The job of fathering a teenage son these days can be so demanding. Teenage sons and their fathers sometimes seem to drive each other crazy. During this time of adolescence the young boy often gives the impression he thinks he knows everything and his father knows nothing. It can be a great challenge for a dad to guide his son through these transition years.
Here are a few suggestions that may help a dad in developing his relationship with his son.
Adolescent boys have a very short attention span and quickly turn off when being “lectured”. So it helps to speak calmly, even when angry. Fathers need to speak out their anger – not act it out – because boys need to feel safe around their dads.
They need to see that their fathers can share their feelings and their fears without getting anxious. They need to see that their dads can express their feelings appropriately. Many men, and indeed adolescent boys, seem to act in an angry way when in fact they really feel sad, afraid or just unsure. Fathers have an important role to play in teaching their boys to express a range of healthy emotions and this is best done by the example they set.
The teenage male energy seems to never stop. It is impulsive and explosive. Fathers need to be able to model self control, and to teach their sons the very important lesson of knowing when to stop. They do this when they understand their own strength, both physically and verbally, and can show restraint when needed.
They can teach their sons about respect for women and about respect across a whole range of areas, especially in their treatment of the vulnerable, the elderly, little children and other races and cultures. They can teach them to carry their strength with leadership, and with the ability to be gentle.
Sport can be a big part of the teenage boy’s world and this can be a good opportunity for fathers to connect with their sons if they share this interest. It can be a time to come together to kick a ball or to show support and encouragement by coaching, getting involved in, or just being there to watch their sons play sport. Sport can be a good teacher and a father can take the opportunities here to teach the lessons that build character, develop masculinity and encourage participation and excellence.
It can be as simple as a father giving the message that it’s okay to “have a go” even if you don’t make the “A” team. On occasion in my own sons’ lives, I have witnessed sporting coaches who are determined to win at all costs. They can display an attitude that is rude and demeaning to less successful players and sometimes have even been overtly abusive. In contrast to this is the dad who gives his son the message that it’s okay to do what you really enjoy, even when others might suggest you should do only the things you are really good at.
Fathers can teach here about the importance of balance in life. They can teach sportsmanship and can encourage their sons to take care of their bodies and their health in relation to sport. Some of the negative characteristics often associated with spectator sport can be binge drinking, sexual crudity, aggression and egotism. Men model their attitudes to these cultural issues and adolescent boys pick up their father’s idea of masculinity.
Probably the most important thing a father can do is praise his son. So often boys feel like they just can’t match their fathers’ expectations, and this can be something that has been communicated non- verbally. Fathers can really afford to be generous in their affirmation of their sons because boys really need this. They need as much affection and praise from their dads as they see their dads giving to their sisters. Sons crave the approval of their dads and can unfortunately be left with the message that they can or should always be doing better than they are.
In reality, fathers have a delicate line to walk: to communicate love and admiration whilst encouraging and supporting their sons to grow into the beautiful young men they are destined to be. It’s a tricky time as a boy can give the impression that nothing a dad can say can have any significance for his life. As their dads come down from their pedestals from the earlier, more innocent, adoring years, sons can treat their fathers with nothing short of contempt. And so a father must patiently and consistently set out the ground rules and reinforce again and again what is expected.
A dad must let his son go through this stage in his own time, continuing to respect and connect with him wherever possible. In this way he can support his son in his journey to manhood. In doing this he provides the structure his son so desperately needs. Hopefully then, the young boy evaluates his place in the scheme of things, and works out for himself a plan for his future, and his connection to the world, to his God and to his soul.
If you would like some support with your relationships or creating greater happiness in your life, please contact me on 0403 814 477 for a free 10-minute consultation to discuss your needs.