Single mothers raising sons are in the unique position of trying to be both mother and father to their boys. This is certainly the case for Tara, a single mom raising sons. In her efforts to fill the roles of both parents, she has tried to teach her 21-year-old son how to be a man — but has made a classic mother mistake in her attempts: Tara has focused more on what her son shouldn’t do than what he should.
In an episode of “Oprah’s Life Lessons” about single mothers raising boys, Tara’s 21-year-old son Jordan says that, despite his mother’s efforts, she simply can’t teach him how to be a man. “She can teach me how to love, but only my father can teach me how to be a father. Only my father can teach me how to be a husband. She can’t do that,” the fatherless son explains.
In her efforts to teach her son how to be a man, Tara seems to have focused on what her son shouldn’t be doing, a tactic that Jordan says played a large role in shaping him as an adult. “I’ve spent my whole life trying to not be my father,” Jordan says. “I spent my whole life trying not to be somebody instead of trying to be somebody.
Iyanla Vanzant, a single mother herself, says that Tara’s misguided focus is quite common. “She made the classic mother mistake, which is focusing on what you don’t want — ‘I don’t want the streets to get him. I don’t want the drugs to get him. I don’t want him to do this,’” Iyanla says, before turning her attention to Tara. “But did you ever affirm to him what you did want for him? ‘I want you to feel good about yourself. I want you to feel strong.’”
Iyanla says that she, too, made this mistake with her own son, who helped her realize it while he was in prison. “He said to me, ‘You always told me what I shouldn’t do. You never told me what I could do,’” Iyanla recalls. “He said, ‘You always told me what to think so that when I thought on my own, you made me wrong for it’… I was so afraid he was going to fail that I forgot to affirm his success.”
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