By Wayne Parker
The father-son relationship can be complex. Fathers and sons with widely different interests can find it hard to relate to one another. Sometimes dads and sons feel competitive against one another. Sometimes 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.
As I have watched my own relationships with my sons, thought about my relationship with my own father, and observed many fathers and sons interact with one another over the years, I have identified some key elements to creating and building a strong father-son relationship.
1. Recognize that sons are influenced by their fathers. Whether we know it or not, our sons learn about being a man primarily by watching their fathers. A father’s influence on his son’s personal development is often unseen but nonetheless real.
2. Develop common interests. This is a lesson I learned from my own dad. My dad was a law enforcement officer during my growing up years and he worked a lot of shift work.
3. Don’t be afraid of a little boisterous play. My boys, especially when they were young, loved anything that was active and rough. A little wrestling in the backyard seemed to go a long way.
4. Get involved in father-son activities. In our family, I found myself getting closest to my sons as we enjoyed Boy Scouting together. We camped, hiked, worked on merit badges and advancement and just generally liked being together.
5. Take on a big project. There is something magical to a boy about being involved in something bigger than himself. That is one reason I enjoy working with my sons on their Eagle Scout projects.
6. Listen to your sons. Men seem in general to struggle with effective communication. I find that I always have a tendency to listen for just a minute or two before I decide what the problem is and then I go about creating a fix.
7. Don’t be afraid of the big talk. Take the time to teach your sons about sex and relationships. Being open to having these conversations will help your sons develop better attitudes about sex and girls in general.
8. Focus on the positives. Our children are bombarded with negative messages all around them. Just watching commercials on television will create a sense of inadequacy in our sons.
9. Make one on one time. We need to make time for individual relationships with each child. So make sure that you program some one on one time with your sons. My youngest son loves basketball, and we spent many hours shooting hoops in the driveway in the evenings after dinner.
10. Focus on the spiritual. Helping a son be grounded spiritually is an important role for a father. Whatever your faith tradition, help you son understand the deeper meaning of life.