Boundaries: Learn How To Say No To Your Son

At Dr. Leslie Inspires, we are all about empowering, encouraging, and inspiring mothers, women just like you who are struggling to raise their sons. Having a background working with mothers, working with sons, being the founder of a private school, I work with a lot of mothers that make excuses for their sons. They also make excuses for themselves, and a lot of sons learn that making excuses is acceptable because their mothers accept those excuses.


I want you to read this with an open heart because I am here to help you, just like the other moms I've helped. I'm here to make you aware, then empower and encourage you along your walk because none of us are perfect.


As I always say and as I always will say, this walk with the Lord is a walk that is a process and it's a daily process - you know you do good some days, other days not so good. But you have to look at each and every day and determine the change that you want to see and be determined to change it. But know this - nobody ever said it would be easy because if your son is older, then it definitely may be more challenging. But that's why we always advise mothers if their son is young, to try to nip it as soon as possible. This means from the very beginning when you see a temper tantrum to hitting back or talking back when an adult is speaking.


Even if you did not catch it at a young age, no matter how old your son is you have to stop making excuses for him. Our sons know what they want but they don't always know what they need. When our sons are spoiled or never given the opportunity to work through struggles, they won't be given one of the most important skills in adulthood, which is the ability to self-regulate. And I'm sure you know those adults

I'm referring to:

  • They are the ones who expect the world to revolve around them.
  • They come to work when they feel like it.
  • They explode over very small things and never seem to be happy.


Well in fact, in order to have sons who are content, work hard, and respect authority, the expectations need to be set in childhood. If this is what you want for your son then consider the following common excuses mothers make for their sons during childhood:

  • "He did not get enough sleep and that's why he's doing that!"
  • "Oh, he's just bored, that's why he's cutting up at school."
  • "You're not challenging him enough."
  • "He's gifted. That's why he's acting out at school."
  • "You know Boys well Boys."
  • "Your child is bothering my son."
  • "Well, you know he has ADD/ADHD/bipolar."
  • "You know he never had a father in his life."
  • "He's got a problem."


Mom, those are high on my list of excuses because I have heard them all! And those are the ones that I hear the most. I understand our sons encounter different issues, but your excuses have only enabled your son to repeat bad behavior with consequences, without the correct consequences, or without consistent consequences.


When I refer to inconsistent consequences, you may be wondering what I mean. Well, that's when you say something and mean it at that moment, but then your son knows how to wear you out. He knows how to come back for round 2, round 30; he's watching you closely trying to determine the best time to come in to ask again because now you've softened up. You may have actually forgotten about it and you're in a better mood, giving him the ability to get what he wants.


I promise you, even if your son is six months old, he is watching you. He masters his behavior with you. As he gets wiser, he molds his craft on how to get you to make excuses for him. So, that means you said one thing, but you didn't follow through; you didn't stick to it. Your son watched that behavior and will apply it to his own situations. 


Children usually exhibit bad behavior at an early age with parents that are just too tired. Mothers who are too tired — we're not talking about the father right now. We're talking about mothers who are too tired to correct the bad behavior. Those are the mothers that allow it to continue, permissive parents that give in. Many mothers fear that the consequences for bad behavior are too strict and are not loving. You feel like your son won't love you. You feel like he might feel like you don't love him because you're being too strict. But I promise you, without correction, the child continues the bad behavior. 


Most mothers are embarrassed when their child misbehaves. Some look at other parents, blaming them when their child misbehaves. Some mothers blame themselves; they know that they have allowed their child to continue to use bad behavior. Excuses make some mothers feel better. Mothers who make excuses for their son's bad behavior are actually teaching their son to use those same excuses. 

That mom is using that. 

You are using that. 

I am using that. 


We are using it in other areas of their life, so as a result, your son continues exhibiting bad behavior and you, Mom, accept it. 


You don't want to, and you know that you probably shouldn't, but you do. 


From a school standpoint and from an educator standpoint, it hurts me. Now, it is a little bit different from a private school and public school because I can have a different relationship with him. With mothers at the private school level, there is more of a personal relationship. One where I can say these things to them and help them understand what I'm seeing from my end…and just allow them to parent, you know? They are usually trying to be the mother they know that they need to be and are more receptive to my suggestions. 


That's how this whole Dr. Leslie Inspires got started. Because I realized that this making excuses thing, this thing of manipulation, this thing of not being able to say no to our son…is serious. Serious. And as an educator, we see your son, we deal with him. You deal with him on one level, we deal with him on another level. So, sometimes we can see things that you can't because we're seeing him operate with his peers. We’re seeing him operate with others even as it relates to coming to school early or coming to school on time. I've seen so many mothers make so many excuses as to why they are late— why their child is late. But mostly, why their son is late when she brings him to school. But the excuse is him: he woke up late, he didn't get up this morning, he didn't have his clothes washed, he couldn't find his uniform pants, etc. So, as a mother, one of the ways we can help with that is to help them at night. That is, if you know that’s a sore spot for him, start reminding him at night. Don't wait until the morning when you know he's going to need things. And nine times out of 10, he's going to be up on that game or he's going to be up talking to some girl or doing something that keeps him up longer. Even if he's six months old, still in his crib. Maybe you say his clock is off; I had that challenge with one of my children. Their clock was off—they slept in the day and were up at night. So, when you came in in the morning everything was on the floor, no longer in the crib. 


We have to make some excuses because their same internal clock may continue. So, what do you do? In my opinion, many times when the mom makes excuses for her son, she's also making excuses for herself. I think it’s also what goes into the excuses—who she's giving the excuse to. Someone who she knows is going to receive it, someone who may not call her to the carpet. That’s usually a male figure, depending on the male. A male, but not necessarily a real man, or somebody who is a little soft— who's going to receive her excuses and the excuses that she's making for her son. 


Have I said anything that resonates with you? 


If not, I may not be talking to you. I may be talking to your neighbor or friend. But usually, when a man steps up, he is expecting no excuses. That's why there needs to be a balance. Because women can see those excuses and all of that behavior coming from the little girl. That's the benefit of having a male around or his father around. Because he could say as a man, “Boy, go upstairs and clean up that room. I don't care what you were doing, we're not leaving here until that room is cleaned up.” And it better not be a piece out of place. Because if you allow him to keep the lid on the floor, or you go up there and see that the room is really not cleaned to a certain standard or whatever it is he was supposed to do, guess what? Your son is not learning how to create a standard for himself. I guarantee you, when he gets older, trust me…he's going to keep some of the standards that you have taught him. Even as it relates to making excuses. Or, he's going to tell you the standards that you did not teach him. Oh yes, they come back. They come back and tell you everything that you did not do or that you did not teach them. 


I tell you what, I like to be on the other side. My children have come to tell me some of the things that I did not do. There comes a point in time where you know some of the things that you did not do. You know some of the things that you are not doing right now, but you may need some help in terms of actually doing them. And I will tell you that you want to be on the other side— by being the more strict person, the firm person who taught your son boundaries. Opposed to him being brought up in an environment of lawlessness to where he was allowed to do whatever he wants. Because then, you'll be going to see him in jail—then you'll make another excuse. This excuse is usually to the judge, and guess what the judge is going to say because he or she hears so many excuses throughout the course of the day?


I remember I went to jail with a student to speak on his behalf because he seemed to have been doing so much better. I told the judge how he was doing really good and doing what he was supposed to, and the judge said, “Of course he is. He has nothing else to do; he's sitting in a cell all day long.” That made me think…he was absolutely correct. That is why many times when they go to jail, the demon is gone. So, now they see the things that they have done; they can see clearly. But something happens when they get out. A lot of times either they learned it, or they didn't—and they’ll go right back to making the same excuses that they did before they went in. 


So, we have to stop making excuses for our sons and seek out help. And, I will tell you something about seeking out help: if your son is a person, and I don't care how old he is (because some of these six and seven-year-olds know too much) you know they act grown. They're doing grown folks…grown men type things, exhibiting grown men behavior—and that's why some of them face harsh charges at a young age. Because it's like how did this boy even know how to get in this situation?


When you have a son who just doesn't want to do anything, he has gotten into that place. One where you've made so many excuses and you've done so many things for him that he doesn't know how. And now, he's not even interested in doing anything for himself. But you, Mom, you want him to do so much. You believe in him…believe in him more than anybody on the planet. You’ve got hope for him, more than anybody on the planet. People have tried to help him; people want to help him but after they see that your son is only going to make excuses for his bad behavior or his lack of whatever, it deters them. Your son knows that you believe in him, that you want more for him and you want better for him. You've asked so many different people to help him, but he won't help himself. So, people are tired and don't want to help him. 


There's a place where you know you have to really pray and ask God to help your son. To help bring that right person who believes in him and won't give up on him. Because we've got some 30, 40, and 50-year-old boys who are determined to do nothing, and it is very challenging for other people. They might try once, but they won't try twice. They won't try 1000 times like you, and you can't force people to because they have their own things going on. They've got their own lives and their own challenges. Maybe they have their own son that they're dealing with and still trying to help you, as best they can. But, Mom, don't get mad. Please don't get mad at people that you feel won't help your son; he has to want to help himself first. 


People will help those who help themselves. If someone comes into your life and they see that your son is trying, they will be more willing to help. They’ll also be able to see when you're making excuses. “They keep doing him dirty” or “They keep doing him wrong”…no, no, no. I see what's going on and because I've been doing this for so long, I see through it. I've seen children, I've seen boys growing up, small all the way to adulthood. And I will say to myself “that boy is going to be in jail one day”. He's on his way to jail. Most times, if there is no father in the picture, people often blame things on “he didn't have a man in his life”, thinking the excuses only are because he came from a single parent home. That is not always the case, believe it or not. That's why I have vowed to have this conversation; I stay in prayer to do it. 


Why? Because there are some men growing up this way. They grew up with a father in the house, but what happened? The father did nothing is what happened; he watched the mother. Maybe you know somebody like this? A father who just watches the mother and allows her to do any and everything. She wears the pants…but that's another conversation. 


I have a course, Sons Speak Loudly in Quiet Desperation, where you can hear some of the thoughts of young men. About how they feel from age 16 to men in their 50’s. What I realized after doing the interviews for that course is a lot of men were angry at their fathers; I couldn't believe it. They were angry at them because of what the father did or did not do or because he was not there. If you purchase that course, you’ll see that those men told it because they were healed. They realized that they could no longer make excuses for their fathers because he wasn't there. They realized that they were angry and headed to seek out therapy and counseling. So you know, for Dr. Leslie Inspires, I'm a coach but I'm not a therapist. I could have gone that route and maybe should have, but I feel like by being an educator I can be so many more different things that suit my taste. I like to deal with people. I like to talk to people. I like talking to mothers, I even like talking to the men to find out what is going on and they usually talk to me. There is so much interest here because men are hurting because something is missing. There's a void, going all the way back to the father, who is in the household with this boy.


I invite you to return each week as we continue to explore the topic of mother-son relationships from different angles. In the comments, I’d love for you to tell me what resonated with you or what you’ve seen in the mothers in your life.


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