"Does my son know that what he does is important to me?"
A son wants to know that the way he is living his life—his interests, schoolwork, hobbies and passions—is pleasing to his father. And, as a good dad, it is critical for a father to guide his son into the right actions and help him live a life centered on serving others.
However, you can’t expect to teach a son the value of charity if you are not charitable in how you spend time with him. You can’t expect to get him interested in your church’s community-service project if you haven't established a "community" that includes him in your home.
Show him that everything he does is important to you, and then you can show him what is really important—and he will welcome it.
"Does my son know how proud I am of him?"
This boils down to a son's innate need to be affirmed by his father. Your affirmation prepares your son to enter the world with the confidence and "emotional armor" that he needs in order not just to survive, but to thrive. A son needs to know that you are pleased with him, not for what he does or does not do, but because of who he is.
And remember that the way a father affirms his son depends on things like his culture and community and his son's temperament and interests. The objective of affirmation is to meet a son at his particular point of need and to connect with him—heart to heart. Indeed, there is no cookie-cutter approach to affirmation. One boy may simply need an encouraging word at the right time. A special breakfast out with dad may be what another son needs. A formal ceremony or rite of passage might fit certain cultures and situations.
But what all of these acts of affirmation, big and small, communicate to your son is that you are his advocate and that your love is abiding and unconditional.
Roland Warren is a board member (and former president) of the National Fatherhood Initiative. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tune in for a special two-hour Oprah's Lifeclass dedicated to Fatherless Sons with Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant this Sunday, May 5 at 9/8c on OWN.
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