Since Influence Publishing of Vancouver published my book in November, 2011 titled ‘A Man’s Work Is Never Done . . . A Novel About Mentoring Our Sons’I have spent many hours and travelled many miles talking to families and single moms, single dads, teenagers, grandparents and colleagues to name a few. I am still struck by the breadth of this issue of fatherless sons and its impact on our homes and communities and the paralysis that seems to have encompassed people. Not many seem to be willing to offer up any solutions but most agree that a problem certainly exists and it’s getting worse not better. Many single parents have given up trying to figure it out just hoping that things will change on their own–that it is a phase that all teenage sons go through and you just have to tough it out. What that has gotten us to is near three generations of young men who have a decreasing consciousness around what it means to be a man in the world today and no idea of the transition that takes place in every young man’s life from boyhood to manhood. They just don’t know what it is they don’t know.
One thing I do know for sure is that, as a species, we have not changed much in the last several centuries. Yes we have become more technologically advanced and kids have surpassed us and their predecessors with leaps and bounds in understanding the new technologies. We could mark significant growth in that direction but I’m talking about our basic needs as a species. From the beginning of time we have needed food, clothing, shelter, sleep, air and water. With anyone of these not supplied we cease to exist so this hasn’t changed much in all that time. We still need those exact basic things today. In among those basic needs are the need to be loved and to give love. We also need to know how to accept it. My point is we have become so busy with ‘living’ that we have stopped mentoring our young men regarding the basics that they will need in order to understand the transition I just spoke of and manage the gifts they bring into the world as males. There are many reasons why this has happened but the fact remains that our young men are being cheated out of a vital part of their development regardless of the ‘why’.
There are some messages that a young man needs to hear, wants to hear or can only hear from his father or a strong and trusted male role model. This is not to take anything away from single moms who do their absolute best to fulfill both roles at the same time. They do vitally important work to keep things together as best they can–no question. However, the world is a very different place to a male than that of a female. Junior needs to learn about those differences from another male–one who has gone before and learned the lessons that will help him transition from boyhood to manhood.
The following list is a brief summary of the series of articles I produced that are archived on my WordPress site. You can access that site by going to jimlifechoice.wordpress.com. Keep in mind that reuniting with a previously abandoned son, reconstructing a relationship gone bad or re-establishing a relationship that still exists is a process and not an event. It takes time, patience, love and most of all committment to a dream to do. If it is possible to do at all.
This process begins with:
10. Giving your son your TIME. Make a promise about spending your time with him and remember this is a promise not to be broken. Actions are greater and carry more importance than words. At least in this case. If you can’t keep the promise don’t make it. Make sure that whatever you are doing with him that it is uninterrupted as well–just you and him. Do what you say you will. Being consistent here is how trust will begin to grow.
9. Making sure that your son feels CONNECTEDat all times–that he knows and hears, often, that he is valued and has a place at the table and a home to go to. He also needs to know that he is the one who can change this by his behaviour and his commitment to keeping home a safe place for all who live there.
8. Seeing his dad as a FATHER NOT A DICTATOR who is constantly yelling out warnings, threats and ultimatums. Besides fear is a poor motivator for long term change.
7. LISTENING to your son with all your attention–undivided and unimpaired. Just be quiet and let him talk. He needs to be able to express his views and tell you how the world looks to him at this moment.This is how he learns and how he develops values. He needs to hear back from you about what he says but not in a judgemental or condemning way. Don’t offer him sarcasm and belittle him by talking about when he grows up . . . He will just shut down at this point and you need to have him talk to you. You may not agree with what he says but he needs to know that you respect his right to say it and that he is feel free enough and safe enough to tell you what he is going through. It’s called a ‘conversation’.
6. Showing him and telling him that you LOVE HIM.They are simple words that mean the world to him. He needs to know that he is important to you and that you are proud of him and who he is becoming as a man in the world. This is not the place to mention pre-conditions or judgements in order to keep that love flowing in his direction. A simple ‘I Love You Son’ does miracles if it is sincerely given.
5. Helping him understand that you are his PARENT NOT HIS FRIEND. This does not mean that you can’t enjoy going to football games together or playing golf together or going fishing or any other activities that you both enjoy. Of course you do all those things. However, friends seldom do what parents must. That means drawing the line in the sand and saying ‘no you can’t do this or that’. Parents are the ones charged with the responsibility of teaching and mentoring and they are the ones that help create the boundaries and consequences for decisions made. Can’t be both and besides if they wanted more friends they would go and make more friends.
4. Confirming the importance of understanding the concepts of acceptance and tolerance and treating others with respect regardless of race, culture, religion, age or gender. The message is no one is marginalized because of who they are in the world.
3. Saying that dreaded word that no child or teen wants to hear and saying it more often when needed. That word is‘NO’ . It’s such a tiny word and yet it can cause such great concern, consternation and anxiety for children/teens alike. It’s OK for parents to say ‘NO’. It’s good for parents to say ‘NO’. But if parents are going to say ‘NO’ they had better be ready to explain why they are saying ‘NO’. Using ‘NO’ can provide a teachable moment for our kids. It also provides parents with a chance to state their morals, their values and where they believe the boundaries are situated. Funny thing is as much as kids dislike being told ‘NO’ they also come to appreciate and feel safer knowing that the parents are really caring and loving people and not just tyrants who get off on their power. This little word does a great deal to promote a sense of trust if used appropriately.
2. Learning how to COMPETE is so important to their sense of self, confidence development and their sense of accomplishment. Kids/teens need to know that they are good at something. Parents really need to get over the idea that winning is not important but rather how you play the game is most important. The good news is that it is OK to win. Winning is fun. If a kid enjoys losing then I’d be concerned with that. Children/teens need to be taught how to win with grace, class and humility. They need to learn how to lose in the same way. The message needs to be when you go after something you give it your absolute best effort at all times and if you win–that’s great but if you are not successful this time that’s OK too and then you prepare for the next time and give it your best. Their is no shame in getting beat as long as you have given your best in the course of the competition. That’s what our children need to see, hear and see their parents demonstrate. That is what build character.
1. The last one and arguably the most important one of a list of most important ones. Sons need to experience a RITE OF PASSAGE. “What is that”, you ask? This is a gathering of the most important, influential people in a young man’s life who are attending the festivities to celebrate the completion of the transition that a young man goes through when growing and maturing into a state of manhood. It recognizes that this young man has demonstrated an understanding of the challenges and lessons that need to be known which will allow him to live in the world as a healthy man among his family and peers, colleagues and friends. It marks his acceptance by like minded and like thinking people. It says,”welcome and congratulations, you have arrived”. This group is usually attended by fathers and mothers, grand parents, uncles and aunts–anyone who has been a mentor and a role model for this young man. It could be a particular police officer or a minister, a school teacher or professor. Anyone who has had an opportunity to support and teach him something about living as a man in the world today.
This celebration is what separates the men from the boys and it is so vitally important to the peace of mind and the self respect and confidence that a young man carries with him throught out the remainder of his life. It is, also, what he brings forward for his son and his son’s son. A Man’s Work Is Never Done it just keeps going from generation to generation– as it should–
That’s how I see it anyways, Jim
“I talk and talk and talk , and I haven’t taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week”–Mario Cuomo,
(Past Governor of New York)
THIS MARKS THE END OF THE SERIES ABOUT ’10 MOST IMPORTANT GIFTS FATHERS DON’T ALWAYS GIVE THEIR SONS”. THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST.
NEXT WEEK I’LL START A NEW SERIES ABOUT THE ’10 THINGS WOMEN NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MEN IN ORDER TO KEEP LIVING WITH THEM”