James Robertson is an author and freelance writer who specializes in family and business — and he loves writing about video games.
I was fortunate enough to be raised in a unified home with a father and mother. My parents didn’t go through divorce and my mother was able to stay at home with us boys until we all began school. In her later years I feel my mother may regret sacrificing those years to stay at home while my father worked since she is now behind in her career but as a child, I appreciate growing up in an old-fashioned home environment.
In recent years we have seen a turn away from the old method of raising children where the father went off to work while the mother stayed at home. Too often now we see both parents working with children in daycare. In many ways that is a great thing because women don’t feel stuck in a stereotypical female roll of only having purpose through raising kids while the man can feel purpose through work. It’s up to you now to decide which route you want to take. I have many male friends who stay home with their children (working part-time or doing work-from-home jobs) while the wife works out of the house.
I say all of this to bring us full circle back to the old school way of raising kids where a child had very limited time with their fathers. I remember seeing very little of my father as a kid. He worked two to three jobs most of my childhood and was only home long enough to sleep. Even with that limited time my father did a great job of showing me what it meant to be a man and what it took to provide for a family. In my prior article we looked over the effects of a father on a daughter. This time I would like us to dive deep into what a father provides for his son.
Dad’s Provide Play
One of the first and my opinion the most important ways a father plays a role in raising his son is through play. Usually that is considered “rough” play as well. A mother can play with their son during their early years but once the boy becomes bigger it usually hits a point where his desire to play will go beyond a woman’s desire to engage that level of play. My wife, for example, hit this point with our son when he was about 4 to 5 years old. She was accustomed to wrestling with him but once he hit this age his energy level and strength took a turn for the worse (in her eyes) and he became too much for her to handle in that capacity.
This is of course where the father steps in. He can handle that level of play and for most men, they have a blast while doing it. Growing up in a house with three boys was very fun for me and I remember many nights a week we would all convene in the living room to have a wrestle mania right there in our home. Three boys and their dad throwing down on the living room rug.
A father wrestling with his sons is such an important part of a boy growing up. It teaches them to problem solve, control their strength, and pushes the limits of that strength so they can continue to grow and put their strength in a constructive manner. It also creates a bond within the family that can keep a son invested in his family instead of searching outside the family for that bond.
Dad’s Set the Rules
Let’s start this out by saying that this title doesn’t mean a mother cannot set or enforce rules. I was terrified of my mother for most of my childhood (maybe I’m still a little afraid). She didn’t have to try too hard to enforce the rules of the house. It is a statement of fact though that a father will command more respect and fear from their children which will make it much easier for him to set and enforce rules. Most boys will grow larger than their mothers. That is a common thing to see, and I know that by the time I was a teenager my mother spanking me brought little to no pain, outside the humiliation of being spanked.
I grew up in a time when spanking was commonplace. Maybe that parenting style is a little outdated now but when I was a kid, everyone was being spanked so it naturally plays into my views on parenting. My oldest son is a stepson, so I don’t discipline him physically and I don’t feel it’s right for a father to physically hit a daughter, so I don’t spank my two daughters. My youngest son is only a few months old, so he doesn’t get spanked.
Fathers are a Source of Emulation
Daughters look to their fathers to see what they want out of a man while sons look to their father to see what they want to become (or not become). While you’re living your life, he is watching and studying you. If you get frustrated while building a new dresser for his room, he pays attention to that. If you yell at him for making a simple mistake and continue to belittle him for that mistake, he logs that in his memory. If he comes to you with a problem and you say he is being too emotional or being a baby, he will remember that forever.
Now I know there are many manly men out there who may recoil at the mention of emotions (I’m one of them) but it is completely normal to have emotions as a man. I grew up during the times you would “push down your emotions” so others wouldn’t see. You couldn’t let anyone else see that you had weakness. Of course, there is absolutely a time and place for that, but it doesn’t mean you can never have emotions. Building an intimate relationship with someone gives room for a deeper connection that gives way to emotional honesty. That is what you should seek to have with your son.
If he comes to you and is crying about something that you deem “stupid” or “childish” do your best to first put yourself in his shoes. It may seem childish to someone with decades of experience and the ability to not care about what others think, or to overcome easy obstacles but to a young boy, this is his whole world. A friend rejecting him or a group of his peers not wanting to play with him at school may seem trivial to you but to a young boy that constitutes a huge portion of his life. Instead of trying to teach him a lesson on burying his feelings you should start by teaching him how to be more social, or how to conquer whatever problem is standing in his way of having fun. Validate his emotions, teach him how to handle them, and then teach him how to problem solve without letting his emotions take over.
Whatever you do be sure to remember that you will fail and that’s ok. Teach him how to fail as you fail. Learn together and he will see your humility as a positive trait to adopt. At my house we sit down at the table every night to enjoy dinner and we go around the table, giving everyone a chance to speak about their day and what happened. When every kid finishes telling everyone about their day, they always know the next thing to expect from me. I will always ask them to tell me about a time that they failed that day. I want them to know that failure is ok. It isn’t the end of the world. It is just an obstacle that must be overcome. Teach your son that and you will set him up for a lifetime of success.
Fathers teach sons how to treat women
The last thing on my list (and there are many more, but we will keep it short and sweet) is that a father teaches his son how he should treat others, especially women. Behind every story of domestic abuse, I see a son (in cases where it’s the husband hitting the wife) who wasn’t taught how to treat their spouse. Every time I hear about a man running his mouth to someone else, just for him to get punched in the mouth, I see a boy that wasn’t taught how to respect others by his father. Now I know that there are many other reasons behind a person doing something, but this is just what I see.
One of the primary roles of a father, as stated above, is to be a source of emulation and stability for their children. There is no better way to accomplish this than to teach your son how to treat women and teach your daughters what they should look for in a man. When your son sees you open the door for your wife, he will log that into his memory. When he sees you jump up off the couch to help with chores around the house instead of spending all day watching TV, he will remember it. When he sees you forgive others for mistakes they make, or show a stranger an act of kindness, he will want to become that when he’s a man.
Be the Man He Wants to Become
More importantly, you should be the man that you want to see your son become one day. If you have a short temper, are you pleased with him having a short temper? If you are rude to your wife or don’t show her respect, are you fine with him doing that?
I understand there are many people who may be ok with that. My hope is that if you’re reading this article, you don’t want to become that man. Be the man that you want your son to become. Use this as an opportunity to become the person your family deserves. Be the hero of your story and your son’s story.