The prevailing stereotype is that men are not very emotional, but that isn’t true. More and more studies are indicating that while men may not be comfortable verbalizing their emotions, they certainly are emotional. Now, research shows that men who are fathers actually secrete oxytocin the more time they spend with their own infant children. Oxytocin is secreted by women during birth and when they breast feed and is part of the maternal boding experience. So now we know that men also experience bonding with their children as a result of the same hormone.
What I have noticed is that sometimes men are not very confident about expressing their feelings. Combine that with the stereotype that men who express love to children are not very manly and what happens is that fathers may not step up to take care of their children. They want to do it, but they haven’t had any practice dealing with little children and men don’t like to look incompetent.
Two ways to deal with this: first, all boys need men in their lives. The men don’t have to be their biological fathers, although if possible, that is the best. The men can be uncles, grandfathers, neighbors, or teachers. What boys don’t need is a series of men. It is better for a boy to have a neighbor who cares – did you see the picture after the tornado of the man going to the school to find the little boy who lived next door to him? That was a hug for the ages. They call each other “Big Dog” and “Little Dog” and do everything together. It was plain that the two of them have a special relationship and that in that moment of chaos after his school had been destroyed, what that little boy needed was his friend.
The second way is to make sure that your son is around children. He can help at the nursery at church, he can play with younger neighbors, eventually he can babysit. When my son was young, I taught at a boys’ school and one course I taught was in human growth and development. Each student in the class was required to spend some time with a faculty child and write a report. The observations of my students were astounding because so few of them had ever spent any time with little children and it was wonderful to see these boys later in the year after the course was over still interacting with the children on campus.
Fathers are a vital part of every child’s life, but they give boys the model on how to become fathers themselves. Make sure your son has that opportunity.