“What men can do for boys, the way they play with them, the way they talk with them, the way they teach them to be assertive, the way they teach them to problem solve, it has profound lasting implications.”- Melanie Mallers
Psychological research is constantly seeking to define how bonding and parental roles shape children, teenagers, and young adults. Scientists are consistently asking how early relationships mold a child’s future, their emotional stability, and their confidence, even into adulthood. There is something so special and so unique about the bond between a father and a son. In fact, the relational bonding between a father and son can strongly influence that boy’s ability to regulate his mood and deal with stress as a grown man (Source). After all, there are just certain facts of life, from the male perspective in particular, that mothers are just unable to teach their sons.
“As a mom, when I see the way my husband interacts with my son, I realize this is having lasting effects on how he’s going to cope, my son, how he’s going to cope when he’s older. And he’s learning things from his dad that I can’t necessarily teach him.”-M.M.
The developmental significance of father-son bonding time is not just limited to opportunities during childhood. In fact, according to an extensive research study conducted by the Father Involvement Research Alliance indicated that even infants were more cognitively developed by the age of 6 months if they had consistent paternal involvement. The lack of significant paternal involvement in a child’s life has far reaching implications that range from a greater risk for behavioral problems to poor health habits and possible obesity. In fact, boys that grow up without the presence of a father or equivalent father figure are at least 10% more likely to participate in violent crime later in life.
Despite the increasing trend for fathers to focus primarily on income generation, there is a wave of dads out there promoting involvement with their sons. These are the men that are determined to break these modern chains of stereotypes. The men that are dedicated to being involved in their sons lives. How are they doing it? They are spending quality time with their sons. Although some dads struggle finding activities that appeal to both their sons and themselves, here are a few ideas for unconventional bonding that not only help strengthen their relationship, but encourage sons to grow into men that contribute to their household in more ways than just financially:
- Plan a meal, go grocery shopping, and then cook for the entire family.
- Volunteer together: make meals at a homeless shelter, do your elderly neighbor’s yard work.
- Plant a garden and tend to it together over the course of the spring/summer.
- Research your family history together – teach your son about his heritage and the roots of family.
- Have a car care day where you teach your son how to change the oil and replace a tire.
Regardless of the activity that you choose to do together, it’s imperative for dads to remember that their sons deserve support and praise. Even when they do things differently than you, don’t ever forget to tell them just how proud of them you really are.