The relationship between a father and son begins with love, but as time goes on, it could get complicated.
A father plays an essential role in a son’s life and can teach his son valuable life lessons. If you are a new dad to a doting son and wondering how you could be the best dad to him, or if you are looking to strengthen the relationship with your young or teenage son, this MomJunction post is for you.
Here, we discuss how important the father and son relationship is, ways to build a strong relationship with your son, and much more.
Why Is A Father-Son Relationship Important?
Studies have proven that children who grew up in the care and guidance of their fathers were more empathetic and had some control over their lives. They also tended to do better in school and have more motivation when compared to those who lacked the love or guidance of their fathers (1).
While a mother can teach love and compassion, a father can toughen his son to face all the hardships in life.
Here are some valuable lessons you, as a father, can teach your son.
- Develop the strength to face life. Life won’t always be a cakewalk. There are challenges that boys have to face when they grow up. The societal pressures to succeed at work, support the family, and to be an upstanding citizen in the community will not be easy to handle without proper guidance. So, your son could take all the advice he could get.
Teach your son early on involving him in some major decisions in his life as well as the family and help him develop his self-confidence and self-esteem. You can also teach him that it is okay to fail, but it is not okay to give up.
- Teach him what is right. Sometimes the wrong path looks lucrative but can lead you to the bottom quickly. So, teach your son to choose the right path no matter how hard things can get. Tell him the power of integrity and honesty. Share your personal experiences and motivate him to stay good.
- Importance of family. If you have always put your family first, and were there for them, then you are teaching your son the importance of family. Also, your son will look up to you to learn how to raise and lead a family. Teach him the importance of spending quality time with family and staying together as a family.
- Affirming his choices. Your son could face several dilemmas in life. So, teach him not to be afraid to take the road less traveled. For example, you could be a star baseball player, and your son might be into the arts. Rather than forcing him to do something you like, give your affirmation and encourage him to pursue his passion.
- Respect the women in his life. This is an important lesson which only you can teach your son. The way you treat your wife will lay the foundations for his future romantic relationships too. Also, if you are loving, empathetic, and helpful towards your wife, he will learn to respect his mother.
Your choice of movies and books can also help them understand your attitude towards society and women and promote respect for them.
- To find a friend in you. As a father, it is your responsibility to discipline your son and build their character, but your responsibility must not overshadow your love for him. While disciplining him, you must also assure your son that you could be his best friend, and he can share anything with you.
- The true definition of masculinity. Whenever he is facing a tough situation, lend a shoulder, listen patiently, and assure him it is okay to feel sad and even shed a tear or two if he feels like. By doing so, you are teaching him that expressing his deep feelings won’t make him less of a man.
A father may not be able to show his love in exorbitant ways like a mother does, but his love is like the air – invisible, yet essential. A boy could be close to his mother right from his childhood to adulthood, but the relationship between a father and son undergoes several changes during this period.
How The Father-Son Relationship Evolves Over The Years
The father-son relationship may not remain the same throughout. It goes through a roller coaster of emotions and settles down at a stage that is comfortable for both. Let us look at their journey in detail.
Early childhood: Although babies depend mostly on their mothers for nourishment and care, the time spent with fathers is equally important. Studies found that father-child interactions are more stimulating, vigorous, and arousing (2). During early childhood, the son looks up to his father, who is his hero and inspiration. He idolizes his father and feels fascinated when his dad fixes his toy or lifts him high up in the air.
He pictures his dad to be stronger than Hercules, or wiser than Einstein, and always tries to imitate him. He would insist on eating like him, dress, and even walk like him. He longs to spend time with him, and a small compliment from his dad is all it takes to make his day.
Teenage: This is a tough phase for both the son and the father because, at this stage, the son develops his own opinions and tries to lock horns. There will be a clash of opinions and arguments about different things. The fishing trips or the football matches with dad will now get replaced with skateboarding with friends.
The son begins to develop his own beliefs, which could contradict his father’s. Teens usually tend to idolize their friends or famous personalities. But it need not always be this way. A little effort by the father and the son can pave the way for a smooth transition to adolescence, where the dad minds the generation gap, and the son accommodates the dad in his new world.
Adulthood: This is the phase where the son realizes that his father may be right about certain aspects, and the father will begin to trust him more, as he is a mature adult and no longer an impulsive teenager. The relationship will settle down in a comfortable zone, where both would respect each other’s boundaries, but still have a healthy relationship.
The dynamics of the relationship will change. The father will trust his son and even seek his advice, and the son who was once the follower will now slowly take the lead and share the responsibilities.
While the relationship takes many shapes, there will be troubles too. A father-son relationship could get strained because of a few problems.
Common Father-Son Relationship Problems
Small or big, problems are a part of every relationship. The key is to work through them and not let them influence your love for each other. Here, we list a few relationship problems that are likely to occur in a father-son relationship.
- Communication: This could be the root cause of conflicts between a father and his son. You might have abundant love for each other, but failing to express it might create a rift between you two. For example, a father might complain that his grown-up son doesn’t visit him often, but behind his anger is the grief of missing his son. While the son could respond to anger with anger, he may be more loving and understanding when he knows it is grief.
- Lifestyle choices: Changing times and the generation gap have brought many changes in the children’s lifestyles. For example, live-in relationships and the choice not to have children are quite common now, but this could contradict the conservative beliefs of parents.
- Work culture and orientation: Modern jobs need you to be competitive and ambitious, which means more working hours and lesser time spent with the family. The father, who had a simpler job, may not understand this or even the nature of the son’s job. So, if the son decides to move away to seek new opportunities, the father might feel the son is abandoning him.
- Household standards: As the father, you may have certain beliefs and may expect your son to follow the standards of the family. You may want them to be conservative, strictly religious, or follow a specific diet or lifestyle. But your son is an individual and may have his own values and beliefs, and that may seem like he wants to break those restrictions and try something new and different. But for all you know, he may just want to live life according to the values he has chosen for his life.
The key to tackling these problems is to understand each other and compromise a bit. The father should trust his son to let go, while the son should learn to respect his father’s experience and try to explain his point patiently.
How Close Can A Father And Son Be?
It is true that the mother endures pain and brings the child into this world, but on the same day, a dad is born too. For some, dad is a hero. And for others, he is a friend and a guide. The closeness that a father and son have cannot be measured but can only be felt by the duo.
- If you go to your dad instead of turning to your friends for advice, it is a sign of an emotional connection between you and your father.
- If your father doesn’t shy away from patting your back or giving a hearty handshake, or hug you after you share your accomplishments, then it is a sign of healthy physical connection between you both.
- When you are an adult and are now the head of your own family, and your father trusts your choices, then that is a lifelong connection.
The relationship between a father and son must be nurtured carefully at every stage of life. But the general male tendency to not open up might create some distance between the two. That is why it is the father’s responsibility to be there and nurture the son during the early stages of the relationship, and the son ‘s duty to respect and strengthen the bond later in life.
Ways To Build A Strong Relationship With Your Son
It is not hard to build a relationship with your son, who probably has many things in common with you. Here are a few things you can do to build a strong relationship with your son early on.
- Be there for him: You may be busy with work, trying hard to provide for your family. But being there for your son is equally important for their well-being. Right from a tender age, you need to show your son that no matter what, you will always be there for him. It could be at the soccer game, a parent-teacher meeting, or his dance recital, just make sure you are there for him.
The teen or grown-up son should also respect his father’s hard work and understand that sometimes when he is not able to make it, it is not because he doesn’t want to, but because he really cannot. The must be there for the father when he gets old.
- Find common ground: You and your son may be poles apart. You might like sports, but your son might be a bookworm, and outdoor activity for him is reading a book under the tree. Forcing him to be a part of your world could strain the relationship.
So, learn to respect each other’s differences to build a strong relationship. Work on finding a common activity you both enjoy and try to do more of it.
- Participate in the father-son activities: It could be volunteering to coach his team for an upcoming soccer match or helping him with his science project. Always take out time to do things together. This helps you to understand your boy’s world and assures your son that you are always there for him.
- Listen to each other: As time passes by, communication could become tough between a father and son. And when there is a communication gap, the relationship weakens. When your son has something to tell you, listen to him before giving your opinion. Also, try not to be judgmental about their choices; be understanding and supportive.
The same goes for a son who may have a different perspective. Rather than assuming that his father will not understand him, he needs to understand his father’s perspective. Listen to him before deciding to cut him out of his life.
- Do not hesitate to have ‘the talk’: Sex and relationship can be confusing for your teenage son. He might not ask you, but there will be several questions on his mind. And who can be a better person than you to have an honest conversation about such sensitive things? Take out some time and have this conversation with your son. This will not only strengthen your bond but also prevent him from reaching out to unhealthy sources for information.
- Spend time together: This is often an underrated activity, but we cannot emphasize its importance enough in building your relationship. No matter how busy you both can be, make it a point to spend some time together. Go for a walk after dinner and talk about all that has happened throughout the day. Try to take time out and be a part of each other’s lives.
- Celebrate accomplishments: Whether it is winning the science project, or graduating from college, celebrate your son’s every accomplishment. He may not say it, but your recognition is all that he may be looking for. It is every little boy’s dream to make his dad proud. Every time you appreciate your son, you are helping him become more confident and courageous.
- Share your experiences: As a father, you might have seen and experienced a lot. When you have a son, impart that wisdom to him. When you get to spend time together, use the opportunity to share your life experiences with your son. Doing this will make him feel important and happy that you trust him.
As the father or the son, you may have several things to deal with. Amidst all that, you must make time to be with each other and communicate. If you’re having trouble connecting, try some of the ways that we have mentioned above. Get to know each other better. And never take each other for granted, because this time together is limited. So, try to make the best of it.
How is your relationship with your father/son? Let us know in the comments section below.
2. Veheshta Sethna; et.al.; Father-Child Interactions At 3 Months: Contributions to children’s Cognitive Development At 24 Months; US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.