Nurturing the Father-Son Relationship: How to Keep It Strong
Ideas to nurture a strong little-boy-and-daddy relationship to withstand life's struggles, even the teenage years.
For parents of a young child, the threat of teenager-hood is always looming. Building a strong relationship with your kid before this notoriously troublesome time hits is important. According to the American Psychological Association, a study by "Developmental Psychology" suggests that strong, early relationships with fathers can help sons better withstand stress later in life. So how do you strengthen this father-son relationship? Spending time together is the only way.
Find Common Hobbies
Even when guys are little, they typically like to do stuff more than talk about stuff. Discovering what interests the both of you will really help your long-term father-son relationship. Setting longer-term goals around these interests will keep you both coming back to them. Your pet projects might include Cub Scout projects, fixing up an old car, planning intensive hiking or camping trips, or big model trains or Lego sets.
Guys talk better next to each other than face to face. You'll probably find your best conversations occurring while you're working on these hobbies. This is the stuff that will really pay off most during the teen years. Be sure to set aside time to keep up with these hobbies together. Even if your teen acts as though he's not interested anymore -- with a huge, exaggerated eye roll -- ask again later. He may act like your commitment is exasperating, but your offer won't go unnoticed.
After Discipline, Show Love
Don't let discipline put a damper on your relationship. Once you're done with the "you're grounded" or "your favorite lightsabers are put away for a week" discussion, move on fast and don't hold a grudge. Show your son that you love him unconditionally, even when he's misbehaved. Ask if he wants to work on one of those hobbies. Give him a hug and tell him you love him. This is a lesson to pass along to him, as well. For tips on being authoritative without feeling like a bad guy, read Positive Discipline -- 9 Tips to Practice More Positive Parenting.
Solve Problems Together
Problem-solving is a great skill to teach all kids. Learning on the job is the best way to do it, and going through problems together, even small ones, solidifies relationships. Play board games -- even Connect Four and Trouble have challenges to meet and problems to overcome. Invite your son to help maintain your home with you. He can help assess problems and figure out solutions to leaky hoses, squeaky steps and broken window screens. You'll be teaching him important DIY knowledge as a bonus.
Get Out in Nature
Many kids spend too much time in front of electronics and not enough in nature. Get out there together beyond your backyard. There's something about the solitude and stillness of nature that connects people like no other entity. Even little kids can go on a hike. Collect leaves or rocks together. You can go fishing, take a canoe out on the water or skip stones on a lake. Do this often and during different seasons. Find a favorite spot the two of you can come back to and talk about how the landscape, the leaves and the clouds change each time you're there.
Talk About the Birds and Bees
Have this talk earlier than you think it should happen. You really don't want your son to learn about sex from another kid at the playground. You also don't want his first exposure to it to be in a classroom without you. This critical information needs to come from a trusted adult, and you should be as trusted as they come. Why not dip your toe into the topic while out on a hike, just the two of you?
Really, it's just spending time together in the end -- coming together over stuff you both love and learning from each other. How do you and your son bond? Tell us in the comments!
And check out the Mother-Son Relatioship: Tips to Build and Maintain a Great One.
Maureen Wise writes for a number of parenting and green websites including Care.com, Tom's of Maine, Piccolo Universe, EcoWatch and eHow. She also works in higher education sustainability and lives on the edge of the Cleveland Metroparks with her family. Her husband and young son regularly bond over Lego projects, watching football and activities involving power tools.
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