Boys learn their first lessons of manhood from their fathers. This is why early primary-aged boys in particular, usually want to spend a great deal of time with their dads.
Steve Biddulph, author of Raising Boys, describes this phenomenon as ‘father-hunger’ and suggests dads need to be around their sons in their primary school years as much as they can to allow them to ‘download the software’ of how to be male.
During adolescence, the father-son relationship can become problematic. While teenage boys seem to be hard-wired to challenge their fathers, they also most desperately want their dads to be proud of them.
Teenage boys need a father who can be firm when needed, as boys don’t always make great decisions. They need a father who remembers the awkwardness and insecurity of being a teenage boy himself. And they relate best to dads who don’t take themselves too seriously. The judicious use of humour, particularly with boys, is a great fathering strategy.
These notions are explored in an article published by parenting educator Michael Gross in his Insights newsletter titled, ‘Father Time is Valuable Time’, providing an important reminder that ‘good fathering’ matters to boys.
The critical role of fathers and adult male role models is also acknowledged in a boy’s literacy development. Of key importance is the role modelling shown towards reading at home. If boys don’t see the male adults in their lives reading and discussing the books they’re reading, they’re not receiving key messages about the importance reading has to the lives of boys and men.
However, for some fathers, first-hand interactions with their children are easier said than done. Family separation, work circumstances and busy lifestyles are all factors affecting their capacity to be as involved as they would like to be. In these circumstances it’s important that dads maintain an emotional attachment, do their best to know what’s going on in their lives and respond appropriately to their developmental imperatives.
Michael’s article concludes with four tips for fathers, which I think offer great advice:
- Have adventures with your son.
- Support your partner’s parenting.
- Change as your son changes.
- Discipline with firmness and compassion.
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