Over the last few decades, research on fatherhood has shown that children with involved, hands-on fathers are likely to be more confident, resilient individuals and even perform better academically. A father is his child’s earliest protector, playmate, counselor and friend - and this role evolves as a child grows and matures.
One of the greatest fathering challenges is broaching difficult subjects with a child - this can be especially hard for dads who dislike and avoid confrontation. However, avoiding thorny issues can often lead to deeper problems in the home; including marital conflict and communication breakdowns with the kids.
Here are 3 conversations that all fathers must have with their teen, and some recommended ways to approach them.
Have you heard parents discussing which one plays 'good cop' and 'bad cop' when it comes to disciplining their children? One common parenting pitfall is to leave the task of disciplining to just one parent, often the mother. As one dad puts it, "I am away at work all day, and don't want to spend our few precious hours of family time scolding my kids".
However, disciplining is more than simply punishing a child for wrong-doing. It is the act of setting limits, teaching values and self-control and allowing them to experience the consequences of their actions in a safe environment. Disciplining your children in the early years and adopting age-appropriate methods as they become teenagers ultimately allows them to grow into self-aware and considerate adults capable of making wise decisions.
Take the time to sit down in private, assure them that this is a two-way conversation and discuss boundaries for them moving forward. Bear in mind that they are maturing and should be given more autonomy in certain areas of their lives, within reason. Don’t be so quick to give them total control - they need a lot of guidance at a time when they are curious about many things yet not fully ready for the world. It is important that both parents are in agreement for major decisions and present a united front; providing a stable and consistent environment. Even when a mistake has been made, try to understand the situation and be open to discussing the appropriate consequence together.
Teach Discernment and Responsibility
Good decision-making is a core skill that all successful individuals possess - and fathers play an integral role in inculcating this ability. Start your children young, give them the autonomy to choose between a few limited options. As your teen begins to make choices in the areas of lifestyle, education and even career, be ready to talk them through the process, helping them evaluate the consequences and outcomes of their actions. With practice, they will begin to address complex issues with maturity and resilience.
Some simple questions they should ask themselves are:
- Why do I want to do this/try this?
- What are the possible outcomes of my actions?
- What is the worst thing that can happen? How likely is it to happen?
- What is the best case scenario? How likely is it to happen?
Be Honest about Sex and Relationships
As your teenager begins to explore romance and dating, have a frank chat about what a healthy relationship looks like, the consequences of premarital sex, and set specific boundaries for them to abide by. Some areas that you may need to address are:
- Can your teen go on solo dates, or group dates?
- Can your teen have their boyfriend or girlfriend at your home, without another adult present?
- What are the healthy boundaries for physical intimacy?
Having this conversation will pave the way for your teen to approach you with other relationship issues that may arise.
Having tough conversations can be uncomfortable and awkward for even the most seasoned fathers, but the rewards for following through on them are invaluable as your child becomes confident and secure, understanding and respecting boundaries, and ultimately making wise choices for themselves.
Copyright © 2015. Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.
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