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Keeping The Mother-Son Relationship Healthy
Throughout human history, the relationship between mother and son has been considered special. Many women say that having a son gives them a sense of completeness. One woman confirmed: “It’s like I’ve found a missing part of myself through him.”
Patriarchal societies give more importance to sons. At times, “male targeting” can become obsessive. In India, special rituals are performed to invoke divine intervention in the bestowal of a son. Sons are required to preserve the lineage, care for parents in their old age, and ensure the salvation of souls after death. Thus, boys receive preferential treatment in terms of the best food, health care, education and protection. This ‘son preference’ has led to widespread female feticide in several countries, resulting in a skewed gender ratio.
Researchers at the University of Richmond in Virginia discovered that women develop a cluster of “maternal neurons” that act as “bad mother” or “good mother” switches in the brain. These clusters of brain cells, created during pregnancy and switched on after birth, are responsible for good or bad parenting. A certain number of neurons need to be turned on for “good parenting” to occur.
A team at Yale University is using brain scans to study the areas of the brain that contribute to good or bad motherhood. Dr James Swain says: ‘We have identified specific areas of the brain where there is a link between neural activity and a measure of ‘adequate’ or ‘inadequate’ parenting.
So far, no one has come up with a scientific explanation for why a mother loves her son more than her daughter. In his book The Selfish Gene, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins suggests that this maternal devotion is a selfish strategy to ensure the survival of her genes. She knows that she cannot reproduce after a certain age. So she protects her male offspring because he will eventually spread her gene pool.
When a mother has this protective love for her son, she fiercely protects his life, stunting his emotional growth and tying him to his apron strings as a “mama’s boy.” This tendency is documented even from biblical times in the story of Rebekah, who encouraged her favorite son Jacob to steal his brother’s blessing by pretending to be someone else. But she had to suffer heartbreak because he was separated from her for many years to protect her from Esau’s wrath.
The Greek mother Thetis dipped her son Achilles in the magical river Styx to make him invulnerable. But of course she left him with an unprotected heel.
Like the mother-daughter relationship, a close mother-son relationship is important in the early formative years. Babies begin to experience distress when they are separated from their mothers. But every mother should keep in mind that this is only a temporary phase. In the case of a boy, physical distancing should start early because such a bond has erotic potential. Mollycoddling is harmful to the emotional health of both mother and son.
The Oedipus complex is a well-known phenomenon. It is based on a Greek myth in which Oedipus sees his father as a rival for his mother’s love. So he kills him and marries his mother Jocasta.
In the period from 18 months to three years, the child is aware of his sexual identity. He develops an image of himself by studying his body. Between the ages of three and five, libidinal and ego development takes place. It can be defined as the Oedipus phase, when the child develops a desire to have his mother and even begins to see his father as an opponent. This is a transitory phase, and a wise mother will gradually wean him from such feelings until he begins to identify with his father.
Reasons for the mother’s unusual feelings:
• If a mother has experienced abandonment by her father as a child, she may be overprotective of her son to compensate for these feelings of abandonment. She wants her son to stay in this Oedipal phase to achieve his fulfillment. Sons cannot be surrogate husbands or fathers; nor are they toys for her enjoyment.
There are many great men who have suffered because of this overprotection. Andrew Carnegie’s mother made him promise that he would not marry until she died. It must have been a frustrating experience. He eventually married a year after her death, at the age of 52.
Dwight Eisenhower also had an obsessive mother. Once, when he was quarantined for scarlet fever, she used the stairs to climb up and see her son through the window every day.
However, a mother who suffers from father abandonment during childhood may also experience bonding difficulties and become violent towards her son.
• If a husband does not meet his wife’s emotional needs because of his career or carelessness, or because of infidelity, she may turn to her man child. She may shower him with kisses or hugs or verbal professions of love. This form of “emotional incest” seeks to alienate the father from the love of the son. Actual incest is not excluded.
• Single parents who are unmarried or widowed may also be overindulgent and overprotective of their male children to compensate for the absence of a father.
The destructive effects of such dysfunctional relationships:
About the child:
1. Excessive dependence on the mother leads to retardation of emotional and mental growth. He is unable to face life’s challenges, has behavioral problems and is often seen as a “nurse”. The mother does not want her son to grow up and plans to keep their relationship exclusive.
2. Inability to maintain healthy relationships with others. It can even damage his sexuality and destroy his ability to form happy partnerships. He will avoid obligations. If he marries, it may end in divorce due to his mother’s constant interference. He won’t have the courage to stand up to her and protect his wife from her mother’s constant bullying.
3. A manipulative seductive mother and a passive distant father can make a boy homosexual.
4. Stifling love can turn out to be a dangerous attachment, making the son sexually dysfunctional.
1. A woman who gives her time and priority to her son will lose her husband. There will be a lack of intimacy and many sexual problems. Her husband will start looking for his fulfillment elsewhere. He may become a workaholic or have extramarital affairs or indulge in drinking or gambling.
2. A mother whose life revolves around her son is lulled into the subconscious that he will never leave her.
3. An incestuous relationship may develop. Having inappropriate feelings for her son is a form of child abuse and can be demoralizing.
How to maintain a healthy mother-son relationship:
• Respect your son’s personality. Treat him with deep respect and help him develop his personality.
• Raise your son to be a physically and mentally balanced person. “Suffocate love” kills. So don’t hold on too tight.
• Set healthy boundaries and know when to physically distance yourself.
• Parent is a joint venture. Fathers should not be excluded from the relationship. They too must be allowed to have relationships with their sons. The responsibilities of parents should include their life strategies such as respect for elders, respect for the opposite sex, discipline, love and good example. The aim should be to promote maturity, independence and self-reliance in adulthood.
• Do not neglect your husband. Get rid of your mother to be with her. Talk, care and be intimate. Let your love for each other grow as you are responsible for raising him.
• Be a good and worthy role model. Let him learn from you how to respect and treat his wife when he is married.
• Always remember that the child is not your husband. Therefore, do not impose adult responsibilities on him.
• Change the focus. Take some time to attend to the needs of your other children. Find new activities to take your mind off your son.
• Pray and ask God to give you the wisdom to handle your emotions with responsibility and self-respect.
As feminist Naomi Lewinsky said, “We don’t need our children. We shouldn’t merge with them except when they’re babies. We shouldn’t let our dirty feelings spill over into our children’s development. We should raise them to be individuals.”
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