How do I help my son forge his own identity?
How can I teach him what it means to be a leader?
What should I do so he develops a set of ethical values?
Reading Ten Conversations You Must Have with Your Son by Dr. Timothy Hawkes is a good way to prepare yourself for the difficult task of helping your son, especially a teenage boy, grow into a man.
Hawkes, a father and Australian boarding school headmaster, writes that we have to let our sons know they are loved. But there is a fine line between saying “I love you” and showing your love. Showing your love gives him a sense of security, belonging and self-esteem. But how do we show our love for our sons? One action, Dr. Hawkes writes, might be as simple as making time to give them our undivided attention.
As an example, he recalls turning down his son’s request to spend time with him one day, citing a pile of paperwork he had to finish. Fortunately, his wife changed his mind for him and the results were rewarding. That night, before bed, his son thanked him for finally pulling away from his work to play with him earlier. It was his way of saying, “I know you love me, Dad. I love you too.”
Hawkes also talks about identity, character building, leadership and “choosing a moral code to live by.” I found this a bit corny at first but, on further reflection, I know that I would want my son to choose the right path in a time of crisis even if other men are doing the opposite.
Hawkes on the sex talk
Then it’s the dreaded “birds and bees” discussion. Hawkes says it’s not enough, however, to just cover the technical aspects of sex. A teenager’s sense of masculinity and expectations of sex is confusing. So much is predicated around what they see on TV, in the movies, which of his friends has done it first and whose penis is bigger.
“They need to be encouraged that it isn’t size that matters … it’s what they do with it,” Hawkes writes.
We must also teach them to avoid high-risk behavior, he writes, and how to treat the women in their lives. Teenage boys need to know that pressuring or coercing a woman into doing something she isn’t ready for is wrong and can land them in jail. We have to set the example.
Ultimately, we are responsible for guiding our sons as they approach manhood. Hawkes wrote Ten Conversations You Must Have with Your Sonas a guide so we can talk to our sons about these hard-to-explain life lessons. And while my son is only 6, I know that as he gets older, I will be referring back to en Conversations You Must Have with Your Son for guidance.