Advice Column, Parenting

Fathers And Sons

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I think it can be extremely difficult to maintain the father son relationship, throughout the teen years and early twenties. Boys have been instilled with the attitude of dominance and winning. As much as we like to think otherwise, one only needs to check how many men watch sports of one kind or another. Men are in the majority of jobs with authority. They rule because they have the power, might and desire to rule. On the other hand, women are still the nurturers of kids and family.

My thoughts on the subject have more to do with why men have a greater need to challenge, win and come out on top. It is almost like it is in alignment with their manhood. To override this setting, one has to delve deeply into the myriad of reasons, and come to an understanding of where it comes from. Making distinctions between games and real life, perhaps will help us to figure out ways to best address the problems. Most times people are guessing rather than comprehending the actual situation.

Boys adore their fathers, even the fathers that are scarce. They identify with the male figure and with strength and power. Fathers don’t cry as often as mothers, if at all. They tend to keep their emotions hidden. This does not go unnoticed by their sons. What no one talks about, is what the boys learn from this. Without words, boys understand that strong means keeping feelings silent. That requires them to do less talking, regarding stressful problems that touch their souls. It can also imply that men will be less open, to sharing sensitive problems. They may shut down their feelings even from their wives.

Now we transport to the teen years. Boys begin manifesting their own thoughts and ideas. They are beginning to sense an empowerment, and they experience a keen awareness of the admiration of girls. All of this gives boys an outward confidence, that they do not necessarily feel inside. It works because others begin to look up to them.

Even those boys who do not flaunt themselves through sports or academics, have the pangs of manhood in their own ways. Boys want to be perceived as mature and capable, with jurisdiction and rule. The endowment of leadership is intrinsic, be it a good thing or bad.

The conclusion is for the parents to guide their offspring, and offer accountability for any infractions to the rules. This is where the fathers play a crucial role. Dad does not have to be the enforcer, but he does need to be modelling good behaviour, and having expectations of respectable actions. If one teaches power makes things right, then fairness will be tossed in the bucket. The manners we cultivate within  the family structure, are the ones we will observe in society.

In a positive way, dad is the big guy, who the boys look up to. But dad is also the person that must avoid under any circumstances, challenging their son with an ultimatum. If they do set a boundary which the son crosses, then the son will likely accept the ultimatum possibly leading to worse problems. The son’s pride is in jeopardy when dad presents a challenge. The son must flex his own muscles, especially after having been instructed to behave in such a manner. As scared as the son might be, he can’t let himself down. His own worth and leadership ability is at stake. He wants to be able to look himself in the mirror the next day, without seeing a weak and frightened person. The only thing at stake for dad is his pride and anger, which he likely will overcome. The son at this time in his young life, is fragile. Dads have to see this and comprehend what their sons are experiencing. Their emotions are so jumbled and confusing.

Boys have faith in the idea that they can’t let dad down, by displaying weakness, and they definitely can’t disappoint themselves. To them it is like being called to prove their worth by standing up for themselves. It is especially crucial when it is dad who is involved in the situation. It seals the deal for the son. He must make a sincere effort to accept the gauntlet, even though he knows in his heart he is overpowered by the circumstances. It is totally up to the father to diffuse the situation in a way that saves face for their son.

I have seen sons stand by their argument, even when dad gives in and retreats with his words. The son may have the need to finish their position in anger, because at this point they are upset, and confused about how they will ever get out of the mess, with their honour intact. If fathers walk away, the son may also retreat, possibly after mouthing a few choice points of discussion. It amounts to their attempt at feigning toughness and victory. They are cognisant of the close encounter, but also flattered with themselves. One day when they are adults, and become a parent, they might be more appreciative of the day their dad, although more powerful, was strong enough to turn away.

For those teens who eventually cower to an authoritative and formidable dad, they are devastated and demeaned from the encounter. They also blame their fathers for everything, especially for their dishonour. A lot of trust is lost. Fathers should refrain from drawing lines with their sons, if those directives are going to be difficult for either party to follow through with. It is too big of a risk to the teen and the relationship. By not drawing lines does not mean accepting insubordination, or ignoring the correction of poor behaviour. It means to instruct with reflection and love. Remember who it is that stands in front of you.

Dealing with a teenager is just as difficult as when you put up with the screaming toddler. Be cognisant of the fact that you can’t change the words and actions said and done once they spill out.. What worked when your son was a child, will not work on him as a teen. Wisely consider what battles you choose to fight.

Boys are trying to find their manhood. Deep down they know they are weak, but on the outside they want to appear stronger worthier and wiser. They want empowerment at becoming a  man. When we argue and disagree with our kids, we forget that we have so many more years of experience. They haven’t been tested, and they are not as sure of themselves as they pretend. If we are threatened by their false bravado, and incensed to defeat them at any expense, the cost may be dear.

It is difficult for babies to be born. It is also difficult for kids to mature. Their innocent attempts are respected and valued. It is truly not so different for the young teen struggling to demonstrate their worth. Know that in time they will mature and they will understand how easily their father could have defeated them, or rebuked them. That will conjure up a world of love for their dads, who they now know loved them enough, to allow them to enact their anger, without retaliating. The bonds grow stronger, and the father son relationship becomes closer and more resilient.

I would hope that the majority of fathers have enough confidence in themselves, to not be threatened by their young sons attempts to toss their weight around. It is nothing more than maturation. Before a fight builds, fathers must turn it around, go in another direction, and save face for their children. It is difficult for boys to become men. They need their dads and they need their pride. They really don’t have as much boldness as they pretend. See through the facade, and love your kids, because that is what will break walls and barriers. On another calmer day discuss the problems by  confronting your son, and help him deal with the stresses. Be a dad he can count on and trust.

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