What to Know About Sons Who Treat their Mothers Poorly


It’s pretty obvious that Ronin and Ethan don’t enjoy museums as much as me, but that’s okay. We go anyway. Here we are at the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art in 2019.

The relationship a son has with his mother is his first in the world. Her eyes are usually the first he sees right after birth, and her voice is the first he’s heard, both in the womb and out. Conception begins a relationship that would be fraught with emotions from then on.

As children exert independence, it is common for conflict to arise between them and their mothers and fathers. However, there are often other causes that result in sons who treat their mothers poorly that should be addressed in order for a more positive mother-son relationship to form.

As a mom to three sons, this topic is obviously close to heart. The relationship I have with my sons affects me deeply, like I imagine all mothers feel about their children. There is more to the answer of this question than just bad boy behavior.

What Science Says about Sons and their Mothers

There have been many studies about mother-daughter relationships and likewise, father-son relationships. However, not as much can be found regarding cross-gender studies such as mother-son and father-daughter. Nonetheless, what has been done is quite interesting.

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Moms with Sons On the Brain

Most all moms will tell you that their children are always on their mind. But now, science has proven it! At least when it comes to sons!

This study reported from the American Association for the Advancement of Science says that moms can carry pieces of their sons DNA in their brains with them their whole lives (the oldest mom showing this was 94 years old!). To be exact, 63% of mothers tested who gave birth to sons showed male DNA in their brains.

But what does this mean? Well, scientists have yet to prove any effect on the mothers, except there has been a correlation between the presence of male DNA and reduced occurrence of Alzheimer’s. Time will tell what else is to be learned from this remarkable fact.

Emotional Effects

I don’t think many mothers will be surprised, but researchers have found a lasting emotional effect from the mother-son relationship. A study from the University of Reading found that sons who did not develop a secure attachment in the early years to their mothers had poor behavior in their later years.

The results were indisputable that sons with insecure motherly attachments in their early years were more likely to show aggression and hostility later on. Therefore, there is a clear connection to the emotional development of sons based on their relationship with their mothers.

On the flip side, another study reports that sons who say that they had a good relationship growing up with their mother show better emotional health as adults, as well as decreases in mental disorders. This same study also showed a link between adult children with strong relationships with their mothers and those children having lower levels of daily psychological distress.

I for one would like to say, ‘let’s hear it for moms everywhere!’

To read more about the mother-son dynamic and what you as a mom can do to foster a healthy adult relationship with your child, here’s the Amazon link to a book titled Mother and Son: The Respect Effect by Dr. Eggerichs. This book looks at the mother-son relationship from a Christian perspective and explains more deeply about how respect plays a key role. And how this is Biblical.

TV Moms of Sons

Often times TV moms come to mind (right after our own) when we think of mom behaviors and how the family world is affected by them. When moms are happy; the family runs smoothly. When moms are upset, the family is turned upside down. Here are a few TV moms, who all happen to have sons, that made impressions upon me.

The Brady Bunch Mom

Let’s start with Carol Brady, who is by all accounts, the iconic TV mom, the best of them all. She was widowed early and married second husband Mike, a widower, bringing her three daughters to merge into family bliss with Mike’s three sons. Though drama was bound to follow a house with six children, Carol Brady never faltered as mom.

I remember one episode in which Bobby Brady was afraid his new ‘step mom’ would be mean like the stepmom in Cinderella, a story he’d just learned. Bobby spent most of the episode acting poorly towards his TV mom, giving her angry looks and not wanting to spend time with her.

Eventually, he confessed his concern about the evil stepmom and Mike and Carol set things straight again. Bobby realized his stepmom was nothing like poor Cinderella’s. He’s happy to know his mom would always be loving and caring towards him, and accepted him just like her biological daughters. TV lesson learned!

I recommend this full set of animated, tv, and film episodes for any Brady fan found on Amazon.

That 70s Show Mom

Then, there’s Kitty Forman. Kitty was the ‘drinking mom’ (but not too much, of course, or that would be a different show!); she also wasn’t above menopausal outbursts from time to time, and usually apologized afterwards, like a ‘good mom’ should.

She spent most of every show cooking and cleaning for her family on a whole, and for her son, Eric, in particular. She also spent a lot of time defending Eric’s lazy, whiny behavior. In her eyes, he could do no wrong.

Kitty wasn’t the perfect ‘Carol Brady’ mom, but she there was never any doubt that she loved her son without regret. From Kitty, we learn about a mother’s protection for her son. Her son would certainly crack some jokes at his mom’s expense, but he always knew he came first with her!

Ready to get groovy? Amazon has the seasons ready to stream on Prime.

Malcolm in the Middle Mom

Lois Wilkerson was the anti-Carol Brady mom, and no one would ever say she’s doting like Kitty Forman. And Lois wouldn’t apologize for it either. Her guard around her sons was never down!

She’s mom to five rambunctious, often naughty, sons who made her life a living hell! The only way for Lois to manage it all, seemingly, was with a very loud mouth, an all-seeing eye, and strict rules (for her sons and husband alike!).

Lois was no push-over and her boys had most definitely met their match with her. And I must admit, it was fun to watch them try!

The only thing we really can learn from the relationship of TV mom Lois and her TV sons is that family stick together. Whenever anyone came against any of them, that’s when mom and sons would close ranks and turn their venom outside. God help them!

This one too is on Prime video from Amazon.

Sons and their Mothers Across the Years

It should be said that the best life lessons don’t happen over night. There are things that take time to grow, or die. Seedlings take time to sprout their first green stems just as it takes time before you can say it’s not going to happen, too.

Such it is when raising your children. The relationship between a mother and a son doesn’t develop the instant the nurse puts the newborn babe in the mother’s arms. It’s the little day to day happenings that forge together to create the relationship, for better or worse.

Young Sons Who Treat their Mothers Poorly

Almost all young sons rebel somewhat against their mothers growing up. Moms are usually the ones day in and day out setting the house rules and enforcing them. Moms tell their sons when to get up, when to go to bed, and everything to do in between. It’s not surprising that there will be some push back.

As a young woman of 23 years, I gave birth to my first child, who also happened to be a son. I certainly didn’t know what I was doing as a mom, and he was my parenting guinea pig. It also didn’t help, I suppose, that he inherited his father’s stubborn streak, either!

What was clear is that despite 36 hours of hard labor and a resulting cesarean section, as well as his months long bout of colic, that I loved him with every fiber of my being. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do if it meant for him to be healthy and happy.

But did all that result in a wonderfully cooperative, well mannered son? On the contrary! Some might talk about terrible twos, but I experienced the terrible threes with Brandon (And if you want to talk about sons treating mothers badly, there were the sucky sixteens, but that’s another story!).

At some point in our relationship, he came to see me as nonthreatening. I’d come home from teaching foul-mouthed fourth graders in the inner city-quite successfully from school standards-all to face an insolent three year old who wouldn’t follow a simple direction!

I’d tell him to do something and he’d laugh at me! The nerve!

I remember reaching my wits end one evening and calling my husband Mat who was at work teaching martial arts, crying and ranting all about it. He said quite simply, “Jackie, if you can’t control a three year old, what are you going to do when he’s thirteen?”

I had no idea! But at that moment, I wasn’t concerned about thirteen-year-old-Brandon; it was the three year old Brandon I needed help with!

But of course, my husband didn’t leave it at that. He came home right away and after some stern talking to that may or may not have included a bit more, he put Brandon to bed.

Together we forged a plan of take-away…that is, take away all Brandon’s toys, puzzles, movies, etc…basically everything from his bedroom except his bed and blanket. I think we even removed the door!

After that, I had his attention. And before long, we were able to get back a proper respectful mother-son relationship.

Teen Sons Relationships with their Mothers

Playing games as a family is a great activity for mothers and sons.

Teen sons often play tug-of-war with their moms. Sons push boundaries while moms pull them back in, trying to keep hold a bit longer. Through it all, respect is a necessary component to maintaining a healthy relationship.

It seems that respect is key, in fact. Without laying this foundation-to expect respect-from sons as little boys, it is nearly impossible to establish that later on.

As a mom of teen boys, I’ve always expected respectful language from my sons. However, it is something demonstrated and modeled in front of them, too. For me to expect my sons to talk properly, not poorly, towards me, I first must show that.

I’ve never put my sons down, belittled their interests, or called them names. So I certainly wouldn’t expect that back.

Sometimes the poor behavior we see as outsiders looking in hides the parts we don’t see. If we see or hear a son talking poorly towards his mother, I wonder if that’s behavior he’s mirroring from what he saw/heard growing up.

If by chance this isn’t the case, then I urge mothers to ask their sons, why? What is it that is really bothering them to make them lash out in such a way? It might be just the thing to stop the behavior, for the son to take a moment to address the real problem.

Adult Sons and their Mothers

I’m now the mother of an adult son, too. At the time of this article, my son is 26. It is truly a surreal feeling when you become the parent of an adult child.

The relationship of a mother and adult son is special. If you have laid the groundwork of respect and communication, then it feels like you are finally reaping the harvest when your son is an adult. This is especially true when you had a son who treated his mother badly at least at times.

At this point, in a healthy relationship there is less boundary pushing and a lot more ease within your interaction. If you are like me and your adult son is also a parent, it is even more fulfilling. At long last, your adult child starts to see things from your parent perspective. What a blessing that is!

As a mom in this new adult-to-adult relationship, you must start to hear your child in a new way. His voice and viewpoints should be given more weight, much like you would any adult professing their opinions and ideas. That is, if you wish to have a mutually respectful relationship with your adult son-and to avoid your son treating you poorly.

Fathers of Sons Who Treat their Mothers Poorly

Here is my husband Mat and our twin boys, 12 years old at the time, on the tram at Disney World.

Fathers play a critical role in how boys treat their mothers. Fathers are the first role models for boys, whether they are present or not.

Yes, it is true that absent fathers model that mothers are not important and are unworthy of their time. Just because they aren’t ‘there’ to be heard doesn’t mean their actions aren’t received. They are…loud and clear.

Fathers teach their sons how to respond, what to say, what not to say, and more. The way a father behaves towards his wife, presumably his sons’ mother, speaks as much or more than words alone ever can.

As well, the way a boy’s father acts towards his own mother does too. If a father disrespects (or neglects) his own mother-the grandmother- that speaks volumes, as well.

All of this is to say that there is a lot that goes into sons treating their mothers poorly. That doesn’t just happen over night. Just like a healthy relationship is taught and nurtured to grow, so is an unhealthy relationship. Sons learn either way.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

And here is Mat and the twins at a plaza in London, November 2019. As you can see, humor is a vital part of good parenting in our opinion.

Sons Who Treat their Mothers Poorly Wrap Up…

As I said from the beginning, this is a topic close to my heart, and home. I’m a mother to three sons whom I love and cherish deeply, not to mention am proud to say we have a great relationship.

I can’t imagine being a mother whose sons regularly treat her poorly; I wouldn’t wish that on any mother, or son. I only hope that my musings here help someone avoid that path. Let’s look back briefly:

  • Science tells us that mothers retain their sons’ DNA in their brains, sometimes for their whole lives. Somehow I think there’s real meaning in this, that is maybe more than scientists would ever be able to explain.
  • Science also tells us that a healthy mother-son relationship is necessary for sons to have a healthy adult life.
  • Sons with good relationships with their mothers have less adult stress and decreased instances of mental disorders.
  • TV moms mimic the different kinds of mother-son relationships, with the more detrimental moms having the most negative relationships with their sons. Doesn’t this make sense? Shockingly, I guess TV sometimes gets it right.
  • Sons must learn early on how to respect their mothers in order for that to carry over into teen and adult years.
  • As sons become adults, it is also important, and Biblical, for mothers to show their sons respect as men.
  • Fathers play a critical role in their sons’ behavior towards their mothers.
  • Whether absent or present, a father demonstrates how to behave towards mothers. And this has quite the profound effect!
  • Healthy mother-son relationships must be fostered early on for successful adult relationships to occur.

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a Catholic mother of four, grandmother ("Oma") to two, and wife to Mat since 1994. She is a former public school teacher of 18 years, licensed in 3 states and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. In addition, she also taught education courses online as an adjunct professor, mentored numerous education interns, hosted professional development for educators, and tutored, as well as homeschooled.

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