While teaching my classes online, speaking with customers at conventions, and swapping stories with my son who is also a teacher of homeschoolers, I have observed a troubling tendency among homeschooling mothers of teenage sons, a tendency pervasive enough that I feel compelled to say something. I do not want to unduly offend, but I want to speak to the problem as I see it. Here it is:
Do you mollycoddle your son? Stop it.
Once at a homeschool convention I was speaking to a mother, whose teenage son was standing next to her. She was seeking my counsel about how to get her son to speak up in public. “He won’t talk to anyone; he has trouble articulating his thoughts.” I turned to speak to the boy, asking something like “What do you like to do?” What happened next? Yes, you know what happened next. The mother answered for him. And to everyone watching, the cause of her problem was obvious. She was the cause.
Once I met a couple with their children at a homeschool conference breakfast. They were a very nice family, and obviously cared about their polite and docile children. When they learned that I had a degree in mechanical engineering with a math minor, they asked for counsel for their son, who was having trouble deciding between mechanical engineering and mathematics. I turned to the son and asked him some basic questions: Are you mechanically minded? Do you like working on cars, and taking things apart to see how they work? Or would you rather solve a proof in geometry? At first it went well; he did his best to answer my questions. But it didn’t last long before Mom couldn’t resist the temptation to start answering for her son. And the moment she did, he started shutting down.
More than once I have been teaching in my online logic class, with full video and audio, asking my students questions and trying to get them to interact, when it gradually became painfully obvious that, for the boy who was hesitant to answer, the mother was just off camera, spoon-feeding her son the answers she thought I wanted to hear. I said to myself, “What if this boy were in a classroom, with his mom sitting next to him whispering the answers in his ear for all his fellow students to observe?” Is this situation any different?
So if any of this sounds familiar, here is my advice. Stop speaking for your sons. Especially when they are there with you. You are part of the problem, not part of the solution. When you speak for your son, you are probably embarrassing him, and not helping anyone. You need to let him fall down, and get back up again. Let him take the hit; he needs it.
Is this problem limited to homeschool moms? No, dads and private schoolers can have the same issue. Are all homeschool moms doing this? No, of course not. But don’t let your knowledge of these exceptions excuse you from taking an honest assessment of your behavior with your son.
He wants to be a man. Let him.