For Moms and Sons, Respect is the Secret Sauce

I grew up in a pink world with three sisters. The only one who wasn’t allowed to wear pink was my sister with red hair who was relegated to earth tones years before brown was cool. The 80s were tough.

So when I gave birth to boy after boy after boy….[no, I was not trying for a girl]…after boy, I knew I would need help understanding these mysterious creatures.

Blue was baffling and I was ill-equipped. I mean, I had learned a few things along the way like:

  • even grilled cheese sandwiches can be turned into guns
  • bathroom humour is always hilarious even when it’s not
  • brothers tend to head butt and wrestle to show their affection

But as the boys grew, I wondered if I was missing the mark communicating from my heart. I felt too mushy. I felt too pink.

So I did what any proactive mom would do – I googled. And started asking around for recommended resources.

Emerson Eggerichs wrote Mother & Son: The Respect Effect and boy is it rocking my world. I hope I can do it justice as I share 5 epiphanies about the importance of Moms showing respect to our sons.


moms miss the mark but it’s not our fault

We were never coached to use respect-talk so we use what comes more naturally to us, which is love-talk. And while some love-talk works with our boy, we may be missing out on opportunities to let him know how much we respect who he is becoming.

And if we keep missing the mark, it can lead to a lot of tension. Eggerichs writes, “Without respect a son reacts without love, and without love a mother reacts without respect….It gets really  crazy, really quickly.” (p. 5)

But the good news is that Moms are quick learners and highly motivated to improve relationally, so don’t despair!

moms must offer unconditional respect

Does this seem like an impossible and even unfair task? It did to me too. Because I equated respecting my son with respecting his behaviour (spoiler alert: that can not end well).

Then I read Eggerich’s explanation that it is obvious we must love our daughters unconditionally, not based on their behaviour…or ANY other factors. We would never withold our love based on a string of poor decisions by our daughter. That would be unthinkable.

Communicating conditional respect of our sons would be equally devestating to them.

Ping! [lightbulb moment]

I appreciated Eggerich’s sample conversations of how to communicate honestly with sons, while still being respectful. Without condoning poor decisions or attitudes, our words must always come from a posture of respect, and he shows us how.

We know that our husbands thrive when they know we trust them, admire them and believe in them. And Shaunti Feldhahn’s research for her book For Women Only took that understanding one step further. She shared that men would rather sense the loss of loving feelings from their wives than to be disrespected by them. Seriously? Men would rather feel unloved rather than disrespected? No wonder I was missing the mark with my boys!

moms can learn the respect-talk dialect

Instead of nagging repeatedly reminding her son that his Dad didn’t want him jumping on the furniture, one Mom phrased it like this: “We need to respect how hard dad has worked to be able buy things for our family and his desire to take good care of them.” (p.9)

I can honestly say that type of wording would not have occurred to me. It makes sense when I read it, but it wouldn’t be how I would have phrased it. I can blame it on my pink lens.

I recently had a chance to take a small step in this area. Brother #2 hurt Brother #3 because Brother #3 was tormenting Brother #4 (are you still with me?). There were tears and hurt feelings. Instead of rushing in with a rebuke, I took a deep breath and thought about how to communicate with Brother #2 using respect-talk.

Karen Gauvreau
Karen Gauvreau
Karen Gauvreau would gladly squeeze her four-baby-body into a cheerleading outfit if it meant you knew someone was rooting for you as a Mom. She would cartwheel for your victories and offer a pep talk when you are getting pummelled. She wants every Mom to feel understood and valuable for their sacred role. And if she makes you laugh in the process, even better. You can find her over at Lightly Frayed, parenting four boys ages 5 to 16 with hope and humour {most days}. Catch her writing at,

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