07 Jan How To Let Your Son Know You Love Him
An Australian High School Principal shares some thoughts on how to talk to your son and let him know you care.
Many years ago, my son Peter turned 18 on a most inconvenient day – I was booked to go to Tasmania and attend a very important conference for heads of schools. I apologised, said I would be thinking of him, and caught my flight.
At the conference I was morose, unsettled and couldn’t enjoy the excellent speakers or the easy camaraderie of my colleagues – I knew I shouldn’t have gone. I booked a flight back to Melbourne and made it back home just as Peter’s party was starting. I felt terrible when he said he was surprised to see me.
We don’t always show our sons that we love them as much as we should.
Some will say they do (like me), but there’s no congruency between word and deed. Some parents will present evidence of faithful provision as proof of their love, but it’s not enough – it has to include giving time.
Use Your Words
Even if words don’t come easily, most should be able to manage ‘I love you, son’. If you drop your son at school with the knowledge that he is loved, he’ll be equipped to withstand any social or emotional issues that may arise. If you miss saying it in the morning, make amends with a text or email. If you’re struggling to initiate conversation, here are some tips:
- Chat over meals.
- Ban mobile phones and individual entertainment devices in the car in favour of conversation.
- Regularly discuss issues in the news.
- Share the issues you are wrestling with, and the likelihood of mirrored behaviour is great.
- Write a letter and post it to your son.
- Establish a network of mentors for a son.
- Develop a good relationship with your son’s friends. This will assist in being able to join in some of their conversations.
Typically, boys are visual learners – they like to watch. Boys would rather see a truth than have it described to them, so while parents may say they love their son, unless they show that he’s a priority, he won’t believe them.
The greatest demonstration of love a parent can give is to offer their son the gift of time, and boys need you to show them love by choosing to be a presence in their lives. This gift is even more precious in a time-poor society that has taken to showing love with money.
While the material needs of a son must be met, it is important to differentiate between need and greed. While there are a variety of ways to show love, different parents will have different strengths and weaknesses, and you shouldn’t get down on yourself for not complying with all of them. This concept was explored by Gary Chapman in his pioneering work on Love Languages. Gary argued that although everyone is able to express love in different ways, a person will have a natural preference for expressing in one particular way, including:
- Giving words of affirmation.
- Spending quality time with someone.
- Giving and receiving gifts.
- Giving acts of service.
- Physically (hugs, etc).
Although it’s important to try and express love in more than one domain, it is probably not how we do it that matters, it is that we leave our sons with no doubt that they are loved.
Words by Tim Hawkes