father and son relationship

5 Things Dads Do That Push Their Sons Away

Bart’s dad was an angry person. As a child, Bart had to endure three to four beatings a week. His dad would sometimes even beat Bart over something frivolous, like a Dallas Cowboys loss. Eventually, the beatings stopped, and Bart’s dad replaced them with apathy, which, to Bart, felt even more painful. Gradually, the two stopped talking altogether. Things didn’t change until his father got cancer and had a faith conversion. As his physical health deteriorated, his faith and love grew stronger. He began to pursue Bart and love him in the way Bart always desired.

But it took a long time for Bart’s dad to win back his son after all he had done. After his dad passed away, Bart went on to write the song “I Can Only Imagine,” which became a No. 1 hit around the world. The story behind the song is all about Bart and his relationship with his father, and the movie I Can Only Imagine tells it beautifully. Although most dads don’t subject their sons to abuse, there are things we all do that push our sons away. If we want great relationships with our sons, we need to avoid these things that hurt the father and son relationship. Here are 5 things dads do that push their sons away.

1. Expecting the Son to be Better

We all want our sons to do better in life than we did. Sometimes I think we forget that we had to learn some life lessons through pain and trial. We start to expect our sons to know the lessons already when it took us years to learn them. Those expectations are unfair and put pressure on sons that cause them to retreat. As my mom has said, “They just got here.” Our sons haven’t been on Earth long, and because they have our DNA, they are prone to the same mistakes and growing pains we’ve experienced. Be patient with them. It’ll help your father and son relationship.
Result: The son feels pressure.

2. Being Overly Critical

Since we want our sons to do better than we did and avoid our mistakes, it can lead to our being overly critical. We look for opportunities to coach our sons up and offer advice. However, many times it, we just end up making our sons feel like they aren’t good enough. Even compliments can be accompanied by a criticism: “You made a great play out there at second. Next time, throw to first and complete the double play.” We want to be able to teach our sons valuable lessons like this, but it’s important to evaluate how many of your compliments also include an “opportunity for growth.”
Result: The son never feels like he’s good enough.

3. Living Through the Son’s Achievements

I’ll be the first to admit—I love watching my son win games. It’s exciting and fun. That feeling can get addicting, and the desire to experience more can become emotional. All of a sudden you get mad when it doesn’t happen. If our emotions are regulated by our sons’ achievements or that of their teams, then we need to pull back. It’s fine to enjoy the wins or to feel bummed with our sons during losses, but we need to remember it’s about them, not us. As dads, we need to be a source of encouragement, not one of pressure.

Result: The son feels like the dad’s love is based on his performance. 

4. Being Apathetic

Many dads get wrapped up in the stress of jobs or their own ambition rather than investing time and energy in their sons. It’s the little choices that add up to a big deal. It’s coming home and turning on the TV instead of catching up on your son’s day or playing with him. Or it’s staying late at work one day after another and missing the opportunity to be with him.

Result: The son feels like he doesn’t matter to the dad. 

5. Unresolved Pain and Anger

Whatever is true of us below the surface will eventually work its way out. Unresolved wounds have a way of coming out in distorted thinking, insecurity, fits of anger, and in many cases, abuse. This dad creates an environment of fear and instability. And it’s hard for his son to feel safe with him.

Result: The son lives anxiously and afraid of the dad or the instability he causes. 

Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: 5 Ways to Build a Strong Mother-Son Relationship.

Sound off: What do you do that helps your father and son relationship?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing you wish I would stop doing?”