It is a trend that has been occurring with increasing frequency over the past thirty years – Mothers raising their sons by themselves or with an emotionally absent father. Bringing up a child alone is not an easy task to handle. When the child is of opposite gender it can be especially challenging. This is caused by not having the benefit of knowing from a boy’s viewpoint what your son is going through as he develops and matures, and not having his father’s built-in knowledge as a guide. Of course the same can be said for a dad raising his daughter, which I completely understand now that I have the wonderful blessing of my young daughter and my loving wife to help me as my guide. However, moms alone with their sons is a situation that is near and dear to my heart as I was raised by my mother alone, and I have made it a personal mission to help mothers recover a healthy connection with their sons.
In my practice over the years, I have been fortunate to be able to assist many single mothers and their sons with building solutions to help make their lives better and heal their emotional wounds. In addition, I have had many mothers in my practice who were still married to their husbands, but due to a variety of factors (the main one being the husband’s unwillingness to make his son one of his primary priorities in his life) were solely responsible for the raising of their son. The dynamic between the single mom and the mom married but fully responsible for their boy’s development by themselves is so similar that I have coined a category called the “Solo-Mom.” The determination of the Solo-Mom is fierce as she tries to work through the trials and tribulations of a developing boy becoming a man while balancing her own life needs by herself.
The love between a mother and her son is very deep. The day to- day struggles of making sure your son’s needs are being met without emotional or financial support from his father can be overwhelming. Not to mention the innate need to help him become a good person as he grows up being consistently challenged by his developing personality that appears to come in and out like a distant radio frequency. When the son becomes especially troubled, an undercurrent develops between the Solo-Mom and her son who is laboring to understand himself. This undercurrent comes to culmination as traits that are developed from the methods in which mom and son communicate (or a lack of communication) with each other. More often than not, a reactionary relationship is established which eventually becomes a power struggle. How this struggle plays out is based on the personality type along with the communication methods of both the mom and her son. To qualify the different types of Solo-Mom and troubled-son power-struggle relationships, I uncovered four distinct classifications for each.
Let’s start with the classifications of the different types of troubled sons. Using a spectrum for both the personality type and the basic communication style that your son tends to utilize, a manner in which he acts and reacts starts to take shape. Taking a measurement of each spectrum will lead to the individual classifications. The spectrum of the troubled-son’s personality type ranges from Shutting Down (introverted) to Acting Out (extroverted), and the range of communication style that the troubled-son uses moves from Detached to Engaged. The classifications of troubled-sons that arise from these measurements are the Mini-Man, Mama’s Boy, Solitary Son, and Rebel.
For the sake of brevity, a brief description of each troubled-son type is made here: The Mini-Man son combines extroversion with engaged communication which results in qualities such as being very personable, passive-aggressive, demanding, low frustration tolerance,
and a genuine concern for others. The Mama’s- Boy is engaged in his communication style along with being introverted and exhibits characteristics such as being composed, manipulative, concern for others, passive, and avoidant. The Solitary son is introverted and detached which results in traits such as being withdrawn, angry, indifferent, passive-aggressive, and disconnected from others. The Rebel son mixes extroversion with being detached and displays mannerisms that include hyperactivity, anger, aggression, confrontation, and disillusionment.
Now for the different types of Solo-Moms, the spectrum of the Solo-Mom’s personality type ranges from Restrained (introverted) to Energetic (extroverted), and the range of communication style that the Solo-Mom tends to utilize moves from Wavering to Decisive. The classifications of Solo-Moms are the Captain mom, Masculine mom, Friend mom, and Distressed mom.
The first quality all of the following Solo-Moms possess is caring. They all care in one form or another. The difficulty is getting the sense of care across to the troubled-son on the other end. In addition to genuine care and concern each type displays certain characteristics. The Captain mom is both energetic and decisive uncovering qualities such as being direct, controlling, influential, intense involvement, and assertive-aggressive. The Masculine mom combines being restrained and decisive and is logical, analytical, shrewd, direct, and has low frustration-tolerance.
The Friend mom is restrained in personality and wavering in communication style and presents traits of being indirect, passive, indecisive, ameliorating, and avoidant. The Distressed mom has an energetic personality style with wavering communication and has attributes of being passive-aggressive, dramatic in displaying emotion, involved, hyper-verbal, and persuasive.
Negative characterizations aside, the traits as listed above are used to determine a broad picture of the impact personality and communication has on relationships. The negative behaviors of the son and the difficulties the Solo-Mom has communicating with him are intensified when not in full awareness. The awareness creates ownership, and once we can own our behaviors, we can change them.
Knowledge is power and becoming aware of your son’s behavioral patterns as well as your own can make you empowered. My focus is to help Solo-Moms connect emotionally, mentally, and spiritually with their sons, who are hurting, troubled, angry, and acting out.
Through improving understanding of the dynamic that develops when a mother raises her son alone, and communicating more effectively between mother and son, a miracle occurs. The miracle of connection between two emotionally injured people who love each other is healthfully restored. Please don’t give up before the miracle happens.
Noel Neu, MS, LMHC is the CEO and clinical director of Empathic Recovery (www.empathicrecovery.com). Mr. Neu has been a clinician in private practice for over ten years and has developed programs for “Assertive Awareness” training, “Living your Truth” to build self-esteem, and helping families with addictions heal.