I hope you enjoy!
Q U E S T I O N S & A N S W E R S W I T H M I C H A E L A . O ’ D O N N E L L , P h D
1. Why is your book What a Son Needs from His Dad an important resource for fathers?
Research now confirms what the Bible has known all along—that the more nurturing the father the more masculine the son. In short, boys derive their sense of manhood from their fathers. Thus, fathers need to know how to be properly engaged in the life of their sons so that they feel approved and admired in their burgeoning masculinity. In part, that’s what I’ve attempted to provide for dads: what their sons need from them.
2. You’ve worked with fathers and researched the role of fathering for more than twenty years and have authored nearly ten books on the subject. Why did you write this particular one for dads?
Because research shows the average father spends less than thirty-seven seconds a day of meaningful interaction with his sons; and that’s simply not going to get the job done! A father needs to have tangible, concrete examples of what an effective dad looks like. Unfortunately, many men can no longer rely on their own fathers for examples on how to do fathering commendably in the twenty-first century. This is largely due to “father absence” or detached and distant dads. Thus, I was motivated to provide men with solid and practical ideas on how to give their sons what they need so that they break that cycle of intergenerational pathology.
3. What’s the biggest struggle most fathers face?
Knowing how best to model the right behaviors for their sons to emulate and to follow. Men are generally trained for success in business; but unfortunately, they are not given the tools necessary with which to succeed in the whole arena of parenting.
4. Some of our fathers listening today might not be familiar with nurturance. What is it and what should fathers know about it?
According to my colleague and fathering expert, Ken Canfield, nurturance is expressed by attitudes, words, and actions. Nurturance can even be nonverbal, but should include affection (don’t forget to speak the language of love to your son, especially the words “I love you!”), support (be there for his athletic events, after-school programs, and any significant religious occasions, such as confirmation and baptism), comfort (tuck him into bed, hold him, rock him, soothe his wounds, both physical and emotional), and intimacy (don’t underestimate your actual physical presence; sons tell us that having their father in the next room while they sleep is very reassuring to them).
5. Exactly what is the “The Real McCoy Dad”?
The “Real McCoy” Dad is easy to spot. He is characterized by supportiveness, acceptance, and love. In general, he has confidence in his child-rearing abilities. Although he is quite aware that he will make mistakes, he tries to have a relaxed, balanced, and positive approach to fatherhood. Most important, he is determined to do whatever it takes to be an effective father.
6. You write that much of what’s involved in giving our sons what they need comes down to telling them what we think and feel. Can you elaborate?
Thomas Lickona, author of Raising Good Children, calls this “teaching by telling.” Children can’t read our minds. They want to know something about their moral, religious, and cultural heritage from us. They shout, “Talk to me!” with every tug of the pant leg, every jump in the lap, and every tap on the shoulder.
You see, theirs is a confusing, mysterious, exciting, painful, and wonderful world. Your explanations, your values, your opinions are the only answers that matter—for now. Why squander your chance to impact them for life? Instead, use your time wisely.
Our sons need not only to see us living lives that are worth imitating, they also need to hear why we do it—the values and beliefs that guide our actions and shape our words.
7. What’s one of the hardest things for a father to do?
To talk about “the birds and the bees”! But I would remind dads who are listening to me right now that your son’s knowledge of sex begins long before that heart-to-heart talk between you and your son. You first teach your son about human sexuality by the way in which you relate to their mother.
What a son sees will be what he gets in the way of habits, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. It is truly amazing what children learn just by watching us; it is God’s plan, His way of preparing our sons for life. Again, the greatest gift a man can give his son is to love his mother! And, I might add, to love her in appropriate ways.
8. Any parting words for dads?
Yes, this prayer that I’ve adapted from Proverbs 3:1-4:
O, Lord, may their sons never forget your teachings. May their hearts keep your commandments. Then, Lord, you will give many more days and years to their lives and you will add your peace.
May kindness and truth never leave them, Lord. May they bind them about their necks and write them on their hearts.
Then, Lord, you will give them favor and a good reputation, both with you and with man.Amen.