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 doting dad to a new 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 post is for you.
Here, we discuss the importance of the father -son bond, ways to build a strong relationship with your son, and much more.
Why Is A Father-Son Relationship Important?
Studies have shown that children who grow up in the care and guidance of their fathers are more empathetic and have greater control over the course of their lives. They also tend to do better in school and have more motivation when compared to those who lack the love or guidance of their fathers (1).
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 can take all the advice you have to offer.
Help your son build self-esteem and self-confidence early in life, by involving him in some of the major decisions that affect his life. Remind him that while 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 get. Model for him the power of integrity and honesty. Share your personal experiences and provide reinforcement when your son makes good decisions..
- Importance of family. If you have always put your family first, and are consistently there for them, then you are teaching your son the importance of family. Your son will l adopt many of your attitudes and behaviors about how to lead a family. Teach him the importance of spending quality time with family and valuing the family unit.
- Affirm 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.
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. By doing so, you are teaching him that expressing his deep feelings won’t make him less of a man.
Some fathers find it difficult to express love in exorbitant ways, but a father’s love is like the air – invisible, yet essential. Whereas boys often bond to their mothers right from his birth, a sons’ relationships with their fathers more commonly evolve and change over time.
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 its 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 suggest 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 tries to imitate him. He insists on eating like him, dressing, and even walking 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. There are clashes of opinions, arguments, and the inevitable locking of horns. Fishing trips and football matches with dad now get replaced with skateboarding with friends.
Teens usually trade their former idolization for their fathers for admiration of friends or famous personalities. But it need not always be this way. A little effort by both father and son can pave the way for a smooth transition to adolescence, where the dad minds the generation gap, and the son accommodates his dad in this new phase of life.
Adulthood:In this phase, the son realizes his father may be right about many things, and the father develops greater trust in his son more, as he is a mature adult and no longer an impulsive teenager. The relationship settles down in a comfortable zone, where both respect the other’s boundaries and attain a healthy, more even relationship dynamic.
The father even begins seeking his son’s advice, and the son, once the follower, now slowly takes a greater share in family 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. 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 child. While a son might respond to his father’s anger with anger of his own, he may be more loving and understanding when he recognizes that what his father really feels is grief.
- Lifestyle choices: Changing times and the generation gap have brought many changes to 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 often demand long hours and time spent away from home. A father who perhaps had a less time-consuming job may not understand this, and might take it personally and feel abandoned.
- 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, which can feel like a rejection of your customary ways of doing things.t. Try not to take it personally, and instead take pride in your son for having the bravery to pursue the path that feels best for him.
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; it can only be experienced by the duo.
- If you go to your dad instead of turning to your friends for advice, it is a sign of a strong and trusting emotional connection.
- If your father doesn’t shy away from patting your back or giving a hearty handshake, or hugs you after you share your accomplishments, it is a sign of a healthy physical connection.
- When you are an adult and perhaps become the head of your own family, and your father trusts your choices, then it’s clear you’ve built alifelong 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 can undermine closeness. 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 engaging with your son is as important as financial stability 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. Whether you convey it by attending their soccer games, parent-teacher meetings, or his dance recitals, 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. A son 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, while your son’s idea ofoutdoor activity is reading a book under the tree. Forcing him to adopt your preferencescould strain the relationship and damage his self-worth.
So, work to respect each other’s differences to build a strong relationship. Try to find a common activity you both enjoy and can engage in together.
- Participate in father-son activities: It could be volunteering to coach his team for an upcoming soccer match or helping him with his science project. Make sometime to do things together. This will give you a deeper understanding ofyour boy’s world and assure him that you are there for him.
- Listen to each other: Communication will at times be strained 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 his 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 romantic relationships 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 probably means the world to him. It is every little boy’s dream to make his dad proud. Every time you show appreciation to your son, he grows a bit 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.