Respecting Your Son
About the Guest
You talk to your husband with respect, but what about your son? Popular author Emerson Eggerichs explains that one compelling desire of a mother is to connect to her son, and she can do that by what she says and how she says it. Eggerichs gives tips for moms to practice for sounding far less negative and much more engaging. Joining Eggerichs is author and speaker Ron Deal.
Emerson EggerichsEmerson Eggerichs, Ph.D., is an internationally celebrated communication expert and author of Love & Respect, which is a New York Times bestseller, Platinum and Book of the Year award winner, and sold over 2 million copies. Dr. Eggerichs’ newest book is, Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache. As a communication expert, Emerson has spoken to groups such as the NFL, NBA, PGA, US Navy SEALs and members of Congress. Emerson and his wife Sarah live in Grand Ra...more
Ron DealRon L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series
Emerson Eggerichs explains that one compelling desire of a mother is to connect to her son, and she can do that by what she says and how she says it.
Respecting Your Son
Bob: There have been a lot of moms who have observed that, as their sons have reached adolescence, they’ve gone from having a sweet, loving relationship with their little boy to clashing with their teenage son. Emerson Eggerichs says he knows how to help.
Emerson: I know that the number one desire of a mother is to connect with her son; and if I could say to her, “If I could give you a few vocabulary words that would cause him to soften in his spirit and turn toward you and connect, would you be interested, even if he’s been a little disrespectful towards you?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 9th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. If you’re a mother with a teenage son, would you like to know what those few magic words are that can help soften your son’s heart when you’re talking to him? We’re going to hear those from Emerson Eggerichs today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Do you think our guest has any passion on the subject we’re going to talk about today?
Dennis: I don’t think he does!
Bob: Yes; kind of a bland approach to this?
Dennis: Before I introduce our guest, let me welcome back Ron Deal, who joins us—head of FamilyLife Blended®. Welcome back, Ron.
Ron: Thank you—always good to be here.
Dennis: Glad to have you with us.
Joining us is a guy who’s authored a few books.
Dennis: In fact, I wanted to ask you, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, how many books are out there that you’ve authored? I’m not talking about unique books—I’m just talking about total number that are out there. Do you have any idea?
Emerson: It’s quite a bit. I don’t know, you know, total; but yes, it’s done well.
Dennis: Well, if you don’t know who Emerson Eggerichs is and you’ve missed his book, Love and Respect, you’ve missed a classic. He’s been on FamilyLife Today a number of times. He’s written a new book called Mother and Son: The Respect Effect. And really, Emerson, this book came about as a result of moms reading your first book, Love and Respect, and beginning to respect their husbands but, then, beginning to ask questions about their relationships with their sons.
Unpack that a bit.
Emerson: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the idea of respecting a man/a husband is not something that goes over well in the initial stages. We’ve made the case that: if a man needs to feel respected for who he is, apart from his performance, and that if a woman, when she’s feeling unloved, reacts in ways that feel disrespectful—but she’s not trying to—but the research points out her eyes darken, hand on the hips, the sour look, the sigh, the rolling the eyes, the head goes back, and when estrogen kicks in, the word choice of “contempt” is incredible—it’s just right there.
Now, she’s trying to send a message that she’s feeling vulnerable / she’s feeling a need—she’s trying to get a message through. In a man’s world, he’s beginning to filter that through a whole different grid. He thinks she’s using this topic as an opportunity to send a message that she doesn’t like him. She’ll even say, “I don’t like him,” you know; but she loves him. In a man’s world, you know, this becomes a feeling: “You know what? I think she has nothing but disrespect for me.” We lose energy—
—men serve and die for honor. When we feel dishonored, we will close up. Men are motivated by honor/ by respect. Men literally give their lives on the heels of honor; and when they feel dishonored, there is mutiny—they will not perform; they will shut down; they lose energy.
Well, we’ve made the case—and women were getting it, because women are not mean-spirited—they really want what’s best. It’s kind of like: “Wow!”—lightbulbs all over the place—“No one told me this kind of thing.” And then mothers do what mothers do if they have boys: “You know, he’s a man in the making. I wonder—if I apply this to him, I wonder what might happen?”
Dennis, Bob, and Ron, they began to write me—mothers would write these letters of what they began to do to apply the respect vocabulary—what I call “respect talk” to their boys / just a few vocabulary words—and it blew them away. Women are always expressing love. They feel a little uncomfortable to say, “I respect that about you,” or “You’re a man of honor.”
They don’t necessarily just naturally default to that; but they began to do that—under my coaching—and began to write to tell me what happened. This book is the result of those testimonies.
Bob: Okay; I have to take us into a family, because I’m thinking about a mom and a 15-year-old boy. I’m thinking: “If there is an imbalance of respect between a mom and a 15-year-old boy, pretty much/usually, it’s the 15-year-old boy who’s not doing the proper respecting. I mean, 15-year-old boys are not known for being highly respectful of their parents. They can have a sharp tongue / they can have an attitude all of the time.” Now, a mom’s hearing you talk about this and going: “Hold on a sec! I’m supposed to talk with respect to this disrespectful 15-year-old? Explain that to me!”
Emerson: Yes; and that’s the first response, and understandably so: “Boys ought to respect mothers. What’s this idea that I ought to respect my son, especially because I know he doesn’t deserve it?” and “The way he treats me disrespectfully, after all I do for him, is insulting to me.”
The first obstacle is to clarify that.
We’re not saying that the boy gets a pass on this. I wrote the book, Love and Respect in the Family, that coaches a mother and father on how to help that boy be more respectful. But I know that the number one desire of a mother is to connect with her son, and every woman, [who’s listening,] understands that. In our male world, we don’t always understand when women say, “We’re connecting,”—you know—but every woman understands, “We’re connecting.” The longing of her heart is to connect with that boy.
If I could say to her: “If I could give you a few vocabulary words that would cause him to soften in his spirit and turn towards you and connect, would you be interested, even if he’s been a little disrespectful towards you? Do you want to be empowered to have the kind of influence to taste of that? It’s not a formula; but I can tell you that, if you practice a certain set of things that I’m going to share in my book that I do, it’s going to be far less negative and far less combative.” Not the least of reason—boys get disrespectful if they feel they’re being disrespected.
That 15-year-old boy—
—he’s misreading your heart. As we pointed out—again, if you’re coming across to him in a way that he thinks is dis-ing him, he’ll fight back. It’s called “Tit for tat.” So what you have to do is disarm that—you might say: “I’m spitting mad at you right now; but if you think I’m coming at you this way because I’m trying to dis- you or dishonor you, you’re wrong. You’re an honorable young man. Now, right now, what you did is not respectable; but I don’t want to send you a message that I don’t respect who you are. Let’s calm down for five minutes and come back and revisit this.”
I said: “If you use that kind of vocabulary, these boys will stay engaged on that,” and “If you’ve never done that, he might even start smiling at you.”
Ron: What are some of those key vocabulary words that you coach moms to use with their sons?
Emerson: It begins with just saying, “I’m not trying to be disrespectful.” Let him know your deepest heart. If he’s feeling that you’re really using this topic as an opportunity to send him a message that you despise him / that you find that he’s unacceptable—particularly where the culture is towards certain males; because they don’t respond like girls—then he’s beginning to feel like: “You know what? This is just another message that you find me unacceptable,”—
—particularly if you found him doing something that he shouldn’t have done—and he’s feeling the shame. He has a difficult time not associating that confrontation with what maybe happened last week.
It’s just important: “I’m not trying to dishonor you. How do I say this in a way that you don’t feel that I’m really trying to send you a message of disrespect? Coach me here for a little bit.” It doesn’t hurt to step back from the issue and talk about the overall dynamic—ask the question. That, in and of itself, will soften him. Just as a father would say to his daughter: “I don’t know how to do this loving thing like I should. You know, my dad—he wasn’t loving, and I have the same tendencies. How do I say this in a way that you don’t think I’m just trying to be unloving? Help me here!” Every daughter will stay engaged with that—she hears her mother tongue. The same thing—boys have a mother tongue. When they hear it, they will respond; and it begins with saying, “I’m not trying to say this disrespectfully.”
Ron: So, use the word “respect” and “disrespect.”
Emerson: Correct; correct.
Ron: Say, “I’m trying to honor you, not dishonor you.”
Ron: You alluded to something there I’d love for you to unpack a little bit more. What’s behind feeling disrespected?
For boys and for us men, what do you think is the fear that’s behind it? If I feel disrespected by my wife or my mom—whatever the case may be—what’s underneath that for me?
Emerson: Jesus said, “The spirit’s willing, but the flesh is weak.” When the three disciples fell asleep—with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane—He said, “Your spirit is willing, but your flesh is weak.” Jesus distinguished their failings in their flesh from their inner spirit.
What we’re up against is—when we confront a boy, in particular—and the female brain research points out that teenage girls want to be liked / teenage boys want to be respected. So is that rooted in the narcissism of the male, which some would say it is: “It’s all about the male ego”; or is there a need that the boy has, and he filters it through what I call the “blue grid” as opposed to the “pink.” When these tensions rise / when this conflict and this confrontation rises, he’s feeling or he’s thinking: “Maybe, you have contempt for who I am, in my deepest soul. You really find me despicable.”
Ron: “I’m inadequate”?
Emerson: “I’m inadequate,” yes; exactly. “You don’t respect me because you find me inadequate.”
The inadequacy leads to the feeling of being disrespected—that: “You find me unacceptable.”
Now, if you confront the behavior—every great male leader / male leader of other men will always confront behavior as: “Where was your brain, you idiot?! You’re the best player I have on this team, but what were you thinking when you did that?” See, he distinguishes what he did from who he is, as a human being, and the worth that he brings, and that inner heart.
What one has to do is—give what is called, in the academic circles: “Unconditional positive regard toward the spirit of the person.” Now, some people think, “Well, I can’t do that when I’m mad.” You can do that when you’re mad. It’s word choice that does that. You can be spitting mad and say, “I believe in you,”—
Emerson: —you know—“You’re an honorable young man, but what were you thinking when you did that?! I asked you ten times to do this; you said you were. You’re a man of integrity—I, for the life of me, can’t understand this; because who I believe you to be and what you just did there don’t jive with me.”
Ron: What I just heard him say is—in the case of a mother and a son—
—it’s the heart of the son that she is either affirming—and who he is—and she believe in who he is; and that he is enough—or, by being disrespectful, she is saying to him: “You are not enough. You are inadequate.”
Emerson: Well, and let me insert the research that Shaunti Feldhahn has done. She called me one day and she said: “Emerson, the decision analysts out of Houston want to do a random sample of the American male. We have a series of questions. Here’s one that I’d like to ask; what do you think?” The question was this: “Would you men rather be left alone and unloved in the world or would you rather be viewed as inadequate and disrespected by everyone?” Almost 74 to 75 percent of the men said they’d rather be left alone and unloved in the world. Men are extremely vulnerable to the feeling that you see them as inadequate and you don’t respect them.
So now, it raises the question: “Is that rooted in male narcissism and egoism?” or “Is there something here based on what Jesus said, ‘Have you not read; He who made them from the beginning made them male and female?’”
Bob: I wanted to ask you about that; because I’m sitting here, thinking that there are some moms, who are going:
“Well, now, wait. I’m supposed to treat my boys different than I treat my girls? Shouldn’t I be respectful of both my sons and my daughters? Don’t my sons and daughters both need to be affirmed, and encouraged, and respected?” We live in a culture today that is obscuring gender differences, and you’re writing about mothers and sons. Speak to that.
Emerson: Right; right. Well, no; absolutely. We all need love and respect equally, like we need food and water—so yes, girls need respect / boys need love and so and so forth. I like to give this illustration—let’s suppose you have a 15-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl. Let’s just say they’re twins or whatever. As a mother, you know she’s done something wrong. You come in and you just vent on her. She then comes back, and she’s negative—she says something to you / you say something to her—and then this continues on / continues on. Then, finally, she says, “Well, I shouldn’t have said it that way, Mom”; and then Mom says: “Well, you know what? I shouldn’t have said what I said. Honey, I’m really sorry. Honey, I’m really sorry; will you forgive me?” “Yes, Mom, I forgive you.” Now they’re on the bed, legs crossed, and they’re now talking about all the things they’re feeling / they’re kind of wiping away the tears. For the next 30 to 40 minutes they talk, and they feel wonderful.
Next night, the 15-year-old boy does the same thing the 15-year-old girl did. Mother just vents on him, and he shuts down.
Emerson: He just doesn’t say a thing—just stonewalls/withdraws.
The brain research—female brain research points out that boys are very sensitive to the perception that you’re disrespecting them. Girls need respect, but that girl does not interpret that conflict with her mother as the mom’s attempt to send a message she didn’t respect her. In fact, she intuitively probably knew the mom was provoking her to “Get us to talk about this.”
It comes down to this issue: “Is there an XX / XY chromosome?” and “As that research has said boys need to feel that you respect them for who they are. You can label that narcissistic, or is it a need?” If you just tenderly meet that need by saying, “I’m not trying to be disrespectful here,”—just put it out on the table—that’s all you have to do: “I’m not trying to dishonor you.”
I say to mothers, “Just watch what happens.”
You can hijack the conversation and say, “Boys ought not to feel that way,” because somehow you think we’re dismissing women in that conversation. Okay; hijack it, but now we’re forget that precious boy. What I’ve found is that mothers don’t want to forget that precious boy. In the cultural debate, they’ll forget the boys; but no mom will forget her boy. She’s listening with all ears right now, because she wants to connect with him.
Dennis: Let’s go back to what Bob was hinting at, though. He was talking about: “Is there a biblical DNA here? Is there a difference between male and female like you talked about?”
Emerson: Well, I believe what Jesus said in Matthew 19:4, “Have you not read He who made them from the beginning made them male and female?” We can argue all day long, because of political reasons. I get that—I understand the arguments that are out there. But I’m going to tell you what I believe, based on what Jesus Christ said and what I see in Genesis 1, that God made us male and female.
Now, I’m saying we need to understand our boys; we need to understand our girls. Every father needs to know his daughter is not a male.
Dennis: And, isn’t there a hint, though, in Ephesians, Chapter 5, that that difference is fully in place as it commands a man to love his wife, as Christ loved the church; and he commands the wife to respect her husband?
Emerson: That’s exactly the point and why I wrote Love and Respect, because I take the position—two levels: one, she has a need for love from her husband in a way that he doesn’t necessarily have this. She’s not commanded to love. There’s no command of the wife to agape love her husband, but she is commanded to put on respect in Ephesians 5:33, as well as 1 Peter 3. Apparently, she’s going to love, naturally, I suppose—she does it naturally, so she doesn’t need the command.
I believe that he has a need to feel respected for who he is, apart from his performance; and she has a need to be loved. Now, if that difference is there, it really brings about a lot of harmony if we don’t fight this as much as to simply say to each other, “Honey,”—say to your wife—“Did I just come across in an unloving way? I see you deflated here. Did I step on your air hose?” Almost every woman I know will soften and actually express appreciation for the sensitivity.
And then, she’ll move in what we call the apology: “Oh, I shouldn’t have said what I said. I was worse than you, really.” Women move in—it’s axiomatic—where they say, “I’m sorry.” Women want to connect and reconcile very quickly—on the heels of a husband saying: “I was unloving. Will you forgive me?” If he does that authentically, I don’t know of a woman on the planet who doesn’t soften.
I was being interviewed by a woman in Canada—a syndicated television program—and I said, “If a man just said: ‘I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?’ she’ll soften.” The woman, literally, fell off the chair, saying, “I’m softening just hearing you say that.” [Laughter] She fell off and everybody cracked up.
The flip side: “Why would God command a wife to respect her husband?”—because he’s superior that she needs to give him…?—no! It’s because he has a need to know that you don’t find him inadequate—that you believe in his deepest heart, as you were saying earlier. When you communicate: “I’m not trying to say this because I’m trying to dis- you. I’m actually needing reassurance of your love, and I need your strength. How do I say this in a way that you don’t think I’m dishonoring you?” Every man I’ve met will soften and move toward his wife rather than away from her.
We can argue all day long that maybe this ought not to be. What I just say is: “Put your little toe in the warm water and see if it feels good. Test it out. Go ahead and just do this. Don’t be afraid of this, and watch what happens.” I’ve just seen again and again, particularly mothers and sons—as well as husbands and wives—but mothers and sons in this book—the mothers started doing this. They write me, and they are blown away by how simple it is—that’s the point I want to make.
Bob: One of the reasons we asked Ron to be a part of this interview is because he works with a lot of blended couples. In the same way that a mom has a desire to connect with her son, a stepmom is longing for a connection to emerge with a stepson. She didn’t have the first five years, or the first ten years, or however long was missing—she didn’t have the building blocks of that—so, all of a sudden, he’s in her care at age 13; and she’s begging for that connection to happen. Ron, you’ve seen how, sometimes, these moms will stumble in their attempt to try to make that connection happen.
Ron: Right; and a stepmom’s going to do the same thing that a biological mom’s going to do—that Emerson’s been talking about. She’s going to lead with who she is, and her emotion, and how she communicates, and her style.
If she does that with a stepson, with whom she’s trying to bond / trying to establish connection and trust—not sustain it / not grow it—that’s what a biological mom has. A stepmom’s trying to grow that from the very beginning. And if she leads with: “Oh, by the way, stepson, you’re inadequate. You’re a failure. You’re not enough,”—right?—if those are the messages she inadvertently gives off, well, all that’s going to do is close his heart even further; right?
He’s trying to figure out: “If I’m going to open my heart to you / if I’m going to lean into you, and what place you’re going to have in my life...” But if he’s hearing from her, “Boy, you’re unacceptable, as a person,” well then, his heart’s closing off: “She’s unsafe. I don’t need you in my world,” / “I didn’t need you,”—possibly—“anyway. I have a biological mom,” or whatever the case is for that young boy.
But now, he has another reason not to trust her. That’s going to be exceedingly difficult as he’s trying to bond with her.
What I love about what Emerson is saying—is that everything he’s written about in this book is going to apply to stepmoms in their role as well. It’s going to give them wisdom about how to come alongside and form that initial bond with their stepsons.
Emerson: Well said. And it makes even more sense if they’ve recently come together; and he has an attitude toward her, which you recognize clearly, and that attitude is going to be there. She could feel very unfairly treated / very disrespected; and so she’s on the defensive, particularly if he says things, you know, in his immaturity.
Can she get above that and stay on message here?—and just say:
I’m going to confront you. I’m not trying to dis- you / I’m not trying to dishonor you. I believe that what I’m saying is true and right, and I’m not always going to be right. We’re going to have a dance here—you tell me when you feel I’m dishonoring you; but at the same time, I’m not going to back off of what I believe.
Am I always going to be right?—absolutely not!
But I’m going to confront you as best I can by respecting you. I hope you’ll give me the same benefit, because you’re becoming a man of honor; right?—deal?
Now, we’re not going to like each other at times—I get that—but we’re probably going to help each other here if we do it this way, thinking in terms of how we can respect and honor; because it would be very disappointing to you if I dishonored and disrespected you, week after week. It would be very unfair.
Ron: And let me just add to that—if this young boy heard his stepmom using that same language to her husband / the boy’s dad—that’s a double-edged sword; right?—because what he hears her saying to his father is also a statement to him: “It is not just about my dad; but if you talk to my dad with disrespect, I’m a piece of him. What you’re saying is—I’m also not good enough.”
Emerson: Oh yes; oh, yes.
Ron: So that’s a double-edged sword.
Emerson: That’s huge.
Ron: When she shows respect both to her husband and her son, it’s just going to open up those opportunities for them to connect.
Emerson: Yes; and it’s important that we understand—this does not cause a woman to lose power—you’re actually gaining power.
Every woman listening has to trust us here—it feels uncomfortable to you—that, somehow, you have to be nice, and just acquiesce, and give license. What we want you to know—and I articulate this in the book: “No.” As I’ve tried to communicate already: “Be emotional; be truthful; be in their face—just be disarming by putting in some of those words.” Please hear me: “This is actually going to empower you if you do this correctly.”
It also works, powerfully, with many single mothers, who have written me. We have a lot of stories in here—she’s, you know, just overwhelmed with a 16-year-old boy—she’s trying to do this on her own. I have letters here from mothers who began to apply this and were absolutely blown out of the water.
Dennis: And I’m sitting here, listening to you, Emerson; and I’m reflecting back on my mom. She didn’t read your book—[Laughter]—but I’m just trying to think: “Did I ever hear the word, ‘respect,’ from my mom?” I don’t recall hearing it. What I do remember is what you were just talking about—I would, overall, characterize my mom as having respected my dad.
I think some of that spilled over to me—not perfectly—she was a fireball / she was quite a personality. I love my mom.
The power of a mother in a boy’s life for good or for not-so-good is there. The question is: “How are you going to use it in the life of your son?” I’d just say to all the moms—and maybe to some grandmothers out there, who have a daughter who needs to read this book, who’s raising some boys: “Get this book.” You know what I said when I saw the book? I had you sign it to my daughter, Ashley—seven sons.
Bob: —the mother of seven.
Dennis: Seven sons. Do you think she needs to practice this? [Laughter] I think so. I think there are a lot of our listeners, who do, too, Bob.
Emerson: Well, and 28 foster kids—so I said at the end of this [speaking slowly]: “Breathe easy. Breathe easy.” [Laughter]
Bob: Maybe we should send her seven copies of the book; do you think?
Dennis: No, no, no.
Bob: We could do that.
We have copies of the book available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order as many as you like, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com—go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—the book is called Mother and Son: The Respect Effect. Love is important, but it’s respect that’s the key to your son’s heart. The author—Emerson Eggerichs, who’s been our guest today. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, this past weekend, we had hundreds of couples joining us at one of our eight Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways that we hosted in cities all across the country. Among that group were a number of pastors and their spouses. For years, we have been able to scholarship pastors and spouses to a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway; because we’ve had listeners, like you, who have contributed to the scholarship fund; so the money’s been there to cover the registration costs for pastors and spouses.
That fund is starting to get a little low. We’re asking listeners, here in April, if you would help us replenish the war chest so that we can continue to make the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway available for pastors and spouses. In fact, you might want to mention this to your pastor and encourage him to get away for a weekend with his wife and have the two of them enjoy some marital enrichment. If you’d like to help other pastors be at a weekend getaway, you can contribute to the scholarship fund, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate.
Again, if you designate the donation, it’ll go to the Pastors’ Scholarship Fund. If you’d like to contribute for the ongoing cost of FamilyLife Today—help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this program—you can contribute to the general fund as well. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to donate: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue talking about the relationship between mothers and sons. We’ll find out why your son / your teenage son is not hoping to have some kind of an extended heart-to-heart conversation with you that goes on for a couple of hours. Emerson Eggerichs will be here to explain that to us tomorrow. I hope you can tune in as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife® of Little Rock, Arkansas;
A Cru® Ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs?
Copyright © 2018 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.