A CHALLENGE FOR MEN: RAISING HAPPIER SONS
God gives little girls a special gift - this is how Dad thinks, and this is how I can get him to listen.
But what about if it's a son? Boys feel they can't plead and turn on the water-works. It comes out as: "I need to borrow the car"…"My mates are going to the footy, Dad- I have to go too".
Do women understand men?
Research by Brizendine says that men and women have a deep misunderstanding of the biological and social instincts that drive the other sex:
As women, we may love men, live with men and bear sons, but we have yet to understand men and boys. They are more than their gender and sexuality, and yet it is intrinsic to who they are.
So a mother might ask "What's going on?" with father and son, and scratch her head. Medical writers say men lack "feeling" words and are poor communicators. We have alexithymia, or a lack of emotional language. We grunt, yell at each other,slam doors.
You have a son and this hasn't happened? Well give it time….
Now ask yourself: am I going to be a Dad who's really present ? Or will I be 'missing in action "in my son's life? Recent disputes show that men- like women, to some extent- are having difficulties balancing work, health and family. But we need to make it work. So let's start to suggest some ideas.
WHAT DADS CAN DO
1. Show your son that you love him. Give him a hug, a hand on the shoulder; whatever feels right. Males usually trust a man who makes contact. Some young guys do a kind of shoulder hug, pulling me towards them. See what your son likes.
2. Listen! Research says that boys feel adults usually "don't ask, and don't listen".We're raised as males to DO: "Thomas was a very useful tank engine". Dad, you need to be ready for your son. As you're driving home, get your head ready for him: you can talk about your day at work some other time. It won't always be easy. But turn him away when he most needs you, and you'll be hearing "bloody Dad- he never listens to me!".
3. Talk person-to-person. Find ways to get him talking as you interact while you- rake the lawn together, walk the dog, ride in the car. Your son does chores, yes? That's an important part of learning to be a man, and you're helping him as he goes.
4. Read together. Find a book that means something to him. Let him choose. Take turns in reading. This is precious time. Make sure your partner appreciates that and you're not interrupted. You are the role model for your son, not some big muscle-bound footballer. Be the dad you always wanted to have yourself. Someone who isn't afraid to pick up a book. Eight year old boys tell me they like reading comics, factual books, books about building, schoolboy wizards, books about farting and bottoms. And later on : factual books, comedy books, books of records. It doesn't matter that much what's read.
5. Sport is a huge part of boys' lives. Be part of this! Sport helps guys make friends, stren
gthen friendships and lets guys talk in a fairly free atmosphere. Find a sport you both enjoy. Yes, I hated sport when I was growing up! They made me play boring team games. Like cricket-yuk! Standing around for hours in the sun in an Australian summer? No thanks ! Later on in life I found things I like doing. My kids loved canoeing with me. Gym can be fun. Young guys are good at parkour. That's jumping all around in parks and buildings: 'the world is my gym', they might say. Dad- just be careful you don't try to show off on that skateboard- you might break a leg or bust an ankle. Many dads have!
6. Give him your time. Dad- put your life on a page. Where is your relationship with your son? In the middle, or crammed into a corner? Work on it! As we said at the start: fathers and sons is a harder road than dads and daughters. Give it thought and patience. It can be just as rewarding.
7. Be positive. Too often as kids we were given a pile of garbage: boys can't do this, you can't wear pink, blah blah. Don't be afraid to tell him what he's done well. Forget all the "don't's and "you mustn't". Catch him doing something right, and praise him. You do praise him, don't you? We all love a bit of praise.
8. Love the son you have. Let other people struggle with their sons. They might be some big-name athlete; but often these shining stars crash and burn. Be the person who believes in your son's potential. Have faith in what he can do. I believe many young dads are indeed doing it better these days. And the research agrees.
9. Be prepared to fail sometimes. This is one of the most challenging things you will ever do. But you enjoy a challenge, right? And the rewards are fantastic.