How To Talk To Your Son Like A Man
Meet Clayton King
Clayton is my husband. We have been married and in ministry together for over 20 years. We have two kids, Jacob and Joseph, and I wanted to have him guest blog because he is such a wonderful father. You can also hear more of his fathering advice on the Overcoming Monday Podcast: Parenting From a Dad’s Perspective.
I have two sons and they’re both teenagers. I look at them everyday and see an invisible clock ticking above their heads, counting down the minutes until they graduate and move on to the next stage of life. It scares me, and it excites me, and it makes me feel sad. I want to maximize every moment I have with my 16 and 13 year old sons while they’re still living in my house.
Sharie and I have done our best, by God’s Grace, to train our boys to become men. Now I’m treating them more and more like young men every day. For me, treating them like men means talking to them like men. Just the thought of having “grown up conversations” with your son can be intimidating, but it’s not as hard as you think. Here are six things I’ve learned in my relationships with my sons that may help you talk to your son like a man.
1. You Be the Man
At the risk of sounding arrogant, the simple truth is...simply true. You are the man in the relationship. You are older. You have made more mistakes. You have more life experience. You've been married. You understand women (at least more than he does). You have a better perspective on money. You have more wisdom in the area of friendships, habits, patterns of behavior, romance, and education. Don't try to be just like him. He has a dozen friends that are just like him. They're not his dad. You are. He needs you to be a father who harmonizes tenderness and toughness, kindness and correction, understanding and instruction.
2. Remember He's Not a (grown) Man Yet
You'll likely feel some fear going into the conversation. Remember that your son will feel twice as awkward as you if he gets a whiff that you're going to talk to him about sex, girls, pornography or anything related. But those are exactly (some of) the things you need to talk to him about. Just remember that your boy isn't a grown man yet. He hasn't worked a full time job, or paid his own health insurance, or met with a banker about a home mortgage, or helped a fiance plan a wedding. Be patient with him, and try to begin having man to man talks in conjunction with activities he enjoys. Whatever your thing is that you do together (deer hunting, baseball games, a workout at the gym, weekly breakfast at his favorite place)...it's always a good idea to defuse as much awkwardness as possible by adding the talk to an activity.
3. Tell Him How Much You love Him
I believe that if fathers told their sons that they loved them every single day, while making direct eye contact with them, it would change fathers and sons and nations...and eventually it would change history. There's no single thing you can say to your son or do for your son that will impact his soul, his development, and his confidence than to verbalize your affection for your boy. If you want to talk to him like a man, begin by pulling down any barrier he may have. Nothing will pulverize his defenses like this simple act. But you must do it often. And if you want to talk about something specific, explain to him why it's important and how it's your love for him that motivates you to speak with him candidly.
4. Show Him Your Weakness
The fastest way to earn credibility with your older son is to immediately confess to him some things you've failed at and some areas you struggle in. Your teenage son is in a fight for purity, maturity, character, friendships, and integrity. He probably feels like he loses as many battles as he wins. So if you want to relate to him, and if you want him to trust you, open up about your own weakness. Tell him you fight against lust. Talk about your temptations with pornography. If it feels appropriate, talk about seasons of life you regret and specific mistakes you made in school, with girls, with friends, or even with your own parents. Let your boy see you as a real person with real regrets. He may still look at you with the eyes of a little boy as the man who is larger than life and can do no wrong. That image isn't helpful as he becomes a man. Be an example to him. Apologize to him for things you may have missed or messed up. Own up to your humanity. You'll be amazed how he'll trust you with his weaknesses in the years to come.
5. Don't Play the Hero
Once you've shown him your weakness, the pressure is off. You can breathe a sigh of relief that you don't have to have all the answers. What you want is openness and trust between your son. Instead of you playing the hero who has all the success stories of how you've figured out great mysteries (how to make a woman happy, how to retire rich, how to stay in shape in your 40s), you communicate to your son that you're also a work in progress who's still figuring it out. This opens the door for your son to feel like a hero when he gets something right, achieves a goal, or solves a problem. He can't feel overshadowed by your wins or accomplishments, so downplay them as much as possible unless (and until) he asks you to share your big life wins (and the "how" behind the wins) with him.
6. Play the Long Game
Begin with the end in mind. You're not trying to have one big talk where you iron out all the problems he'll ever face. You're trying to establish a connection, man to man, with your own flesh and blood. The goal is more than a good conversation over lunch when he's 16 years old. The goal is to have hundreds of those conversations for the next 50 years. He will need you more and more as he gets older, because he will become a husband, a father, an employee, and one day a grandfather. If he knows he can trust you, you will be the first person he turns to at the stages of his life where a trusted voice is needed. You are naturally that voice. Don't lose your voice by refusing to use it when he's young. Start the pattern now. Talk to him. Listen to him. Open up and share your failures and fears. Play the long game and it will be the best game you've every participated in.
© 2018 Clayton King. All rights reserved
More on Clayton
Clayton has been preaching all over the world since he was 14 years old. He and Sharie married in 1997 and co-founded Clayton King Ministries in 1996. He currently serves on the teaching team at NewSpring Church. You can learn more about Clayton King on the Clayton King Ministries Website and don’t forget to check out Clayton’s fathering advice on the Overcoming Monday Podcast: Parenting From a Dad’s Perspective and Parenting Teens.