6

Why Dads Don’t Talk. And Sons Won’t Listen.

When you were a teen, did your dad ever talk to you about what it is to be a man? Probably not.  And if he did, did you listen? Probably not.

When I was growing up I found that my dad was hardly ever there for me. He was a ‘good father’ by being at work, providing for the family.  He took his fatherly responsibilities seriously, just like millions of other dads. But when he was home, did we talk much during my teen years? No. Did we ‘connect’? No. We were effectively strangers who lived under the same roof. It appears that this is normal in millions of homes today too.

As for growing into a young man, I was left to figure it all out for myself.  And I struggled. But I would never let anyone know because that would be seen as weak and unmanly. So I pretended to be what I thought a man was supposed to be.

Looking back, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know! Yet, somehow this was all normal. Almost all guys went through the same thing.

We didn’t talk. Our dads didn’t talk. And their dads talked even less.

In direct contrast, transitioning from boyhood to manhood is a vital, guided step in so-called primitive, tribal societies.  In those communities, boys grow up around male company; they live and work with their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers and all the other men in their villages.

These boys learn how to be good, responsible men from an early age.

In fact, it’s common practice in many tribal societies for young boys as young as seven or eight to look after the villages’ most valuable asset; the livestock. These goats, sheep and cattle represent the entire wealth of a village, yet their safety and well-being are entrusted to little boys.

Would that be allowed to happen in the West? There’s no way such activity would pass a health and safety risk assessment! Wild animal attacks, the potential for being trampled to death by stampeding goats is far too risky.

Here, young male adults are no longer taught what they need to know about their future lives as men. They still have to figure it out for themselves. And they are under far more pressure than ever before.

Out-performed by girls at school, saddled with University tuition debt, unable to afford to leave home and a chronic lack of employment opportunities has resulted in so many young guys feeling lost, isolated, trapped and even discarded by society before they’ve even started their lives as men.

Is it any surprise that the biggest cause of death among young men is now suicide? The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention claims that a young man is three to four times more likely to commit suicide than a young woman. Putting that into perspective, more young men die of suicide in North America than get killed in combat fighting for their country in conflict zones around the world.

This was brought home to me recently when I heard of a distraught dad whose intelligent, seemingly happy son had committed suicide just days before his 18th birthday.

Too many young guys feel as though they are not being taken seriously. They are really struggling.

“But they won’t listen.” You might say. That’s partially true. They won’t listen to their parents any more.

When is the last time you really listened to your own parents, your partner or your children without jumping in to tell them why they are wrong about whatever they said? Why their fears are unfounded or silly?  And then, with the best of intentions perhaps, do you then tell them what they ‘must’ or ‘should’ do?

If so, that’s precisely why young men don’t listen to their parents!

Instead, just listen. Don’t offer advice unless it is specifically requested. My book is designed to provide an independent bridge between dads and their teenage sons to get them talking and listening more to each other about what it is to be a man. Whether you use my book or not, many more of these really important conversations must happen. Society so desperately needs more responsible men.


Roy Sheppard is a British relationships expert, lecturer and writer. He is the author of the new book “Dear Son: What I Wish I’d Known at Your Age” for sons aged 15-25+. Ahead of its US publication in June 2013, it is only available to buy at www.DearSonBook.com where you can also download a sample. Currently working on the Dear Daughter version, Roy is keen to hear from mothers and fathers with any insights and advice they would want to see included. Email DearDaughter@RoySpeaks.com


Filed under: » »
  • Charles Micelli

    You know what I’m going to write a book about? A book about how parents don’t listen to their adult children on matters of faith. I have had it up to here with books about wayward children. How about wayward parents? Believe me, I certainly have some. Poorly catechized baby boomers who left the Catholic Church decades ago and have lived fruitless pagan lives full of torment.

    • rightactions

      Oh, that’s what happened – wayward, poorly catechized parents didn’t listen to their boomer children…
      Check a calendar. If you have Boomer parents, then your grandparents were of the generation who shaped the Spirit of Vatican II church. Most Boomers hadn’t even reached their teens when Vatican II closed, and were nowhere near old enough to have influential roles in their parish in the 1970s.
      You may cease dishonoring your Boomer parents now.

  • Noel Fitzpatrick

    I read here:

    “Out-performed by girls at school, saddled with University tuition debt,
    unable to afford to leave home and a chronic lack of employment
    opportunities has resulted in so many young guys feeling lost, isolated,
    trapped and even discarded by society before they’ve even started their
    lives as men.”

    On top of this men are also told we are bad parents, we don’t listen and do not get in touch with our feelings.

    It reminds me of the man who claimed “my wife said I do not listen to her. I think that is what she said”.

  • K.A. Hughes RA

    When I read these articles, I have to thank our Lord that I am one of the truly blessed and fortunate ones. I was born at the end of the boomer generation (1961) to two midwestern American college graduate parents of middle class economics. My father was the breadwinner; a banker who also volunteered in the local Jaycees and Kiwanas Clubs. My mother was a housewife. I had two younger sisters. We were always a church-going believing family, starting as Protestents but coming home to the Roman Catholic church in 1976 as a family.
    I list this because my father and mother were both actively involved in our lives, in our spiritual upbringing and in our school lives. We saw daily affection for each other and for each of us children by both parents. My Dad spent many a Saturday with me whether it was working on the car, cleaning the garage, working in our garden or on the house. I never had a time when i truly wanted him out of my life. By the time I reached college age (18) I was ready to strike out on my own life with the full backing of both of my parents. As I grew, I became more aware of how my father’s faith and his love of my mother influenced my life so that I found myself searching for a woman whom I could dedicate my life to as my father did my mother.
    i am now 51 years young; married 24 years next May to the absolute love of my life and the father of two children. My father is and has always been my hero. He and my mother were married 54 years with my mother passing his his arms on July 1 2011. I have come to realize how special my life has been because I have modeled my actions as a husband and father on his.
    This may sound as if I am bragging and in a way perhaps in a manner of speaking, I am. I now realize how blessed my life has been. I hope my daughter seeks out a man whom will love her as my father did my mother.

    • Amber Boyt

      I certainly hope when i grow up( ;-)) to be like your parents! You are truly blessed!!

  • Rocco Vicente

    An interesting take on Western culture. How different from the Muslim
    culture where boys and men are bonded from youth. Were women and men do
    not mix. Where boys learn at their fathers knee and yet commit suicide
    by dressing themselves with explosives, sacrificing their lives for
    religious beliefs of the rewards they will receive in the after life.
    The give the appearance of living for their eternal life giving up this
    one for the next, while here in the west we live for our pleasures and
    give no thought to eternal life to come. What a screwed up world we live
    in!
    East and West need a real wake up call. When will we all be civil with one another?

    When will mankind turn to the Lord in large numbers?