I am often asked what sons need from their fathers. My answer really boils down to a few simple but critical things that every good dad must do, built on a framework of providing, nurturing and guiding.
But here's the problem: Too often, fathers think they're doing a better job in these areas than they really are. I've found that these four questions, though, can help a father ensure he's giving his son the fundamental things he needs. (And if a child's father is not in the picture, his mother can use these questions as a guide to help her find male role models who can give her son these kinds of affirmation.)
"Does my son know that he matters to me?"
We invest—money, time and energy—in the things we care about. In other words, if you ever want to know what someone cares about, look at their bank statement or ask them how they spent their time.
The primary way that dads can help their boys understand that they matter is by making them a priority over the myriad demands that life throws at us. With many things competing for a dad’s money, time and energy—our jobs, technology, entertainment, sports, television—it is easy for a child to think that he doesn't matter. It is critical that dads make it clear to their sons that they are a priority, that our most important investment is in them and that all the other "stuff" gets only the leftovers.
"Does my son know that I love him?"
Nurturing means a lot of things. It certainly includes hugging and kissing our boys—yes, even boys need hugs and kisses—on a daily basis and telling them that we love them. But it also includes taking care of their daily needs, like cooking for them, giving them baths, playing with them, reading to them and helping their mothers.
And I have discovered that despite the conventional wisdom that nurturing is primarily mom's territory, the root meaning of "nurture" is "to protect," a role that most dads are comfortable with.
Next: The one thing you should tell your son