On the way home from a wonderful vacation with Stan, I read Emerson Eggerichs’ latest book, Mother and Son: The Respect Effect. At one point, I turned to my husband and said, “So, I have one question. Where was this book thirty years ago?”

One husband. Four little boys. No daughters. Just lots of testosterone in my house as the years went on. I read many, many books on how to parent, how to be the best mom ever, how to grow healthy bodies, etc. However, the content in this book might have had the most positive impact on my relationship with my boys in the daily life of parenting.

Through our almost forty-five years of marriage, Stan and I have had many conversations about our needs for love and respect. But, even with my awareness of my husband’s need for my unconditional respect, I can’t say that I consciously thought about the concept applying to our four sons when they were young boys. Nurturing, motherly love, yes, but not necessarily their need for my respect. Certainly, I was mindful of my tone of voice and my body language (we can sure let them have it with body language, can’t we?) But conscious, purposed, intentional words of respect and honor (in addition to words of love) in the moment of disciplinary action…I can’t remember.

Emerson Eggerichs is an internationally known public speaker on the topic of male-female relationships and family dynamics. He is the author of the marriage book, Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs.

Some women who attended his marriage conferences began asking, “If a wife’s respectful demeanor ends up motivating the husbands to be more loving and respectable, wouldn’t this apply to my son also?” Women attendees sensed that if respect worked on the masculine souls of their husbands, then respect should work on the masculine souls of their sons.

Many women tried it with their boys and wrote Dr. Eggerichs with testimonies about how their relationships with their sons had improved and, in some cases, were transformed. Moms wrote about their sons from four-year-old boys to teens to adults. In his research, Eggerichs discovered that in leading books about boys he found little or no reference to the words respect or honor. None he reviewed said that boys need to feel respected for who they are as “men in the making.” In his many conversations with mothers, he also discovered that mothers coached their husbands on how to love their daughters, but no one was teaching them how to respect their sons.

What does respect look like with a mother and son?

“A mother’s respect is her positive regard toward her son, no matter what he does.”  –Emerson Eggerichs

What? Even when he is being disobedient? Eggerichs says, “Yes!”

He is not saying your son deserves respect. He says “your son will not respond to negativity and disrespect—not in the long term. He will resist or rebel against what he perceives as your contempt for him.”

What does this look like when a son is disobedient? Eggerichs says it will look one of two ways:

“Either a mother will show respect and positive regard toward the spirit of her son while confronting his wrongdoing, or she will show disrespect and negative regard toward the spirit of her son while confronting his sinful choices. There is no third option.”

Here is an example from the author of what this looks like in a conversation with your son:

“I do not respect your wrong choices. I am angry about those choices, and you will be disciplined for them. But, I believe in your deepest heart. I respect the person God made you to be and we will get through this moment.”

Unconditional positive regard does not come naturally to any of us. But, think about this statement from the book:

“Unconditional respect toward the spirit of a boy is the moral equivalent of unconditional love of a father toward the spirit of a daughter. The dad does not love his daughter’s sinful, fleshly choices. He loves her spirit in spite of that behavior. So, too, a mom does not respect her son’s sinful, fleshly choices. She respects his spirit in spite of that conduct.”

Eggerichs lists the following as what we know to be true from both research and observation:

  • Boys filter their world through the respect grid.
  • Boys tend to personalize the appearance of disrespect.
  • Boys are quieter about their need for respect.
  • Moms naturally default to love but have to consciously think about respect.
  • Modeling respect enables Mom to request respect toward herself and others.

There is much to unpack and digest in Mother and Son: The Respect Effect. If you want to learn more about the language of Respect-Talk with your son, here are some additional resources:

**Series of articles by Dr. Eggerichs on Focus on the Family: What Sons Need.

**Six Things God Calls You to do as a Parent  G.U.I.D.E.S.

**The Six Desires of Men and Boys: C.H.A.I.R.S.

**If you have been practicing Respect-Talk with your son and have seen positive results in your relationship, feel free to encourage others by leaving a comment below. **