Bart’s dad was an angry person. As a child, Bart had to endure three to four beatings a week. Sometimes a beating would even be given over something frivolous like the Dallas Cowboys losing. Eventually, the beatings stopped and were replaced with apathy, which to Bart was even more painful than the physical pain he bore in his earlier years. Gradually, the two stopped talking altogether. Things didn’t change until his father got cancer. His father had a faith conversion and began to change. 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.
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 number one hit around the world. The story behind the song is all about Bart and his relationship with his father. It is beautifully told in the movie I Can Only Imagine, which is available to buy now. Although most dads don’t subject their sons to abuse, there are common things we do that push our sons away. If we want great relationships with our sons, we want to avoid these things that hurt the father and son relationship. Here are 5 things dads do that push their sons away.
1. Expect 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 can 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 him that will cause him 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 as us. Be patient with him.
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 us also being overly critical. We look for opportunities where we can ‘coach’ our sons up and offer advice. However, many times it just ends 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 an exciting and fun feeling. That feeling can get addicting and the desire to experience more can become emotional. All of a sudden you can get mad when it doesn’t happen. If our emotions are regulated by our son’s achievements or that of his teams then we need to pull the reigns back. It’s fine to enjoy the wins or to feel bummed with them 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 end up adding up to a big deal. It’s coming home and turning on the TV instead of catching up on his day or playing with him. Or it’s staying 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
As dads, we need to be a source of encouragement, not one of pressure.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. The dad creates an environment of fear and instability. The dad is viewed as someone who is unsafe.
Result: The son lives anxious and afraid of the dad or the instability he causes.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing you wish I would stop doing?”