Q&A: Being tough on my son

Q: My father didn’t offer me much in the way of affection or emotional support and I’m implementing this same style of fathering with my boy. Though I realize this approach might be softened, I’m convinced it will ultimately make him tough and spur him on to achieve more than he otherwise would. What do you think?

A: Many men don’t realize how desperately their sons need their love, affection, approval, and affirmation. Boys even need a certain amount of appropriate physical touch from their dads. There is a tendency among some fathers to withhold emotion, tenderness, and approval in their interactions with their sons. We’d caution you, though, that this approach can be destructive and damaging.

Just as dangerous is the impulse to insist that he share all of your interests and grow up to be “just like dad.” You can communicate genuine love for your son and validate his manhood by encouraging him to follow his natural bent and develop his own unique God-given talents. If he’s a born musician, don’t force him to play football. Or if he’d rather turn a wrench than crack a book, don’t expect him to become a JPA Scholar.           

It’s all well and good to talk about the importance of being strong and learning to overcome obstacles. But we’d suggest that life is capable of giving your son all the adversity he needs without any help from you. Your role is to get on his team and help him face the opposition with confidence. Instead of adding to the pressure, stand beside him as an encourager, comforter, cheerleader, and friend.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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