MOM to the MAX | Day 2

2 – Create safe spaces. Help him learn to share.

Believe it or not, your son likely has a lot to say—he just needs to be taught and encouraged how to share. He needs safe spaces, a patient parent, and verbal reminders that you will be there when he is ready.

Your first challenge will be to locate your son’s communication comfort zones. These safe spaces will almost always be private and include little to no outward distraction. That means that we need to go out of our way to provide or take advantage of our one-on-one bonding moments.

A great bit of advice I recently ran across from a mom of boys said, “Ask some open-ended questions, and then listen. Resist the urge to rush in to fill the awkward silences, or to finish up his thoughts for him. Give him some air space, and let him fill it up.”

A periodic walk around the block or a daily bed time routine might provide the perfect mom moment he desperately needs. Maybe it’s as simple as taking advantage of the short drive you have with him on the way to school or an extra-curricular activity. And don’t forget the power of written communication! When’s the last time he found a card “just because” at the breakfast table or a note in his lunch box? There are tactful ways to make it happen without causing him embarrassment.

A mom and son date night or day of energetic fun can be an excellent way to hang out and let him know there’s extra time to converse about anything that’s bothering him. Sometimes all he may need is for you to be real and vulnerable first. Consider challenging him to make a positive change or do something impactful with his week. Let him know that you love him as he is BUT it would make you an even more proud momma if he took your challenge to heart.

Make sure to watch for the “I’m troubled cues” your son may be communicating non-verbally. If you can pick up on these when he’s young, you’ll become a master at recognizing the moments when he has something on his mind and may want to talk. Watch for things like when he retreats to his bedroom to be alone with his emotional pain. Pop your head in. Let him know that you are around to talk when he is ready and then wait it out. Give him some space and then check back a little later.

Mothers who learn to spot their son’s non-verbal communication cues and teach them emotional intelligence are setting them up for success later in life. It’s important that we get this right. We all know that communication is the key to great relationships. Are we setting our boys up for success or failure? A young man who can articulate his emotions and listen well will accomplish much as an employee, husband, and father in the future. How many times have we heard the complaints and stories of men who don’t pay attention? Teach your son to be the exception to the stereotypes.

Lastly (but of extreme importance), don’t pass their faith journey off to the church, Christian school, or youth pastor. As a youth pastor of 14 years, I noticed something alarming. Many parents looked to me as the primary person responsible for the spiritual growth of their kids. Alarming because the Bible makes no mention of this model. Youth events, church services, and spiritual mentors are beneficial but cannot and should not replace our parental responsibility and several opportunities to communicate the love of Christ and faith building lessons into the lives of our children.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:18-19

You are about to read my “bite sized” answers to your questions. If they leave you feeling empty or wanting more, make sure to connect with me on our MOMS to the MAX Facebook Insiders Group. That’s when the answers can change from “bite sized” to “buffet!”

“Is there a manual that translates the grunt responses to your questions in their teen years? LOL”

I love this question. It made me laugh AND I can relate. Not only am I a father of five, but I spent several years as a middle and high school teacher and have had several grunts and groans interrupt my well-thought-out, lesson planned days. Here’s what I know – our boys ARE communicating even with their grunts. Take note and return to the subject privately and find out what brought it all about. Let them know you care and that words are way more powerful than low guttural bellows.

And here’s a lesson for us all: It’s easy for us to hide behind our cell phones and laptops and miss our best communication opportunities. Good communication skills start with us. We need our boys to know that they mean more to us than the project, puzzle, or movie in hand. I was guilty of this just yesterday. My son was desperately trying to share something that was important to him. Instead of teaching him good listening skills by example, he received the “uh-huhs” and “grunts” from me. If we are uninterested in the “mundane” things they say now, will they come to us when they are older or when we are needed most?

“When do you push for conversation and when do you give them space?
How do you develop a close relationship with a private son who doesn’t share very much?”

Hopefully this question was answered by today’s post. But let me leave another pointer or two. I was one of the “private sons”. I am an introvert and keep to myself. It’s not that I never want to share but I am usually not the conversation initiator. I needed the provided opportunities and safe places.

I never knew it was okay to share the difficult and so my encouragement to you is let him know you are there and available. I would also encourage them to talk to dad or another godly male mentor if that might be more comfortable for him. And… mom, please know that no matter how private he is — the notes, the comments, and the scheduled times together do mean something to him. Force them on him? No, but work the special moments into you every day (every week) routine. You might be surprised how much both of you will enjoy the little moments together!

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