On my Thursday date night with my wife last week. (Yes, we still have Date Nights and you can too.) I saw a sight that warmed my heart. A father was walking along the street with his young teenage son, hugging his head and shoulders. They were both laughing and hugging each other. Perhaps they were sharing a joke, or they were simply stirring each other, or doing some street wrestling. I honestly don’t know, but it was incredibly inspiring to behold.
It was one of those spontaneous joyful moments that probably only lasted about ten seconds but told a story of a father’s unabashed love for his son. It also told a story of a son happy to be in the presence of an affectionate father.
I got to thinking about my own relationship with my children. I too was an affectionate dad. I often gave my boys hugs when they were younger and a good night kiss on their foreheads when they were going bed. Today they are all grown up but we usually hug when we meet. You would probably call me an affectionate father.
I often joke when I meet strangers and give them a hug and say I come from Wollongong. I say it with a fake Italian accent because I have noticed that most Europeans from the Mediterranean (and there are many in Wollongong) are much more affectionate than most men of Anglo-Saxon stock. I really admire those men who can show their affection to their families and their friends in an open and unabashed way.
Goodness me, it was how we were meant to live!
Ray Williams in an article in Phycology Today called, 8 Reasons Why We Need Human Touch More Than Ever says “Physical contact distinguishes humans from other animals. From a warm handshake or sympathetic hug to a congratulatory pat on the back, we have developed complex languages, cultures, and emotional expression through physical contact. But in a tech-saturated world, non-sexual human touch is in danger of becoming rare, if not obsolete. Despite the benefits of digital advancement, it is vital to preserve human touch in order for us truly to thrive.
Humans become nearly unrecognizable in the absence of touch. Two hundred years ago, French scientists spotted a creature resembling a human running through the forests. Once captured, they determined he was 11 years old and had run wild in the forests for much of his childhood. Originally the child, “Victor,” was determined to be an idiot; French physicians and psychiatrists eventually concluded he had been deprived of human physical touch, which had retarded his social and developmental capacities.”
I have a lot to be thankful for in that my father was a very affectionate man. My brother and I, between the ages of 3 to 7, would jump into bed with Dad and Mum (much to our mother’s displeasure) to listen to Dad tell us his endless string of made up adventure stories.
I don’t remember how we ended back in our own beds but we always did and maybe that was the thing my mother was unhappy about, having to cart sleeping children back to their “Own” bed night after night. Mum wasn’t overly affectionate but Dad sure made up for it.
But what do you do if you realise that you are ‘affection deficit’ as a dad? Thought you would never ask!
Three tips from me:
- Be affectionate with your wife. Practice hugging and cuddling your wife. If you can be affectionate with your wife it will be much easier to be affectionate with your children. Practice makes perfect.
- Watch lots of high intensity team sports games on TV. Soccer, Basketball, Rugby League, Rugby Union and Australian Rules. You will notice that when a goal is scored passionate hugging whether singularly or in groups is the order of the day. So, what I want you to do is to set up a lamp stand in the middle of the viewing area and as soon as either side scores jump up and hug the lamp stand with the same exuberant passion that all those masculine sportsmen are hugging each other on TV. The more you do it the more you will get better at it. It’s all about living in the moment and expressing that moment in a hug. Trust me, it is a manly thing to do. Practice makes perfect!
- Learn how to make friends and learn how to keep friends. Proverbs says, “He who wants friends must show himself friendly”. In most cases, true loving affection comes from first of all being a friend. If you can be an affectionate friend you can be an affectionate father. So again, practice makes perfect.”
Kylie Ingram in his informative Distilled Manhood blog, in an insightful article, Making Guy Friends As a Man: Male Friendship 101 says, “Men are generally pretty bad at making friends—at least with other guys. Especially as we get older, men often have fewer close male friendships. Yet, according to research, we crave intimacy in our friendships just as much as women. Worst of all, this lack of close relationships could be very, very bad for us. Prolonged loneliness can have serious consequences for cognition, emotion, behavior, and health—and may even speed up physiological aging…
As you can see, once you get over the fear of “getting out there” and talking to other men, there’s no end to the different ways you can make connections, which may turn into friends later on. Ultimately, the best way to get comfortable seeking out new connections is to practice: to do it over and over. To build the habit of connecting with people….Without any specific agenda.
Say hello to people (men and women). Engage them. Make conversation. Take an interest in their lives. You may become friends or you may never see each other again. Will everyone want to talk to you? No. But usually that won’t have anything to do with what they think of you—it’s more likely to do with what they think of themselves.
Plus, there are fundamental techniques you can use to make yourself more successful and connecting with people. Let’s face it: Humans aren’t that complicated. Connecting with them isn’t a mystery.
A great place to start is Dale Carnegie’s “Six Ways to Make People Like You” from How to Win Friends & Influence People:
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the others person’s interests.
- Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.
By the way all this exciting information about making people like you and learning how to be a friend equally applies to your children.
So, there are two parts to being an Affectionate Dad. Build good friendships with your children and family members and then express that friendship in moments of unabashed affection. Always remember practice makes perfect!
Yours for more Affectionate Fathers