how to emotionally connect with your child

7 Ways to Activate the Heart of a Boy

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Think back to when you were a little boy. What is your best memory? Was there a time when you felt like you could conquer the world? Was there ever a moment when you said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Chances are, if you think hard enough, your greatest memories are connected with when your heart came alive. You experienced something for the first time or finally completed a goal.

When I was 10, my uncle put me on the back of a horse without a saddle. I was freaking out and wanted to get down. He sternly looked at me and said, “You got this,” as I held on for dear life. That was one of the best days ever. Why? Because my heart was activated, my heart came alive. Do you want those same moments for your boy? Here are 7 ways to activate your son’s heart.

1. Challenge him.

If you want to activate your son’s heart, challenge him.

With good intentions, we have become a soft culture. We want to protect and provide for our kids and this is our greatest joy as fathers. But we sometimes protect our boys from experiences they need. They need to be challenged. They need a little pressure. If you want to activate your son’s heart, challenge him. Challenge him at the playground to climb a little higher and run a little faster. Challenge him to prove himself in a new way. When is the last time you squeezed him tight and told him to break free? When you challenge your son and he proves himself, his heart comes alive and his confidence grows.

2. Let him help.

Kids can do more than you think. When I replaced the flooring in my closet a few months ago, I made it a point to let my son help. He sanded and hammered, with supervision, like a champ. By letting him help, I activated his heart—I made sure he knew I needed him. For weeks after, he would come into the closet and stand there, proud of himself for his work.

3. Invite him to dream.

Your boy’s heart has a dream inside. He wants to do amazing things and as his dad, I know you want to try and make his dreams come true. However, too often, we unknowingly squash his dreams. Inviting him to dream is letting him know it’s OK to have big plans and big ideas. Dream with him, ask follow-up questions, and help his creativity shine.

4. Be present with him.

This one is so important. Get off your phone, Dad. Next time you do something with your son, make it a point to be present mentally and physically. Giving him your attention is the easiest way to activate his heart. By being present you are communicating to him not only that you love being with him, but also that he has value and is worth your attention.

5. Surprise him.

If you want to see his heart come alive, surprise him with something that communicates “I heard you.” Obviously, you cannot do this every day, as it becomes less surprising and more routine. A few weeks ago, I pulled my son out of school to take him fishing. When I got to school, he was so confused—he had no clue what I had planned. That was a great day and we caught a bunch of fish, but the surprise is what he loved most. He still talks about it.

6. Be patient with him.

Your boy’s heart is moving fast. His thoughts are ever-changing and he is growing rapidly. In the midst of the chaos, we must be patient. Show him grace when he is acting up or getting into trouble. Boys are supposed to get in trouble—that’s the greatest way for them to learn. Dads can activate their hearts by being patient with them and actually training and teaching them through failure. Patience is not letting them get away with anything they want. It’s about slowing down the situation so you both can learn something new.

7. Show him affection.

Every boy, no matter how old, needs physical touch. Our sons need kindness and affirmation. Hug them, tousle their hair, give noogies and high fives. Their hearts long for affection. If you are not naturally very affectionate, that’s OK, but your son still has a need that you need to meet. You don’t get an excused absence on this one. Your son may act like he doesn’t want physical touch, and that’s OK, too. But don’t let it stop you from showing love.

Sound off: What are some other ways we need to engage our sons?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think has been your biggest accomplishment?”