The second most common piece of advice I got when I asked fathers I admire for advice was the importance of unconditional love.
We might have various dreams and ideas as to how we would like our children to grow up and they might rebel and reject what we hold dear but again and again I was advised to reassure my son of my unconditional love on a regular basis.
One friend of mine said, "Show your son you love him by hugging him and reassuring him daily."
Another shared a list of practical ways to show our love for our children:
- Tell him you love him, every day.
- Don't publicly humiliate or criticize him.
- Be understanding when he makes a mistake.
- Control your anger.
- Don't hit him or be verbally abusive.
- I have found that it is possible to discuss with children right and wrong behaviour. He will often choose to do what is right once he understands.
- Be patient with him when he makes the same mistake again.
- Don't compare him to others.
- Leave work early to attend and support his participation in an event.
Another father also said, "Love him unconditionally, guide him to his God given talents and rejoice when he rejoices, Love him unconditionally even if his choices are not your choices ... Tell him he is measures up, boys just want to be reassured they have done well in their dad's eyes."
One of my brothers made a similar point, "Be proud of your son and make sure he knows that. Don't assume that he knows how you feel just because its obvious to you. Boys ... aren't always perceptive and need reassurances!"
Ironically, one person who underlies this point more than anyone else is actually a celibate priest. Father Larry Richards, an American pastor and founder of the Reason for Our Hope Foundation makes this point very strongly in a speech he gave to men. In the last ten minutes of this video (see from 50 minutes onwards he hammers this point home in the strongest possible language. He says that fathers who can't tell their children that they love them (without judging them) are a bunch of wimps, not real men and should be ashamed of themselves.
Finally what struck me more than anything else is what one friend shared: "If a boy doesn't hear from his father that he is loved and that he measures up - he will look for acceptance in all the wrong places. Be man enough to give your son this reassurance - or face the consequences."