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Recently I surveyed more than 200 adult female survivors of domestic violence and abusive marriages, asking about the relationship between their abusive ex-husbands and their mothers-in-law.
More than 96% reported that their abusive husband’s mother had exhibited patterns of enabling, enmeshment, and hyper-attachment, often combined with emotional unavailability, manipulation, and poor boundaries.
While every adult is 100% responsible for their own choice to abuse, it is valuable to take note of the trends that lay the groundwork for abusive husbands.
So mothers, if you want to raise your sons to be abusive husbands someday — here are 13 surefire ways to make him unfit for society:
1) Give him whatever he wants, whenever he wants it.
Never make your child wait for anything; he might cry! Crying will quite likely damage him permanently.
If he wants something, a good mother will drop whatever she’s doing and meet his desires immediately. Giggle encouragingly when he throws sassy tantrums. It’s especially helpful if you live in fear of your son’s temper as he grows older.
Reinforce his natural assumption that, as his mother, you exist to be the most fawning and adoring slave he’ll ever have (until he gets married, of course). Teach his sisters to do the same – run his errands, cater to his whims, submit her will to his.
The younger you ingrain this entitled mindset for him, the more successful he will be at manipulation, control, and self-centered dominance.
2) Rescue him from the consequences of his actions, while shifting blame to everyone else.
Refuse to allow your son to shoulder the brunt of his negative choices or poor behavior. Step in and divert any natural results that might help him learn a memorable lesson.
Shelter him from his own pain and whatever pain he intentionally or accidentally brings to others. Blame anyone and everyone else for your son’s failures to perform.
Whatever happened is always the other kid’s fault, the teacher’s fault, the school’s fault — but it can never, ever be his own responsibility. If someone else enforces consequences and you can’t prevent it, make sure your son hears you grumble about how unfair this is to him.
3) Pave the road smoothly so he rarely, if ever, must surmount his own obstacles.
Hard work is fine for some, but your son is better than that. Help your little genius along by removing as many challenges as possible so he feels good about himself without breaking a sweat.
Do his homework for him, build his class project, offer excuses when he makes mistakes instead of encouraging him to humble himself and make it right.
Of course, constantly remind him that he’s ah-mazing, even when he’s only invested mediocre energy.
4) Don’t require respectful manners or social courtesies.
Make apologetic excuses when he is rude or disrespectful. Refrain from intervening when your son acts thoughtlessly to peers and grownups.
Let him sit comfortably in the best chair while elderly persons are left standing. He’s just a kid, he can’t seriously be expected to stand up for long times or wait patiently. Say this out loud to nearby adults, so your son knows you don’t expect much from him in the way of social graces that require self-denial.
Reassure his burgeoning ego that his authority and status is equal to, if not greater than, the mature adults around him.
5) Praise him intermittently, especially for things he hasn’t actually earned.
Focus on external appearance — make sure he knows he is more attractive than all the other kids. Don’t merely tell him that he is precious to you, go ahead and inflate his sense of value beyond what he has actually accomplished.
Place excessive emphasis on public performances that enhance your image as a mother, and ignore any small thoughtful deeds he may do in private.
Also, every now and then, tear him apart for not meeting the standards you’ve got for him in your head. It doesn’t really matter if he knew your expectations, because a good son should have known without you needing to tell him.
6) Give him the full spectrum of your emotional attachment needs.
Especially if your husband is a jerk. Investing in your son emotionally is so much safer. After all, he belongs to you. He came from your body. He’s yours, unlike any husband ever could be.
And boys loooooooove their mamas, right? So max that out, mama! Keep the apron strings short. Make sure he knows he’s your favorite.
Oh, and of course… no girl will EVER be good enough for your fabulous son. Make sure as he gets older that every girlfriend knows you come first in his life.
7) Go hot and cold with your motherly attention and affection.
If he decides to do something you don’t like, give him the silent treatment for a month. Make him suffer if he doesn’t put you first. That’ll teach him.
Keep your son guessing as to whether you really love him as much as you say you do. Or, use his love for you like a weapon. Activate his son guilt like crazy when you’re disappointed in his decisions. And then pull away for a while.
8) Shower him with material things in place of quality relationship.
Forget investing quality time into teaching and learning. Skip nature walks and deep conversations and reading books out loud. Instead, make sure he values things far more than people.
Allow unsupervised, unfettered access to media, technology, TV, video games — anything to feed his pleasure centers and provide shallow entertainment. Keep his electronic addictions going strong, it’s a great way to keep him home close to you, after all.
9) Act like externals (i.e. skin color) are perfectly acceptable reasons to judge people.
Make him believe his own race is best, and people of other colors are not his equal. Imply that others are probably jealous of his superiority, or that society has it in for him because of his ethnicity, or both.
Reserve your acts of compassion and sympathy for those who fit your family’s racial and cultural comfort zone. Don’t let your son become close friends with kids from families who don’t look like him, and who don’t share a similar socio-ethnic background.
10) Avoid the time-suck of compassionate activities that bring zero personal gain.
Instead of setting an example of empathy and kindness to those around you, show your son how to be aloof, emotionally distant and disdainful toward anyone who can’t return an equal or better favor.
Let your son overhear you speaking with disregard and arrogance about others who are clearly beneath you.
11) Don’t give him chores or expect him to do “women’s work”.
Manage all household functions for him. Let him grow up believing that dirty work is beneath him. He is made for better prospects than getting his hands dirty.
His time is too precious to be spent folding his own laundry, helping to prepare meals, cleaning his own toilets, working in the garden, or make his own bed. He’s going to grow up to be someone who can pay other people to do the dirty jobs, right?
Be sure he knows you think he is better than work that makes him sweat; getting grimy is undignified for someone of his potential.
12) Encourage elitism.
Lead him to believe the whole world owes him, and it’s okay if he breaks the rules sometimes to get what he deserves. Model this lack of integrity in your own life, even when you think he’s not watching.
Remember, a robust self-esteem is far more important than rigid moral character, and reinforce this in your words and example.
13) Obsess about what other people think of you.
Whether you’re driven by a deep-seated need to be well-liked or a paralyzing fear of other people’s negative judgment, it’s ideal to generally disregard meeting people’s needs unless it presents an opportunity to have something good reflect back on you.
Model a constant awareness of what people think by verbalizing criticism and judgment on how others look, what they say, and why you’re essentially better than the rest of the world.
You can’t change your mother-in-law. And truth be told, she may not have known how to do any better than she did. But we can break the cycles. We can cultivate a lifestyle rooted in the powerful example of service, simplicity, and solid relationships, where your children have a fighting chance to grow up humble and grounded.
To achieve that, we as mothers have the obligation to live a life focused on loving, grace-filled character growth in ourselves and our children. We can choose to be unashamed of hard work, service to others, humble and kind to those who are different from ourselves, and unswervingly dedicated to integrity. And we can decide to expect these qualities from our kids.
When our children do well, we can praise their process and perseverance rather than merely noting their performance value. And when we see them doubting their ability to conquer something that appears impossible — perhaps even the daunting task of conquering and self-regulating themselves — we can encourage them with love and acceptance, going together to seek wisdom on our knees.
And even if we didn’t have mothers, or mothers-in-law, who knew to do these things… we can choose to be the mother who breaks that generational cycle and does it differently.