Tips for a Healthy Relationship Between Fathers and Adult Sons

Updated on December 14, 2017
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MsDora -parent, grandparent, Christian counselor- offers suggestions on raising confident, conscientious, responsible, productive children.

According to experts, the father-son relationship has the greatest influence on the ability of sons to tackle and survive the challenges of adult life.

In the process of growing up, sons find several reasons to disagree with their fathers, but Neil Chethik, author of FatherLoss (Hyperion 2001) states the following:

We don’t really grow up until we have come to terms with our fathers. We need our fathers to bless us in a way that brings us into adulthood.

Father hugs his soldier son before his deployment.  Credit:  John Crosby
Father hugs his soldier son before his deployment. Credit: John Crosby | Source

In The Blessing (Thomas Nelson 1982) by John Trent and Gary Smalley, the authors emphasize the importance of that blessing. Examples are found in the Bible—in (Genesis 27) where Esau begs his father Isaac to give him the blessing which his brother Jacob stole and in Genesis 49 where Jacob blesses his twelve sons. It is the father’s approval of his son’s effort to be successful.

The blessing includes:

  • A meaningful touch – for example, a hug or holding his hand
  • Spoken words—communication addressed to the son
  • Expression of high value—affirmation of the child’s worth
  • Prediction of a special future—based on the skills and talents demonstrated by the son
  • An active commitment—on the part of the parent to make the prediction come true.

Jacob Blesses His Twelve Sons


Tips Addressed to Fathers

The following five tips for healthy relationships between fathers and sons create opportunity to include this blessing. The tips are addressed to fathers because:

  • The relationship is primarily the father's responsibility.
  • It is the father who initiates love, forgiveness or any other prevailing attitude (positive or negative) into the relationship.
  • The father is the more mature and stable individual while the son is still figuring out what works and what doesn't in the relationship.
  • The father is obligated to work toward the healthy relationship for the well-being of his child.

(1) Embrace Fatherhood

You are the father; act like it. Be available:

  • to love your son and receive his love;
  • to mentor him in wisdom and to discipline him in folly;
  • to cheer him on when he makes you proud and forgive him when he disappoints you;
  • to caution him when he is over-ambitious and encourage him when he is scared;
  • to provide for him as much as you’re able and work toward improving when your provision falls short;

One of the worst vices a man could have is to play dead and deprive his child of a father-son relationship. One of the noblest commendations a man could have is the praise of his son. Professional credits, service awards and names on buildings may be meaningless based on the declaration of a son about his father.

(2) Be Honestly Human


Practice honest, open communication with your son. Be vulnerable. He wants to hear about your efforts:

  • to establish your individuality
  • to form worthy friendships
  • to make decisions in love relationships
  • to advance in your career
  • to save money
  • to persevere in spite of obstacles

Don’t give the impression that all your attempts were successful and that you never had your share of failures. Let him know that you struggled through and survived your rough patches, and that you are committed to helping him make it through his. Create a mood which allows him to be also vulnerable, to ask questions, to confide and develop trust. You were his first hero; you can maintain that role in your relationship with your adult son.

(3) Give Up the Control

Your role as a father is to help your son become a man. You teach him and demonstrate to him what productive manhood looks like. At the point where his decisions become primarily his to live with, you hand over the controls. For example, it is entirely his choice to make concerning:

  • the spiritual path he wants to walk
  • the career he wants to pursue
  • the woman he wants to marry
  • where he wants to live

Your role of fatherhood is not terminated when he does not allow you to choose for him, or he does not accept your suggestions on these matters. You are still obligated to love him and to be interested in his welfare. You are still responsible for maintaining a relationship with him.

Your son’s success in life is not guaranteed by following every advice you give. You taught him to be an individual and make wise choices. Give him the opportunity to practice what you taught him.

(4) Refuse to Play One-Up

One-Up is a game in which one person reports a personal accomplishment, and another person states his accomplishment which, in his opinion, is one step above on the ladder toward greatest achievements. The aim is to establish superiority. Some fathers engage in this one-up mind game without being aware of their folly.

The son reports, “Daddy, this is only my second year on the job, and I’ve been nominated for this year’s highest performance award.”

The ideal response is something like, “I’m proud of you, son. Congratulations!”

Imagine this response: “Well, you’re almost as good as I was. Did you know that I was nominated for that same award in my first year on the job?” You may not want to believe it, but it happens.

A father who finds himself engaging in this immature form of competition with his son may not be aware of his insecurity, his narcissism or plain ignorance. He needs to accept the supporting role and let the son have his day.

Wise parents play push-up. They want to see their children climb higher than they did. They rejoice and celebrate when their children excel.

(5) Learn From Your Son

What father does not expect his son to surpass him in some skills? Let your son know that you admire his progress and express your desire for him to teach you some of what he learned. If you live long enough for him to take care of you, this spirit of humility will serve you well.

Your admiration and willingness to learn from him empowers your son to lead, to teach, and to add to your legacy of success.

Healthy relationships between fathers and sons are easy when the children are infants and toddlers. By the time the sons become adults, hopefully the fathers would have become wiser and more mature. By then, the relationships may take more effort, but they will be much more enjoyable.

© 2013 Dora Weithers


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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 21 months ago from The Caribbean

      Rajan, you comment is a good summary of the article. Thanks for your valuable input.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 21 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      A father's role goes from being more authoritative when the child is young and more prone to mistakes but as he grows up he needs to loosen the strings and become a friend and guide, more like giving up control and playing one up, for example, as you rightly say.

      Very practical suggestions.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Suraj, I cross my fingers in your support. Be courageous!

    • suraj punjabi profile image

      suraj punjabi 2 years ago from jakarta

      MsDora, I am sorry to hear about your dad. I will heed your advice and see where it goes. Fingers crossed. I seriously do not want to be that man who regrets not talking when its already too late.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Suraj, thank you for sharing. My dad died when I was a toddler, and I have no memory of him, so working with your dad is a blessing I have never enjoyed; and I am so jealous of you. Now that you are an adult, follow your heart and ask your dad to have a conversation with you. Ask him what you can do to help improve your relationship. Concerning his controlling and rude, take his age into consideration (some old men are just grumpy). Anyway, talk to him from your heart and see what happens. Best to you and your dad going forward!

    • suraj punjabi profile image

      suraj punjabi 2 years ago from jakarta

      Wow! Funny how I bump into this hub at a time when I am not communicating with my dad. I am currently working together with him in our family owned business. I find him to be very controlling and rude. But sometimes I hesitate because I don't know if I am being too sensitive or he is controlling and rude. I have never really spoken or addressed this to him because I am, well, scared of him. I know it sounds silly.

      And because of my inability to approach him about this I will never be able to find out if it is me who is being too sensitive and give up to easily on the relationship or is he unintentionally poisoning the already fragile relationship we have.

      When I grew up my mom used to always say "don't tell dad, he will just get angry." this has been a staple of hers. I guess that has to do with my behavior towards my dad as well. But I know I should not blame them. As blaming does not help...God this is just complicated.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Mona, I agree; don't give up on anyone. We have to keep on teaching. Thanks for your comment.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      This is a beautiful article. It makes me think of the fathers who walk out on their sons while young, and then the sons grow up and he doesn't know him. I would show the father your article. There's always hope, come what may.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Mylinda, glad you found the tips interesting. Hope they're useful too.

    • mylindaelliott profile image

      mylindaelliott 4 years ago from Louisiana

      This was a very interesting hub. It's full of great tips and advice.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Frank, always heartened by your kind comments. I truly appreciate you. Thank you.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      a handy little guide Msdora, you have the knack of grabbing attentions.. got mine voted awesome

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Peg, thank you for your input. Of course, daughters are also affected. That topic deserves its own article.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Wonderfully presented and wise words for fathers to heed. This important relationship sets the course of events for the child's entire life. Daughters are also affected by the kind of mentoring that fathers give to their sons, and often pick candidates for marriage of those who remind them of their Dad. If he is absent or ineffective, this is an issue.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Mhatter, so glad you survived that childhood trauma. Thank you for reading and sharing.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Faith, thanks for that valuable additional fact about the absence of fathers in the lives of most prison inmates. Dads really ought to take heed. I appreciate you, Faith.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      I really enjoy these type of articles. My mother's 1st husband was abusive.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      All dads should realize just what an important role they play in the lives of their sons and children. Excellent article. The statistics of those young men or, really all men in prison today, are that almost 100% of them either had no relationship with their dad or they did not even know who their dad is at all!

      So, dads, yes, listen up and be that dad and take the time to have that relationship and bonding with your son and children, for it is essential to their future.

      Up and more and sharing

      God bless, Faith Reaper

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Doc Middlebrook, thank you for adding your comments. You are very encouraging. Sure mothers are also influential in raising sons, and that's another chapter.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Marlene, thank you for your input. I wish I could have the story of your husband and son to follow-up this article. I appreciate the affirmation.

    • drmiddlebrook profile image

      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      MsDora, you have such a firm grasp on how this needs to be done. Kudos to you for putting so much wisdom and caring into this article. I hope fathers and fathers-to-be will read and internalize these instructions. Even though mothers can teach sons a lot, it really does take a father to teach a son, through words and by example, how to be a man.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      I like this hub and feel every father should read it. My husband and his son have a wonderful relationship now, but it wasn't always that way. They played the "one-up" game for a long time and when the son grew up and went to work, the son would visit only once a year. But, a couple of years ago my husband let his son see his vulnerable side. That was a moment that changed the relationship forever. That was the day my husband's son realized that his dad was just a man like himself. Now, his son calls on a regular basis and visits whenever he can. Your tips about developing a healthy relationship between fathers and adult sons are right on point.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Denise, you're so right. A healthy parent-child relationship is meaningful for both sons and daughters. thank you for your input.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you DDE. Of course, when the boy becomes a man, he is eligible for a man-to-man exchange with his father. Communication then is sweeter than before.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Eric, seems like you're the regular All-American Dad. As long as we're here, we can make amends for the parenting mistakes we made. I can just imagine what a great time your son has with you. Cheers!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you, Billy. An affirmation from you means much to me. The very best to you and your son.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Fathers are definitely important in the lives of their children. I find it interesting what you said about a boy needing to reconcile his relationship with his father before he can embrace his own manhood. I think that a similar principal applies to girls. They do not fully reach their own womanhood until the reconcile their relationship with their fathers.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Tips for Healthy Relationships between Fathers and Adult Sons it is so important for fathers and adult sons to keep their communication open and learning from each is another helpful aspect. Interesting and useful points mentioned here.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I voted up and across the board. This is just an awesome, beautiful. interesting, useful and made me laugh at my failures in this regard.

      I must be gone now but will revisit --- as I have to email my son about our upcoming hike and his new "album" and his sisters and and and........

      Thanks MsDora.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Beautiful words of wisdom my friend. I am the father of an adult son and I can verify that your suggestions are crucial for a healthy relationship. Well done Dora!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Laurie, thank you for your very kind comment. Love in family relationships is so important. Blessings!

    • profile image

      Rayne123 4 years ago

      HI Ms. Dora how are you

      A great hub demonstrating how love does wonders in a relationship for families.

      Well written