Sometimes I think I must sound like a broken record but Dads are REALLY important in teens’ lives. I was reminded of that again this week in a coaching session so I asked permission to share the story.
Just like most kids, this teen boy was spending a lot of time on Facebook, a lot of time in virtual communication. And, like lots of boys, he has been a bit disrespectful to his sister and a bit smart-mouthed to his mom. (You may recall my quoting Robert Bly from his book, Iron John, A Book About Men, who says that where you see a teenage boy smart-mouthing his mother, you see a boy who needs to spend more time in the company of men!) Also typical in this family’s story is that the parents have been monitoring their son’s Facebook interactions. Not every day, not all the time, but sort of spot-checking.
This week the parents encountered a surprising interaction. As a group of kids were chatting back and forth on Facebook, some of the guys in the group had taken a suggestive, edging-on-lewd tone as they “talked” with the girls. To these parents’ surprise, in the Facebook conversation, their son asked the girls if the bawdy talk made them uncomfortable.
From the parents’ point of view, the girls’ replies do not matter. What these parents honed in on is that their son recognized the inappropriateness of the manner of speaking AND seemed to be stepping up to intervene and redirect the conversation. And here’s the part I really applaud: Dad is planning to speak to his son, beginning by mentioning to the boy that as the parents were monitoring the conversation they noticed (code for: we have the right and the duty to make sure you’re behaving online). Then the dad might say something like, “I saw that you asked the girls if they were comfortable with the tone of the conversation. Now, I’m not sure what your intentions were but I’m proud that you recognize that the way guys speak to one another might be different from the way they should speak with young ladies. And, I’m proud that you seemed to be ready to protect them by turning the conversation in a more wholesome direction.” I like that approach because it interprets the kid’s motivation to the high side, as if that’s what we’d expect of him, that he’s an honorable, discerning kid. Finally, the dad is planning to add one more little thing like, “I admire a guy who’d do that. Nice job.”
There’s just about no higher “reward” than dad’s approval. Every guy I know longs for his father to think well of him. And what better time than when our boy “gets it right” with girls, on Facebook. Nice job, indeed, I’d say to dad AND son!