THIRD IN A SERIES BY JOSEPH COHEN, CO-AUTHOR WITH HIS SON, JARED, OF WRITE FATHER, WRITE SON : A BOND-BUILDING JOURNEY.
“We’ve spent a generation trying to reorganize schools to make them better, but the truth is that people learn from the people they love.”
– David Brooks – Social Animal: How the New Sciences of Human Nature can Help Make Sense of Life
The New Yorker (2011)
We all know someone who remembers how discipline was meted out by the nuns in their childhood.
While “sparing the rod” would “spoil the child” was a commonly accepted old-school parenting philosophy, corporal punishment has been proven to lead to lower IQ levels and lower scores on other tests of cognitive development.
The details are documented in IQ and Post Traumatic Stress Symptoms in Children Exposed to Interpersonal Violence, an article published in 2006 in Child Psychiatry Human Development.
Although it will take time and love for the wounds to heal, it is possible for a family to overcome a troubled legacy.
How can parents deal with the aftermath of abuse or neglect and what preventative or corrective action can be taken to ensure a child will fulfill their potential?
Kids and Parents Bonding
The most supportive parents know that fostering relationships with a variety of positive individuals outside of a child’s immediate family can be very beneficial. While there is much wisdom in the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child,” where do parents in need of support and good role models turn?
All communities have a place of worship where affordable programs and counseling services are available. A child can meet new friends there and participate in positive social activities while the family can benefit from the counseling services. After awhile, a family can expand their social circle to include a more diverse group of conscientious people.
Support groups that meet regularly for parents to share their situations can also become a coping tool and a worthwhile resource. When a parent can relate to another’s frustration, anxiety, or pain and understands their options they will begin feeling more hopeful. If a parent participates and remains committed to the group, they will enjoy the transformation which occurs as part of the healing process.
All schools have guidance counselors which can confidentially support the psychologic needs of a student while providing guidance to the parents. When a counselor informs the teacher of a student who is a victim of parental neglect or abuse, the teacher can monitor their actions and pay close attention to that child’s emotional needs. With the passage of time, a family can come to terms with their challenges and develop more effective ways of communicating.
Bonding: Dad and Son
Playing sports together can be both fun and therapeutic. I remember feeling an indescribable connection with my father and a great sense of pride with my son while tossing a baseball, shooting hoops, or kicking a soccer ball. Few words were needed to convey our mutual satisfaction. Our body language — smiles of approval and gestures of acceptance — spoke volumes.
On an entirely different level is the excitement and joy I experienced while attending and coaching my son’s sporting events. Although I hadn’t played enough soccer while coming of age in Brooklyn from 1975-80 to be an effective coach, I did possess the baseball and basketball skills to take the helm a few seasons for a group of budding adolescents.
Although team sports are a great way to bond with your son while observing how he interacts with his peers, youth groups like the boy scouts can also provide the opportunity to help your son build some important life skills and make memories that could last a lifetime.
Father Son Relationships
A father who invests time with his son cultivating interests such as music, literature, sports and appreciation for nature, art and philosophy will naturally become a role model and inspire his son’s pursuit of individuality and desire for self actualization.
A strong father son relationship begins with a father’s willingness to engage his son in open communication and a son’s willingness to participation in the process.
This bond building process focuses on three essential questions:
Do you see me? A good place for a father to begin is by acknowledging and praising a son’s recent accomplishments to validate his efforts and create a safe space to open meaningful dialogue.
Can You Hear Me? The way to sustain a meaningful dialogue is by listening without judgement to develop a conversation for the purpose of identifying and clarifying any challenging issues.
What Can You Teach Me? Building a child’s sense of security and trust that will grow over time is contingent upon a father providing constructive feedback that will help them gain a fresh perspective upon which both parent and child can act to reach a solution.
Whether you are most comfortable sitting down for a heart to heart with your son or carving out some time to craft a detailed letter to him, your intention is paramount and will lay the foundation for a relationship that matures as he does.
About Author: Joseph Cohen is the co-author with his son, Jared, of Write Father, Write Son: A Bond-Building Journey. It explores fatherhood through the correspondence between a father and son. Through the letters and stories, we see how a man struggles to be a better, more accessible father than the one he knew. We see a boy mature and become a young, responsible man of insight and compassion. Through this compelling book, we see how much the world needs fathers. Good fathers.