Whether we like it or not, we resemble our parents in many ways. This goes for their good and their undesirable qualities. We can even see the same thing when comparing them to their parents (our grandparents). Is this always the case though with boys and their fathers?
Sons become like their fathers in many ways. Some personality traits, abilities etc. can vary, but in general boys are like their dads. We are products of our environment as much as our genetics. Fathers have a great influence on sons in both of these areas during formative years and beyond.
So how does this happen, even in todays age of societal sanctioning of absentee fathers and single parenthood? Looking at what our natural state as humans is can help understand this connection a bit better. As well, we can look at a boy’s need for male role models in order to know how to be. Let’s see why boys tend to “be like dad”.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Father-Son Relationships
Children are not nearly as affected by what we tell them as we think they are. Sure, they will give us the responses we want, and they have learned what to say and when to say it.
Actual conversations with many kids that matter are few and far between. What do kids do? The watch us. They do what we do, and usually disregard what we say.
We’ve all heard this saying and know it is false.
Do as a say not as I do.
Yet, we still lecture our sons as fathers and think we are getting through to them, when they see us do the exact opposite. They go with the example we set and just try to endure the speeches.
Sure, there are times they are simply testing boundaries. This is them though seeing if you care enough to push back. They are watching to see what you will do.
Sons will be like fathers, because they learn to by observing them in nearly every way. Fathers, remember this and be the person you would want them to be.
Do you want your son to be misuse alcohol, gamble too much, use foul language, or have bouts of uncontrolled anger? Do you want them to disrespect women or be controlled by their impulses? When they see you do it, to them that is just part of being a man.
If we want them to be better, we need to be better.
Science Backs The Father’s Role Model Status
A father is a role model to a son whether he likes it or not. If he screws up the job enough, his son will still use him as a benchmark. He will just use the bad qualities as a guide on how not to be, even though he will probably pick up most of them.
Much has been said about mother-son relationships in popular and researched based media. What many either forget or don’t want brought into the conversation is that fathers have just as much or more of a role in raising mentally and physically healthy sons as mothers.
In a study done by researchers from the University of Connecticut and Western Connecticut State University, the role model of a Father was not only found to be as important as a mothers for sons, but in some aspects more so.
In order for these boys to understand how to be a man, they needed to see it in action. Sure their mothers can help temper and develop them in the process, but it is by watching their fathers that they learn what it means to be a man.
Absentee Fathers Show Their Sons How To Be By Their Absence
What is the number one way to get your son to give way when their mamma is walking their direction? You do it. How do you show them that their mothers matter as a woman, parent, and person in general? You treat her that way and let them see you do it.
It is that simple.
Fathers can also send an opposite message loud and clear without a word. If they are not there, if they leave the home they are overtly and plainly telling their sons with their actions that their mothers are not important.
They can use thousands of words to try to defend the action, redefine what it means, or change their son’s minds, but it is too late. A man that leaves shows what he thinks by his actions.
Sons become like their fathers in general, not as copies or blind mimics. Their relationships with their mothers and their fathers will be affected greatly if a father is not present in the home. Yet, there are so many factors to us being human that several others may have enough influence that they compensate for negative forces.
There is a simple test of reason that can show the foundational nature of a father’s presence in a son’s life. It goes like this…
What is the number one thing we must do as part of the human species to survive?
I get answers all the time like eat, protect, build, learn, etc. But they are all missing the fundamental focus of what we must do to survive.
- If we only make sure we are fed, we live to our life expectancy and the human race dies out.
- If we only protect ourselves from outside forces, we live to our life expectancy and the human race disappears.
- If we learn and build our society making it better all of our lives, we live out our days and then… the human race dies out.
What is the fundamental thing we must do to stop the human race from disappearing?
To do this you need a mother and a father. That is the way we are made. In order to make fathers stick around and protect, teach, feed, and help raise their sons and daughters their bodies actually stop producing the normal levels of testosterone. This creates a more protective male rather than a ‘go out and conquer’ male.
It is written in our DNA. Men need to be fathers to their sons and sons want to grow up to be like dad. They just have to see their fathers being what a man is supposed to be in order to be the best person they can be.
How Do Fathers Affect Sons?
Fathers have a profound effect on how sons carry themselves and their self image. Here I am not talking about the pseudo-psychological term ‘self esteem’. That has to do more with pride and feelings.
Pride is a vice, not a virtue.
Sons learn their role in life, how to be productive members of society, and how to foster a safe and loving family environment with help from good fathers.
There are three main areas in which sons should strive to emulate in their fathers who are of good character. Dads show these to their sons best by example.
Disciplined Like Dad
There are usually two forms of discipline that can be referenced, so it is important to underscore here that we are talking about self-discipline, fortitude, and self-critique. Forming the conscience to uphold standards of character is a primary role that dads have.
Parents should take seriously the tendency for sons to follow in their father’s footsteps. This is not always manifested in career paths, political views, or preferences for sports teams. An important aspect to consider is the personal character a dad is modeling for his son.
Fathers need to point sons back to themselves when they blame the world for their problems. They have to teach them that most of the time, “You are not the guy.” Instead of trying to cure cancer and solve world conflicts, “How about starting with cleaning your room.”
Dads being human have limitations and can show boys how to navigate them. Not ignoring that your own house is burning while trying to berate a neighbor about the weeds in his flowerbed should be a main lesson dads convey.
This is a mandate to all fathers whether they take it seriously or not. The discipline standards you hold yourself to, will be closely aligned with the value systems and work ethic your sons will set for themselves.
A Father’s Respect
Boys will respect their roles in society and give respect where it is due to the level it is taught to them by their father’s actions. Sons will want to act like their father, even if they think they don’t.
Respect that a son learns from his father can take many forms.
- Respect for the experience that comes with age
- Respect for those who sacrifice for others
- Respect for authority
- Respect for achievement
These are but a few of the ways fathers can help their sons not only with explanations and verbal guidance. No father should expect their sons to understand or have the motivation to do any of these that they don’t see in the lives of their dads.
If a man has a tendency to use swear words, but when an elderly lady comes within earshot he noticeably changes his word choice, this says more to a son than which words are crude or not. It shows that there are those who have the experience or position in life that deserve respect.
If a father is with his son and brings all conversation to a halt to address a passing uniformed soldier with the words, “Thank you for your service,” this shows what respect looks like. He doesn’t need to find the right definition or convincing phrases to instill it in his son. He shows him what it is.
Saying ‘yes sir’ to uniformed police officers or even the manager at the local grocery store teaches a watching son the value of giving a person the place and standing they deserve. Sons will want to be like the father that gives and gets respect in this way. Simply watching their dads can make them want to be better.
Treat Your Family Like Dad Does
Fathers hold a unique role in the family, just like mothers do. Sons will one day take on this role in their own families and can feel the need to be like their fathers especially in this way.
If a father is protective and supports his family in many ways, though his son can make his own choices later in life, he will usually act in very similar ways towards his.
This is a masculine trait that dads are uniquely able to instruct their sons about. Though many in todays society would like to downplay its role in the roles men take on, it is actually essential that boys get this from their fathers. They are at a disadvantage if they don’t.
In a study published in The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, research shows the profound influence that the father-son relationship has on acceptance and development of the masculine role in sons. Taking on the role of father in a family requires that sons understand and embrace it.
This can all go badly with an abusive or neglectful father. Sons will be left trying to find a substitute. A sad fact in our society today is that many young boys are growing up having to do just that.
Fathers throughout history have been on a scale of better or worse at the art of parenting. Today the problem is complete neglect of their roles altogether. If a father is not in the home or even completely absent, the message to the son is that they are not worth the time and effort, no matter what words are used to try and convince them otherwise.
At What Ages Do Sons Need Their Fathers Most?
Sons want to immolate their dads from the moment they understand who they are to the last breaths they breath. A boy needs his father in order to understand how to be. This happens at many stages in their lives and most of the time in between.
In these formative years sons want to be like dad, well because he is dad. They are willing to look over any fault to see the good and hope their fathers can live up to it. They need this stability and fathers should be there to be their rock.
At this stage boys are striking out on their own in social groups, sports, and friendships. Many of the dramas associated are confusing and can make them question what they were taught in younger years. Sons need their fathers to help them understand and a model so they can see how to relate to people.
The Teen Years
Sons need their dads more than ever during this time. This may not be evident by their grasps for independence and freedom. Here they need an anchor to remind them they are still kids, but a guide to let them try out their upcoming adult roles. Learning how to control emotions is a major job that dads have to teach sons at this stage.
Sons who have good fathers as role models will come out the other side able to make the transition to adulthood relatively smoothly. Those without a father or an absentee one may carry the scars from this time for the rest of their lives. Sons need good fathers in teen years, and they need to try to be like them.
The Adult Years
Once the emotional rollercoaster of the teenage period is over, the true emulation of fathers begins. Dads are always adults as their sons grow. Now the sons are also adults and need at least a benchmark to judge everything by. This is why many sons turn out just like their fathers. They are that benchmark.
Though the role may have changed to an advisory position, fathers are still vital to the mental and even physical health of their sons. When the grandkids arrive, the adventure begins anew.
How Sons Look Up To Their Fathers And Want To Be Like Them?
Many little boys not only love their dads, they idolize them sometimes to superhero status. It is not the goal of a dad to be Spiderman (or in my case, the Red Power Ranger), but as far as the boy is concerned it might as well be.
Sons want to be proud of their fathers, because they are the goal that they intend to become and the one that represents their family as a whole. Dads don’t have to be superheroes, they just have to put in the same amount of effort. That is what will be remembered.
Unless there has been a neglect in disciplining a child or giving proper attention, most boys will look up to their fathers. They will want to be like them less and less outwardly as they grow, but the inward desire to take on their good qualities and traits will always remain.
What Causes Some Sons To Resent Their Fathers?
There are many things that can cause the father-son relationship to be strained. This won’t mean that the son won’t eventually turn out to be like his father, it means that the process can be a painful one.
Some of the causes for these rifts include…
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Drug addictions
- Alcohol addictions
Many of these things can cause a loss of respect for fathers and for sons desperately needing their masculine support, it can be devastating. Knowing that a father his back allows a son to go out and test his limits. He needs to know that he will be held to a standard, and that his father cares enough to be the one to reign him in.
Fathers that turn inward and put their own personal needs or problems ahead of their sons can harm these boys for the rest of their lives. Becoming a father is not something that should be taken lightly. It is one of a man’s most solemn responsibilities.
Resentment can definitely develop in these situations instead of a desire to be like their fathers. Though they may even forgive much that a father does, the effects can last a lifetime. So can resentment.
The ‘Son, Be Like Your Dad’ Takeaway…
We can see that fathers play a vital role in teaching and guiding a son throughout their whole lives. Because of this, many sons not only want to be like their dads at least in part, but many will become like them even if they think they don’t want to.
Fathers have an invaluable role to play in the lives of their boys. It can’t be imitated or replaced. And this is why many sons become… just like their fathers.