in school
A mother’s love is so powerful that it actually rewires a child’s brain. When mothers nurture their sons from an early age, studies show that they will actually develop more capacity in the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. This is why boys who have strong relationships with their mothers tend on average to do better in school.
They have less anxiety
Mothers help sons build self-esteem. When they support their sons and give them a sense of security, boys are set free to tackle the world head-on with no fear. They know that no matter what, their mothers will be there to comfort them even if they struggle. As a result, they have a lower incidence of depression and are also able to build healthier friendships and relationships.
They engage in less risky behavior
Boys who grow up without a secure relationship with their mothers are at risk for behavior problems as they grow up. They tend to be more aggressive and act out in destructive ways. They’re also prone to riskier behavior when it comes to alcohol, drugs, and sex. Mothers are particularly helpful in instilling their sons with the confidence to stand up to negative peer pressure.
They develop higher levels of emotional intelligence
Mothers play a vital role in helping their sons develop emotional intelligence. Not only do they model sensitivity and teach their sons how to understand their own feelings, but they also help them develop empathy for others. In the long run, this sets them up for a happier, more successful life.
Mothers, go ahead and hug your sons tight — it’s good for them!