The Importance of Vulnerability – The Brad Cesmat Show Sports 360 AZ Interview with Jeff & Brian

My son, Jeff, and I were interviewed yesterday by Brad Cesmat on his Sports 360 AZ radio show. I was all prepared to talk about the O.C.P. (overly competitive parents) culture that is now, unfortunately, deeply embedded in the youth sports ethos. What I didn’t know was that Brad’s father walked out on him and his family when he was nine years old, which Brad revealed in the first minute of the interview.

Our thirty-minute conversation revolved around the implications for young boys who don’t have a strong emotional connection to their dad. Our research, in Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son, reveals that fatherlessness contributes to many risk factors in a boy’s life. Numerous sources show that this lack of connection is related to: school dropouts, teen pregnancy, involvement with drugs, gangs, porn, alcohol, as well as mental health issues, identity issues, incarceration and even suicide.

Brad talked about the anger, frustration and other problems he had to wrestle with as an adolescent without his dad. He said that he was immensely grateful for the relationship he had with some coaches and teachers who became his lifeline during those formative years. Jeff also shared how when his was a teenager he experienced feelings of anger, fear and isolation as our family was going through difficulties due to many poor and even destructive decisions I made as a young dad.

There were three important things that emerged from our conversation during the interview concerning how to improve the vital father son relationship:

  1. Vulnerability – Dad’s need to willing to talk about their fears and failures, and “man up” to demonstrate to their son that it’s okay not to be perfect. Vulnerability from the dad gives permission for the son to be authentic. It also establishes an environment whereby the son doesn’t feel that his value comes from performance in sports, arts or academics.
  2. Time Matters – Sons want and need to spend time with their dads, regardless of what the current relationship is like.
  3. Courage – In the root of your biggest problems are the seeds to new life, hope and improved relationships. Stop asking, “What’s wrong?’ and start asking, “What’s possible?”

Brad’s sudden vulnerability about his family situation took me off guard, but established an environment that it was safe to talk about anything that mattered. Remember that raising a boy is too important to be left to chance. It’s never too late to take the first step in the right direction.

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