In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the impact a father has on his children and reveal that boys become more masculine when their father hugs them.
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Now, let’s talk about how dads can boost their children’s self-esteem and why it is so critical for a father to hug his son and express affection.
“Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later . . . that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could . . . adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.” – Tom Wolfe, “Bonfire of the vanities.”
Tom Wolfe got it right; dads have a huge impact on their children. A loving father who remains actively involved has a positive effect on his child’s social, cognitive and intellectual development and self-esteem.
In fact, studies reveal that fathers play a major role in whether or not their children choose to abuse alcohol and drugs. In May 2000, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) surveyed 2,000 teens and 1,000 parents and found that teens in two-parent families who have fair to poor relationships with their fathers are 68 percent more likely to smoke, drink and use drugs.
In another study, Effects of Family Structure on the Adolescent Separation-Individualism Process, by Susan J. McCurdy, Avraham Scherman 1996, it was revealed that adolescents ages 14 to 19 have higher self-esteem and less depression when they have greater intimacy with their fathers.
Children need an involved, committed and responsible father; someone who will be a mentor and trusted guardian; a protective, guiding and supportive figure. You can also listen to the interview and conversation with Linda Nielsen, professor of adolescent psychology and women’s studies at Wake Forest University in North Carolina who has been teaching a “Fathers and Daughters” course since 1990 where we reveal that a girl’s childhood relationship with her father will affect the quality of her adult relationships with men, her sexual activity, self-esteem, weight, success in life and happiness. http://patrickwanis.com/RadioInterviews.asp#FathersNeg
Be involved daily
A few years ago when I was brought in by the Montel Williams TV show to work with a family in crisis, the father told me “My children know I love them” and I responded “No they don’t. They are extremely resentful towards you and feel neglected by you. You don’t sit down with them on daily basis to ask them any questions about their daily life. Ask and actively listen. Express sincere interest in what your children have to say. Make time for them and get involved or attend their activities.”
Acceptance is the opposite of condemnation, criticism and judgment. Of course, rule and discipline are still required but acceptance and guidance lead to trust and when teens feel accepted by their father, they are more likely to be vulnerable, trusting and transparent – opening up to their father.
Be consistent, firm and fair
Consistency in all things in a household creates a feeling of safety and security for children. The extreme opposite is the experience of children of alcoholic parents who feel like they are walking on egg shells and never know when the alcoholic parent is going to explode. Set rules and make it clear what is expected, and what the consequences will be when the rules are broken. Be firm and fair – do not abuse your authority. And when he screws up, let him experience the consequences so that he learns responsibility.
Being available simply means making time for your child and responding when he or she needs you or asks for your help without rejecting him or her by saying “I am too busy.” Spend time together – even in menial tasks and activities.
Give them attention
Children need and seek out the attention of both mom and dad. Notice your children – what they do and what they say. Be wary of them feeling invisible because you allow them to run and hide in their room. In the older teen years, a boy will feel ambivalent – wanting to be left alone and yet wanting and craving attention and inclusion. A father needs to break through those walls. And when a child does not feel safe at home and does not feel that his/her father loves and accepts them unconditionally, they will turn outside and elsewhere for guidance, love and attention.
Don’t be his friend, be his father
Being a father (or mother) is not a popularity contest. Your role is not to be his friend or to seek his approval, acceptance or emotional support but rather to be a role model, guide, mentor and protector; to provide security, structure and foundation by adopting and engaging in the suggested strategies mentioned here.
Bond by doing things together
To bond with your son simply infers that you establish a relationship with him based on shared feelings, interests, or experiences. Boys are extremely physical and need to interact physically with the world around them. By doing things together you and him will bond (but remember to model good behavior and attitudes for your son.) Find out what interests and excites your son and share that activity:
- Catch (sport – bowling, golf, basketball)
- Mountain climbing
- Building things together
- Racing (let him win fairly)
- Working on a car
- Planning and taking road trips
- Roughhousing (wrestling)
Read “The dangers of cotton wooling your children” http://patrickwanis.com/blog/the-dangers-of-cotton-wooling-your-children/
- Serving others (charity work)
- Working together (earning money)
- Building model cars or airplanes
Affection is a gentle feeling of fondness or liking and it can be expressed through words and physical touch. Affection also creates a belief in a child that he is loveable and worthy.
Contrary to popular belief, studies reveal that when a dad hugs and kisses his son, it does not make him sissy or effeminate. In fact, a healthy physical relationship with his father helps a boy to become more comfortable with his masculinity as well as physical expressions of love and caring.
Hug your son
As eloquently expressed by Tom Wolfe in the quote above, men have little training in the ways of being a father or ways to express themselves verbally and emotionally. Hugging (along with the aforementioned strategies) is a way to connect and engage emotionally with your son. It is critical to avoid being selfish and weak and thinking that your son is rejecting you when he shuts down or clams up. If your son reacts with indifference or explicitly rejects you, don’t make it about you, don’t retreat with sadness and fear – fight on. Get past your won blocks and make yourself vulnerable – admit mistakes and apologize when it is necessary and appropriate, which, in turn, will teach him accountability and responsibility. Don’t acquiesce but rather be physically and emotionally present.
Be careful of carrying grudges and resentment. And don’t wait until you are angry to look your son in the eyes but rather do so when you want to express love. Hug him and tell him “I love you. No matter what happens, remember that I love you!”
Make it your goal to become your son’s idol and not some celebrity, rock star or TV show host (such as Bear Grylls – Man Vs Wild TV show.) “When I was a boy of 14 my father was so ignorant that I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in only 7 years.” – Mark Twain.
Also read my Success Newsletter article about a 50-year study that reveals rejection by dad can be devastating: http://patrickwanis.com/blog/dads-moms-can-prevent-killings-suicides/
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist