Honesty and father/son relationships
Dear Dr. Karyn,
Question: I want to be really honest with my kids since my own parents weren’t with me. How much should I share with my kids about my past?
Answer: It’s important to ask yourself what is your motive. Is your motive to teach your children a lesson so they don’t make the same mistakes you did? Is your motive to get it off your chest and be more vulnerable with your children? Is your motive to show your children how great you were by walking three miles in the freezing rain to school? I’m a big believer in honesty and I also believe in age-appropriateness of certain information. More important than what you did when you were 16, I think it’s important to share your values – past and present – with your children. What were your values on drugs, sex, school, relationships, and friendships when you were 16, compared to now? What were your boundaries? Were they important to you? How did you deal with pressure? Often, children like to hear some personal stories that back up their parents’ values. When you do share, stay focused on why you are sharing this in the first place. Remember, each child is going to make their own choices. You sharing your story may or may not impact them but it will make you more human.
Dear Dr. Karyn,
Question: I have two sons whom I love dearly. I worry sometimes because I didn’t have a strong relationship with my father and I want to be a great dad for them. What would you suggest I do the most to have a great relationship with my boys?
Anwser: The father / son relationship has a special bond. Although father and son may have different interests, different personalities and different humour, they share two things: they’re both male and they’re both part of the same family. And with the hundreds of teen guys I’ve chatted with over the last decade, one of the most important things guys want, although most will never freely admit it, is for their dads to be proud of them. Some sons look up to their dads so much that they think, “I’ll never be like him – so why bother trying?” It’s like a celebrity parent and child scenario and, as a result, their motivation is low. They can never measure up to their dad who in their mind is their hero so they do nothing. Other sons do the opposite. They so badly want their dad’s approval that they work extremely hard – they become overachievers – hoping their dad will finally say, “Son, I love you and I’m so proud of you.” The difficulty is that most of us are not completely honest with each other, not even with ourselves. We put on a front. We pretend we don’t care. We even say, “I don’t care what he thinks of me,” as tears roll down our face.
As a father, I challenge you to find the courage to tell your son openly that you love him. If you haven’t told your son recently how much you care for him, let him know. If your son is making choices that honestly don’t make you proud, focus on his character. Let him know the parts of his character that you are proud of – this might give you a window into his heart. Fathers, you are your son’s greatest model. You are indirectly teaching him how to be a man and how to be a father. You have much more power than you realize!
• Dr. Karyn Gordon is a youth expert, parent/teen coach, motivational speaker and author. Check out www.drkaryn.com.