From the time your son is an infant, his relationship with you—Mom or Dad—sets the template for how he will relate to every other person in his world. If you are trustworthy, he will trust others. If you are more critical of him than affectionate, he will guard himself from being too close to anyone. You become his emotional filter. All of his future relationships will be fitted into the framework of his relationship with you.
Fathers, you are larger than life to your sons. Mothers, you decide the comfort of his small world. If you are not available, someone must fill in for you or else his world will crumble. As a boy grows throughout elementary school, his feelings, experiences, and thoughts continue to evolve around his relationships with his parents. If these relationships are strong, his days at school will be more productive and enjoyable. If you had an argument before he left home, he may fail his math test or forget to hand in his homework. Your relationship influences every part of his day.
When your son hits the adolescent years he scrutinizes his relationship with you. If you have a bad relationship, adolescence will be a tumultuous time of anger and rebellion, as he fights to strip himself from you, all the while suffering the psychological trauma of separation. In a healthy relationship there is little undone business, so a teen’s inevitable separation from his parents is far less traumatic. If a parent dies and the son has had a good relationship, he will grieve appropriately and then move forward. But boys who have business to finish or wounds that need healing can become stuck in grief after a parent’s death. In some ways all of adolescence is a time of grieving because a boy constantly leaves something—behaviors, smooth skin, a scrawny body, his feeling needy and dependent upon you—behind to move forward into manhood. During the teen years, a boy purposes to leave behind even his juvenile relationships and shift into more adult ones.
Since parents are the number one influence in a boy’s life, your relationship with your son will be the best indicator of the decisions he will make. What really influences your sons’ decisions isn’t simply what you say or don’t say to him. And it isn’t just how you discipline him.
What makes the biggest impact on his future decisions and behaviors is how connected he feels to you. He needs to consistently feel that, though you may disagree with him, you are always available to love him, listen to him and accept him for the boy he was and the man he is becoming.
This post is adapted from Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons