When you’re a father, your time is not your own. Sure, you go to work every day to provide for your family, but you have duties and responsibilities aside from earning a paycheck. One of those responsibilities is instilling good values in your children. This goes for both sons and daughters, but today, let’s talk about the importance of father and son bonding.
The type of man you are will shape who your son is, for better or worse. I’ve learned this firsthand because, unfortunately, my dad spent very little time with me as a kid. I only went fishing a handful of times, and that was after begging and pleading with my dad to take me. I don’t remember ever playing a game of catch. We never went anywhere to do anything except visit my grandmother. My first hunting trip was with an uncle instead of my father. My first major league baseball game was with my neighbor.
My dad wasn’t very involved with my sisters and me, so in learning how to do this dad thing, I’ve had to model myself after the uncles, neighbors, and friends who were the kind of fathers that I want to be to my own son.
I’m not perfect. Sometimes I tell my son that I’m tired or that I’m busy (and I am) when I should say “yes” to playing with his superhero action figures or another 15 minutes on the X-Box playing Lego Marvel Avengers. But I try to say “yes” more often than I say “no.”
If you want a closer relationship with your son… if you’re looking for ways to teach him about manhood… if you realize the importance of the time you spend together in shaping who he is… Here are some tried and true father and son bonding ideas to explore.
They may not be right for you and your son. That’s OK. Choose activities that the both of you will enjoy (and some that are new to you both). The important thing is spending time together, asking questions, having conversations and enjoying each other’s company.
8 Tried and True Father and Son Bonding Ideas
1. Go to the barbershop.
Where do men from all walks of life congregate? At the barbershop! This is a monthly ritual for my son and me, and he loves going. He even drew a picture of himself getting a haircut from his favorite barber. The benefits of the barbershop are many. He gets to meet and listen to lots of different men and boys. He learns and appreciates the importance of taking pride in his appearance and looking his best. We don’t do sloppy hair in this family.
2. Go camping.
Camping provides many father/son bonding opportunities. It’s good for the both of you to unplug for a couple of days and enjoy the fresh air and scenery. It’s also the perfect opportunity to teach your son how to start a fire, set up a tent, use a knife, identify plants and animals, and learn how to make some kick-ass S’mores.
3. Try archery.
Archery is a lost art to many kids these days, but it can teach important skills like discipline, practice, aim and setting goals. It teaches kids that if something isn’t working, a small tweak in what you’re doing can have radical results. That’s a valuable lesson to learn, isn’t it?
4. Read to your son.
Reading together is good for the both of you, especially when your son is too young to read himself. It builds vocabulary by exposing him to new words that you and your family don’t use every day. It opens up worlds of imagination and wonder. It also helps your child learn moral lessons about honesty, fairness, hard work, and other good values.
Related: 16 Fun Kids’ Books About Dad
5. Play catch.
I know, I know. This is the quintessential father/son bonding activity, but it’s a classic for a reason. A quiet game of catch allows time for you and your son to talk about things big and small. Your son will improve his coordination and learn not to be afraid of the ball, which will come in handy in many sports.
6. Go hiking.
Hiking is a favorite pastime for us because it gives a chance to move a lot and enjoy the outdoors. Hiking helps dads and kids improve endurance and health. You’ll also develop an appreciation for the outdoors and spectacular views.
7. Go fishing.
Want your kid to learn to be more patient? Take him fishing. Learning to bait a hook, casting in just the right place and waiting for that fish to bite are all excellent for teaching the virtue of patience. (Proud Dad Brag: My son actually received the Fruit of the Spirit: Patience award at his school this year.) Because fishing’s a quiet activity, it’s easy to make conversation. Furthermore, there’s some pride to be had in catching a fish and eating what you’ve caught.
8. Play video games.
Sometimes, it’s important that you learn from your son instead of trying to teach all the lessons yourself. If your son is into video games, this is your chance to enjoy one of his hobbies instead of forcing him into one of yours. That’s not to say that you should only play video games—getting outdoors and trying new experiences is also important. But there’s nothing wrong with spending a few hours in front of his favorite game console to laugh, talk and get schooled in the latest games.
Know this: the activity is not as important as the time you spend with your son. If, instead of a hike, you can only fit in a walk around the neighborhood with your son, go for it! That’s great! Can’t go camping because you don’t have the equipment? Make a blanket tent in the yard or on your porch and camp there instead.
Your son needs you… needs your time. Everything else is just a bonus.