One of the issues for boys as they pass from childhood into manhood is the need for a strong role models.

Today, with so many relationship breakdowns and longer working hours, fathers can easily become shadow figures. Boys without strong male influence will, inevitably, find their own role models to follow. It could be a pop-star, a footballer, Homer Simpson, Pete from Big Brother, or the guy who runs the local gang.

As fathers, grandfathers, uncles and neighbours we have a duty to the young men around us. If we fail to influence them with kindness, compassion and love, then they will grow up finding other ways to make their mark in society. Fathers who don't live with their sons have a tough role, but even fathers who live with their boys have a far from easy ride.

It's easy for a dad to fall into disapproving. They tell us stories and we shoot them the look or ask a question that makes them decide that next time I won't speak to dad. That's why a recent weekend retreat with my son became so important. It was a chance to get on a level. A chance to do boys stuff, build a dam in the river, light a fire, cook food outdoors, a chance for dads to own up to what they did when they were younger and the boys to openly speak about their antics.

It was also a chance for him to take a lead: finding wood for the fire, sheep's wool and dried grass to get it going and I (with a dose of humility) needed to rely on my son's help with my tent!

Will my son remember this weekend for the rest of his life?

I imagine he will. He got to see that Dad was young once. He got to see that Dad went through the same things he's going through. He's also got happy moments, spontaneous, wonderful moments, around the camp fire to recall as well memories of looking up at the stars or mulling over the concept of an infinite universe while waiting for eggs cooked over a log fire.

If you have boys in your family, especially the teenage variety, then I strongly recommend this type of bonding. They need it. And you probably do too!

Her are some ideas:
1. If a camping trip isn’t for you then what about going to a match occasionally or going to the driving range at golf.
2. Talk about whatever they want to talk about. Listen and don’t advise unless they ask.
3. Put the emphasis on fun and give them some spending money, if you can run to it, and let them spending it how they see fit.
4. Team up with other dads and their boys and have occasional boys days, fishing or walking in the hills.

These will be good times, that balance the tougher moments of teenage. They’ll remember these.


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