Being a good father doesn’t have to be complicated, but sometimes it goes against what we’re taught makes us good men.
As men, we are hard-wired to solve problems. Most of our working lives are spent diagnosing and correction problems of various kinds. These skills are vital in the workplace, but they don’t always translate to fatherhood.
Our tendency to be problem-solvers can work against us as we try to be good fathers. Our children are not problems to be fixed, they are people to be loved. Sometimes as men we make showing love more complicated than it needs to be.
In this post, I’m focusing on showing love to our sons. It’s not because daughters aren’t important, but because we are more inclined to demonstrate love to females. We have a harder time showing love to our sons. These simple strategies can make a big difference in strengthening the father-son bond that is so important.
1. Be physically affectionate.
Some men have an easy time being affectionate, but many don’t. I am not a naturally affectionate person, so this was a learned skill for me. I am intentional about giving my son hugs, pats on the back, and shoulder squeezes.
How do you become more affectionate if you’re not wired that way? I think it’s a matter of taking small steps out of your comfort zone and realizing that it’s not about you, it’s about your son. Even a small show of affection from you can help your son to know he is affirmed and loved.
2. Give him your full attention when he’s talking.
I’ll be honest, I really struggle in this area. I’m a busy guy and always have something on my mind. When my 11-year-old son Ben is telling me about his latest Minecraft creation or something that happened at school, it’s easy to pretend I’m listening and just nod my head. But he intuitively knows whether I’m really engaged.
The thing I have to remember is that whatever he is talking about is important to him, and therefore should be important to me. When I truly engage with his stories and concerns, he feels loved. And what a son wants more than anything in the world is to feel love and validation from his father.
3. Put notes in his lunchbox.
I recently read a story of Garth Callaghan, a father who has included “napkin notes” in his daughter’s lunchbox every day since she was a little girl. His daughter is now a high school student and he is battling cancer, but he has written enough notes to last through her graduation in the event he does not make it. I was inspired by this story and decided to start writing lunchbox notes for my own son.
Some days the note includes a dumb joke, some days it’s an encouraging sentence or two, and some days it’s a funny cartoon involving my very unimpressive drawings. He told me recently that he loved the notes and looked forward to them every day. Apparently they are quite a hit with his friends at lunch.
You have to decide as a father what will work with your son. His age and personality, as well as your personality, will determine the most meaningful ways to show you love him. If your efforts come off as fake or insincere, it will backfire.
The most important thing is to be active and engaged. Don’t be a passive father who assumes your son will grow into the man he needs to be without your involvement. These simple, practical tips can go a long way in helping you reach that goal.
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Photo: Flickr/Seth Lemmons