Mothers & Sons

by David Thomas

For as long as I’ve been counseling, teaching and writing on boys, I’ve seen evidence of the fascinating relationship between mothers and sons. Early in his journey, a boy will position his mother at the center of his universe. I often say moms are like home plate – the place he’s running to at all times.

Safety – it’s the first of four unique gifts you give him out of your relationship.

I know moms of seventeen year old boys who comment on how their adolescent sons will still request they come into their room at night and scratch their back. In those moments, some young men share details of their life they offer to no one else.

The second gift you offer him is Relationship. A mother is a boy’s first and most intimate encounter with the opposite sex. Most of his understanding of the female gender is birthed out of his relationship with you. Moms teach boys how a woman feels respected, enjoyed, cherished and celebrated. It’s both a privilege and a responsibility to hold this position.

A mother also offers Stability. You are the safest place on earth for a boy. When my twin sons were learning to walk for the first time, my wife and I took the boys to a nearby park to practice taking more steps. We’d walk backwards in front of them, releasing little fingers and cheering them toward us. I can vividly remember one of my sons taking a bigger step than he could manage. He fell and scuffed his knee. The pain registered with him as his eyes filled with tears. He pulled himself up and instinctively bypassed me, heading straight for my wife.

I like to think I’m a pretty compassionate guy, but the truth of the matter is my wife extends mercy to our children in ways I don’t. Our children experience Mercy with her differently than they do with me. It’s through this gift that my wife teaches our sons something unique about the heart of God. That God is always present, and full of mercy and compassion.

During adolescence, the safety you provide can actually make you feel like a rubber band. He will push against you with his words and choices. A portion of his pushing against will be a part of his separating out, which is normal and a healthy part of his developmental journey to becoming a man. In this season of his development, he needs you to be stable enough for him to pull away from you and know that you won’t dissolve emotionally. He can’t carry the weight of that responsibility. Gina Bria, in The Art of Family said “the work of mothering a son is mostly about stepping aside with precise timing. I want my sons, both of them, to learn from me that they are free to be rooted in home and still be abroad in the world as men. 

Enmeshed within the concept of ‘rooted in home and still abroad’ is perhaps the greatest gift you can offer him: Understanding. He desperately needs you to wrap your mind and heart around who God has created him to be. To the degree that we study his design, we can better parent in tandem with the unique way God made him.

David Thomas, L.M.S.W., is the Director of Family Counseling at Daystar Counseling in Nashville, TN, the co-author of six books, including the best-selling “Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys” (Tyndale House Publishers), a frequent guest on national television and radio,and The CHAT with Priscilla Shirer, a regular contributor to “ParentLife” magazine, and speaks across the country. His first video curriculum, “Raising Boys and Girls: The Art of Understanding the Differences” (Lifeway) is currently available, as is his newest book, “Intentional Parenting” (Thomas Nelson). He and his wife, Connie, have a daughter, and three Wild Things (twin sons and a feisty yellow lab puppy named Owen). You can find David giving parenting tips on the BLOG at

David will teach us how to understand and explore the hearts, minds and ways of boys at MOMcon in Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys