Why fathers should stop trying to be their son’s best friend!
Some few weeks back, I was talking to the father of a teenage boy who was despairing that his son insisted on putting his play-station above homework, chores and even sleep. He asked, with a defeated shrug: “What can I do?” I was afterall an agony aunt. He seemed to believe that as the boy’s father, he had no part to play in his problem at all. When I told him to “take the damn thing off him”, I’m not sure which of us looked more surprised. The father because I was suggesting a firm act of parenting that was clearly an alien concept, or me, because I was required to point out such an obvious solution.
Not long after this incident, I ran into an older friend who rose to the position of the principal of a reputable male secondary school in Lagos. According to him, “Society is increasingly equality-driven, which is a good thing. But something clearly has got lost in translation when a father believes this must be extended to his connection with his young son. You see family relationships where formalities have been removed so much so that the child is allowed to call his father by his pet name! This would be a good thing if it worked, but it doesn’t.
“Instead of acquiescing to their father’s firm but fair demands, too many boys find themselves calling the shots. They dictate how much home work they will do, if any. They decide whether they will sit at the family table to eat and what time they will finally switch off from technology and grab some sleep. If they’re rude to their mothers, it is of no consequence. Should they fall behind at school, it is left to their teachers to try to cajole them into catching up. Structure and orders are lost – and in the vain hope this will allow friendship to thrive between father and son.
“Of course similar behaviour can occur between daughters and mothers, but the brain of an adolescent boy is wired differently to that of his female counterpart, meaning it is potentially more of a problem. He matures later, meaning he has less of a sense of personal responsibility when it comes to his own safety and success. Studies have shown that boys are more likely to take risks and be more optimistic about the outcome – this makes strict rules and discipline all the more important when it comes to keeping on the right path.