Being Fathers vs. Doing Dads

Posted on April 22, 2014 by




Father and son

Today’s post is from guest blogger, Thaddeus Heffner LMFT.

The world is changing and doing so at a fast pace: faster than ever before in history.  Technology tempts us with the newest gadgets every several months promising to make our lives easier.  We tend to get busier rather than have our loads lightened.  We tend to press into doing more rather than just being more.

But one thing that hasn’t changed since the dawn of time is what sons need from their fathers and, for the boys out there without a dad, what boys need from safe, healthy men.

I have met with fathers and sons and it is a rare occasion when I find the two connected and in a good, healthy relationship.  So often there has been years of misunderstandings and misperceptions.  The circumstances may reveal the two not having things in common or personality clashes. Also shifts in the family system such as divorce, or dad having to work away from the home can feel like abandonment to a young, immature boy.

A common concern that I hear from dads is that they don’t know what to do because their own father didn’t know what to do.  Another fear dads can face is not having things in common with or liking similar activities with their sons. Dads feel like they are at a loss here.

My invitation to you dads is stop with the worrying about “doing” so much and focus more on the “being” with your sons.

Here is a little secret that I let dads in on – When you don’t know what to do next, your son doesn’t know that you don’t know what to do. Your son just knows that you love him.  Your son just knows that he is important to you.  Your son just knows that he feels safe with his dad.  This healthy perception and feeling comes about more from being with your son than it does from always knowing what to do.

Train up the child according to the tenor of his way, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6.  I love how the author accentuates that we train up the child according to the tenor of his way and not dad’s way.  Another translation reads, “in the way he is bent”.  How is your son bent? Is he an athlete and you are an artist or vice versa?  Are you more of the outdoorsy type while he is inside captured by technology?  Whatever the case may be, my invitation to dads is to step into your son’s bent.  This can be difficult for some dads as they don’t particularly enjoy some of the things their sons enjoy. The opposite may also true for the son.  At this young age he needs you dad.  He needs to know that what interests him is important to you.  This is less about doing what he likes and more about being with your son and pressing into him and honoring his bent.

I was raised in large family having eight brothers and sisters.  My father worked a great deal of the time and for a season worked the third shift so that we mostly saw him on weekends.  As a young boy, I became interested in writing short stories and poetry.  On certain evenings when my father was home he would occasionally call me into the living room and ask about what I had been writing. Then, rather than my father asking to read my latest work, dad would ask me to read aloud to him what I had written.  This meant so much to me then and still to this day I remember these moments with great fondness.  This simple, yet profound, request by my dad made me feel loved, important, accepted, affirmed, heard, and seen. I could go on and on but I think you get the point.

More important than anything you can do for your son, or more valuable than any material possession you could give your son, is giving yourself to him.  What do son’s need? The four A’s of fatherhood: acceptance, affirmation, approval, and affection.  Everyday you have a chance to communicate these (or not communicate these) to your sons.  Think back dads to the time when you were your sons age and remember how much you hungered for your father’s love and attention.  Think about how much you long for it still.  Now go be with and enjoy your son.

Thaddeus Heffner is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Brentwood, Tennessee and is a member in good standing with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the American Association of Christian Counselors. You can visit Thaddeus Heffner LMFT at