How and When to Support Mom

It's no secret that even in the happiest marriages (or most peaceful divorces), moms and dads don't always agree on parenting. One parent is usually stricter, while the other is more lenient, and parents sometimes argue over who is right when neither is being particularly effective. In general, parents should do their best to work out their differences in private and to present a united front when dealing with the children. Sometimes, though, it's difficult for a father to know when to step back and let Mom have her way, and when to intervene.

During a little boy's infancy and childhood, mothers usually provide most of the hands-on parenting. Not surprisingly, many little boys and their moms develop a close bond, and that worries some fathers. Even the most enlightened father may occasionally fear that closeness with Mom may create a boy who is “tied to the apron strings” or who becomes a “mama's boy,” old labels that still carry a surprising negative charge.

You can support your son by supporting his mother. Many fathers admit feeling a bit jealous of the closeness between a son and his mom, especially during the early years, but parenting is not a competition. (At least, it shouldn't be!) Your son benefits from the relationship he has with each of you. Here are some suggestions for supporting the connection between your boy and his mother:

  • Give your son permission to feel close to his mother and, occasionally, to need her. This may seem obvious, but some men shame their sons for needing a hug or physical comfort from their mothers. Be sure your boy knows that you understand his love for his mother and that you encourage it.

  • Stay actively involved in your son's care, from birth until he leaves your home. Take time to learn the necessary skills, and then spend as much time as you can caring for your son physically and emotionally. If his mother objects or micromanages your involvement, gently remind her that you, too, are a parent and that your son needs both of you.

  • Support your son's mother when she disciplines your son. When parents openly disagree about discipline, children learn the fine art of manipulation. Learn all you can about discipline, and then, if you disagree with a discipline decision, talk about it in private and look together for solutions.

  • Treat your son's mother with respect. Your son will learn how to treat women by watching you. Even when you disagree, make an effort to speak calmly and respectfully. Avoid criticizing his mother to your son.

  • James M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, once said, “The God to whom little boys say their prayers has a face very much like their mother.” Boys want to love and feel close to both of their parents. By supporting his relationship with his mother, you will strengthen your son's relationship with you.

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