In the course of writing a book, author Neil Chethik asked men what they most valued about their dads. Significantly, the answer was never money, houses, cars, toys -- or any other physical thing. The answer was "affection." The trouble is, many fathers are naturally distant or uninvolved in the lives of their kids. They may be uncomfortable showing affection or just don't know how to because they were never shown affection by their own dads. Sadly, according to Chethik, when fathers are distant, unavailable or uninvolved with their sons, the message it sends is that "you don't matter much." And that undermines a boy's self-esteem and confidence.
The good news is that there are a variety of effective ways that dads can express affection. Of course, physical expressions -- such as wrestling, riding piggyback and hugs and kisses -- always score high, says Chethik. But, he also found that even non-physical expressions were highly valued; that affection was "less about physicality than about loving attention by a father toward his child." Like the man whose father routinely invited him to help with fix-up projects around the house, always leading to substantial, two-way conversations.
Demonstrating our affection to our boys has got to become habit. And, no one can be responsible for that but dads. Being affectionate with our sons is not optional. However we choose to do it, our sons need us to show them that we care about them, that they're of value to us - that they add something to our lives. "It is the small acts of affection, in the seemingly ordinary moments," Chethik says, "where the best of fathering can take place."