Good sons need tough moms, says parenting expert

Christian Jimenez gives his mother Maria Velasquez a kiss on the cheek while helping her prepare the family dinner in the kitchen of the family home recently in Buford. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
Christian Jimenez gives his mother Maria Velasquez a kiss on the cheek while helping her prepare the family dinner in the kitchen of the family home recently in Buford. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

3 tips for raising sons

  • Claim your strength and don't let go — especially when he is a teen. Strong sons need tough mothers if they are going to grow into good men.
  • Keep a generation gap. Boys won't grow close to a mother they don't respect so be the mom, not a friend.
  • Don't allow excuses. Excusing bad behavior because they have ADHD, an absent father, no money or too few friends cripples boys.

     

     

Mothers of sons make two big mistakes, says Meg Meeker, author of “Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men.” They underestimate their influence over them and tend to “over parent.”

“We get messages from our culture that boys don’t listen to their mothers, that they don’t need their mothers and that boys are going to do what they want regardless of how we parent,” Meeker said, a pediatrician and authority on parenting teens.

Studies show, however, that mothers, not the culture, have the most profound influence over boys, she says.

“From identity formation to security and good character development in sons, mothers hold all the power,” she said.

Meeker said mothers are so anxious to do a good job that they do everything for their sons instead of asking them to do for themselves.

“When we do too much for young men, the message we send is, ‘I don’t think that you can do this on your own — you need my help’,” Meeker said. “The message that they need instead is, ‘You are more than capable of doing this on your own, so try.’ This message makes them feel masculine and strong.”

Figuring out what makes your son “tick,” Meeker said, is key not only to understanding him but being a good parent.

How do you know when you’ve done a good job of raising your son?

“I tell mothers that their job is to raise a healthy 25-year-old son,” Meeker said.

Why 25?

“Because we know that men don’t have full cognitive maturity until they are in their early 20s,” she said. “They don’t have sound emotional or intellectual maturity until this age.”

Meeker said she will know she was successful if her son lives and works independently, has a few good friends, a solid and good character and enjoys her company.

This Mother’s Day we talk to five metro area residents who believe their mothers got it right.

Abraham Xiong

The 44-year-old father of two is president and executive director of Government Contractors Association. He lives in Duluth. His mother, Say Yang Xiong, 71, of Dacula has eight children, 29 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

What is the most important lesson your mother taught you?

That love is shown through actions. She taught me this not with her words but with her loving commitment to serve our family. During the war-torn struggles of Laos, she carried me as a young child to safety. While I was hungry in the refugee camp, she gave me her ration of food. When we immigrated to the USA, she always worked long hours to provide for us. She never went to the movies or out to eat so that I can have the resources to attend college. She sacrificed so much for me, but to her it was merely an act of motherly love.

Do you recall a moment you knew your mother was proud of you?

When I walked across the stage during my college graduation. She looked in silence as others around her cheered. When she saw me later, she hugged me quietly with a deep sense accomplishment.

How did you feel?

When she embraced me after I graduated, I felt that all her sacrifices for me finally meant more on this occasion. She felt proud and I felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

When did you discover that your mother isn’t really crazy?

When I found myself doing some of the same things she used to do. I never knew why she worked late all the time. She would jump at the chance to work overtime hours. I preferred that she went to my soccer game after school. But as I have grown older and have kids of my own, I found myself working late hours doing my best to provide for my kids. It’s not that I want to miss their activities, it’s because I’m learning to sacrifice certain things to make sure that my kids have every opportunity to live a better life.

Kadeem Dunwell

The 23-year-old Decatur resident is chairman of Young Entrepreneurs of Atlanta Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps young adults become business owners, and co-founder of Fame magazine. His mother, Arnita Dunwell, 55, lives in Lithonia.

What is the most important lesson your mother taught you?

Keep the faith. Good things happen to those who work hard, but great things happen for those who work hard and keep their head held high.

Do you recall a moment you knew your mother was proud of you?

My high school graduation. If I could tell you the story behind everything that happened leading up to that day, I would probably cry as much as she did, except my tears would be more of laughter and shame of some of the silly decisions I made. I was a crazy kid.

How did you feel?

Awkward. My mother has always been the disciplinarian of my family, so to see her soften for the first time choked me up a bit. I knew I had done something special.

Have you discovered yet that your mother isn’t really crazy?

Not yet, but I love her regardless. Crazy gets the job done sometimes.

Christian Jimenez

Jimenez, 24, of Buford is a freshman at Georgia Perimeter College majoring in business administration. He is one of six children. His mother, Maria Velasquez, 45, also lives in Buford.

What is the most important lesson your mother taught you?

Compassion and hope. I think that is the reason why I (am pursuing) a career in helping others.

Do you recall a moment you knew your mother was proud of you?

The most recent one was when she said that she felt like I was fulfilling her dream of going to college. She felt like she was living vicariously through me, by seeing how dedicated I was in school and work.

How did you feel?

It made me realize that all my hard work was being noticed, and it gave me an extra boost of confidence, knowing that I was going in the right direction. It also made me realize that she had trust in my success.

Have you discovered yet that your mother isn’t really crazy?

I did not exactly think she was crazy. But I think that as I got older, around high school, I started to understand why she told me certain things.

Bill Hatherley

Retired from Federal Reserve Bank, Hatherley, 63, of Alpharetta, is an only child. His mother Muriel Hatherley died in 1999 at age 79.

What is the most important lesson your mother taught you?

To be kind and sensitive to others. I like to think I took this lesson to heart and now my life is filled with a couple of major volunteer organizations that give me immense joy. I absolutely love working with the American Red Cross. The other organization is Canine Assistants.

Do you recall a moment you knew your mother was proud of you?

As a young boy, my mother was always around for sports and other accomplishments and I knew she was proud of me, but it wasn’t until I got married and saw the way she cherished me, and my wife — her daughter-in-law — and held us in such high esteem. She was so proud and she didn’t hesitate telling anyone; friends or strangers or whoever was nearby.

How did that make you feel?

At first, being a bit immature, I was embarrassed but I quickly realized, when I looked at the situation from her perspective, she was so happy. She grinned and smiled and wanted everyone to know how proud she was.

Have you discovered yet that your mother isn’t really crazy?

I had a difficult time with this. I was a rambunctious and self-assured youngster. I thought I knew everything. It wasn’t until my wife and I invited foster children to live with us that I truly realized my mother was a saint. She had so much knowledge and wisdom. How did you ever get to be so wise?

David Taylor-Klaus

The 49-year-old father of three is an executive coach and owner of DTK Coaching. His mother Barbara Klaus, 72, lives in Atlanta.

What is the most important lesson your mother has taught you?

Being there for the people you care about is just what you do. I watched my mother stand by my father through 30 years of struggling with heart disease, and she never wavered. It was never a question. He needed her support, and she was there for him. When life gets rough, she’s always there.

Have you discovered yet that your mother isn’t really crazy?

I think as I’ve become an adult I’ve grown to understand that we’re all a little crazy. As a parent, I now understand how hard I made things for my parents sometimes.