8 Key Elements to Building a Strong Father-Son Relationship
My father was very stoic, insensitive and used force to make us behave. My father was pretty typical of that era. But now things have changed. We no longer want a man that is forceful and has a "father knows best" attitude. Today, we want a man that is in touch with their emotions, someone who can share their feeling and be strong but not forceful. It must be very confusing for fathers raising sons. And it would be easy to delegate or abdicate his parenting responsibilities.
Why is the son-father relationship so difficult? Fathers and sons with widely different interests can find it hard to relate to one another. If dad likes football and the son likes music, what's there to talk about?
Sometimes dads and sons feel competitive against one another. Their male tendencies to not communicate feelings are compounded as both want a better father-son relationship but neither one quite knows how to go about it.
Fathers may feel an obligation to make their sons into men, in the traditional sense of aggressive, self-reliant, stay-calm-in-the-face-of-danger manhood. As a result they feel that it is their job to wean their sons of their neediness, and to wall up their vulnerable emotions (such as fear, sadness, hurt, and loneliness). This alienates the son.
Researchers found it wasn't the father's masculinity that was important in the development of his son. Rather, it was the relationship between a father and his son. Paternal masculinity wasn't important, but a father's warmth and closeness to his sons was.
Here are 8 key elements to building a strong father-son relationship.
1.Dad's are not replaceable. Understanding a father's influence is unmatched will help dad think more deeply and take their relationship more seriously. As a young man watches his father interact with his mother, he learns about respect (or disrespect), about how men and women interact and about how men should deal with conflict. As he watches his dad interact with other men, he will learn how men talk, how they relate with one another and how they deal with masculine issues.
Men and women are different. They eat differently. They dress differently. They cope with life differently. Boys who grow up with a father are more confident and secure.
Boys who grow up with dads are less likely to be violent. They have their masculinity affirmed and learn from their fathers how to channel their masculinity and strength in positive ways.
2. Roughhousing is good. When boys are young, they love anything that is active and rough. A little wrestling in the backyard can to go a long way. This little bit of wild behavior is a bonding experience.
3. Make one-on-one time. Get involved in father-son activities. Working on merit badges for boy scouts, taking apart an engine or building a deck create opportunities to see each from a different perspective. Watching your son solve a problem helps you to see him in a new light.
4. Listen. Dads are notorious for listening for a few minutes and then going into fix it mode. Starting at early ages listen to them without judgment and without trying to fix things will go a long way to building a lasting relationship. Fishing together, going camping, or taking a road trip can all be effective ways to create a listening environment. These will be the memories that will last a life time.
5. Talk about sex. You may think if you avoid this topic your teen will like you better because you are not making him feel uncomfortable. The opposite is true. Your son need your values...not the values found on the TV, internet or the boys trashing talking in the locker room. Being open to having these conversations will help him have healthier, more respectful with women relationships and give him more confidence.
6. Find ways to inspire. Your son is bombarded with negative messages from media and "friends" all day long. They don't need another critic in their lives. If your son's behavior needs tweaking, inspire him through a heroic story or movie, not your judgement or disapproval.Trust is paramount to any good relationship. This builds trust.
7. Watch your son. A deep human need is to be watched. Whether your son is on the basketball team, theater or the debate team...watch him. Pick out a few things that you can later talk about to let him know you were watching.
8. Model emotional intelligence. Let him see you cry. Model how to handle anger. Talk to him about how you manage fears and disappointments. Share your failures. Let him see you and your wife navigate conflict.
Spending time together, talking about life lessons, and inserting a large dose of engaged listening, will help fathers and sons develop nurturing and meaningful relationships. This will help our sons form attitudes which will allow them to develop into men in the richest sense of that term.
Make a plan of action and be intentional to use two of these key steps. Tell us how it went by commenting below!
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Author, Lecturer, Parenting Coach