As your son moves from boyhood to manhood, his need for his father increases dramatically. He is moving from the world of women and into the world of men and he doesn't know what he doesn't know. Your son needs a man to show him the way.
Sure, he needed his mom when he was younger. Her tender nurture and influence will never go away completely, but as he enters the teen years, what he really needs is his father. He needs to hear mom say, "You can't do that" a lot less. He needs to hear his dad say, "You CAN do that" a lot more.
But here's the problem.
The window of time when a young man needs his father's influence and guidance the most is the very time that his outward behavior screams, "leave me alone." Dads can be easily discouraged by the relational walls that adolescent boys put up around themselves. It's a tough shell that dads have to break through.
The key is to not take your son's tendency towards isolation personally. It's just that he (like every other man) wants to feel capable and adequate. When he doesn't feel like he has what it takes, he tries to hide it. The last thing he wants to do is display his inadequacies to the most important man in his life. That's why he clams up or pushes you away.
But dad, if you are wise, you won't fall for it. You will hear his words and behaviors for what they really are. When he says, "Leave me alone," you'll know what he is really saying is, "Help me." When his body language communicates, "Stay away," you'll know that what he really wants is for you to press into his heart.
When you do, he needs to hear about your failures, fears and inadequacies. If he feels he can never measure up to your high expectations, he won't open up about his shortcomings. The best way to connect is to be honest about where you struggle. This might be scary, but it's the best way to connect the heart of a father and son.
Where this gets really real.
There is one place that your son desperately needs your help. Our hyper-sexualized culture has overwhelmed our young men with exposure to a potentially endless stream of explicit content. Studies show that most of them are looking at it. The majority are addicted. The social research also says that they know it's not healthy. These guys want someone to help them make wise decisions about their sexuality and what they look at on the internet. That someone is their father. If you have a teenage son, that someone is you.
If you're like me, you want to have meaningful conversations with your son about this stuff, but you don't know how. Getting the ball rolling on topics like p@rn and girls can feel awkward. So our tendency is to not do it. We leave our sons to fend for themselves. Most of them are suffering because of our passivity.
Here's a shameless plug.
For generations, dads have had a hard time having these important talks. We need a tool to help us to do them and to do them right. We need something to "tee up" some things that we know that we need to teach our boys. We need to push through the resistance and connect with the hearts of our sons.
The breakdown in the lines of father/son communication is the reason I wrote "The Young Man's Guide to Awesomeness." Since we released it last month, it has proven to be an extraordinary tool for a multitude of father/son relationships. Here are excerpts from a few emails I have received:
Our hope is that thousands upon thousands of fathers and sons would re-connect over some essential conversations. Our prayer is that you would personally experience the thrill and honor of helping your son move towards courageous and chivalrous manhood. Our desire is that a generation of awkward adolescents would be raised up by their fathers to be Godly men who do great things in our world.
Over the past month, more than a thousand people have gotten their hands on "The Young Man's Guide to Awesomeness." It is already beginning to build relationships and change lives. We think it can change things in your home, as well.
We wrote something that guys would actually want to read.
The book is like nothing else out there, written in a format that is attractive to teenage guys. It includes:
Short, easy-to-read chapters.
Common themes, like "How Most Guys Operate" and "How You Can Be Different."
Lessons in every chapter from the life of David, one of the most awesome (but flawed) guys in the Bible.
25 unique QR codes to videos that supplement the reading. (They hear truth from young guys in their 20's, not just old farts like their dad.)
Discussion questions at the end of every section so that dads and sons can talk things through.
Wives, if you are looking for a last-minute Father's Day gift, forget the ties and tools and give him this book. After all, why give him a tie if you can give him something that will tie his heart and your son's heart together? Why give him a tool if you can give him a tool he can actually use to become a more effective father? Just a thought.
Dads, your teenage son needs you. Even if he tends to push you away, he needs you. If you want him to enter adulthood prepared, then you need to start preparing him. Let's commit to getting this right.