Today we conclude our interview with Steve Zollos, author of Time for the Talk. I hope you have enjoyed this interview. Moreover, I hope that you will make good use of this excellent resource. There is a link for more information and sample chapters at the end of this post.
When should a father give his son The Talk?
Determining when to give your son The Talk can be a tricky thing. On the one hand, you don’t want to give him information that he is not ready for. On the other hand, you don’t want him trusting information from his peers, or the media.
I write in some depth on this subject in Time For The Talk, and it’s really an individual thing. Every child is different. Answering some simple questions might give you some guidance. Questions like, “Do I see physical changes taking place like underarm hair, acne, or muscle development.”
“Is what he does with his time changing? Is he spending more time in the bathroom? Is he suddenly concerned about showering and the cologne he is wearing?”
“What is he doing online? While he used to play computer games with his buddies, is he now having online video conversations with female classmates.’ “Does he spend significant time online in an unmonitored environment?”
Does he spend more time talking with, or about girls than he used to? “Is he in some way pulling away from his Mom and I?
These are the types of questions that will be helpful, but a good guide for a dad is that most children who are 10-12 years old are in need of The Talk. Keep in mind that The Talk is not about a one time conversation. It is about an ongoing conversation.
I regularly remind my 14 year old that he is becoming a young man. I remind him about the things we talked about when we opened the conversation and I broach new subjects as they become pertinent.
If your son is 15 or 16 years old, there is little doubt that it is Time For The Talk.
What if a father plans the talk, sets apart time, but his son is not responsive, or even put out by having to spend a day with his Dad?
That’s a great question, and let me encourage the dad’s who are reading your blog. Your son will reject all or part of what you’re telling them. I have no doubt about that. At least now it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
I tell a story in Time For The Talk about my Great Uncle and how, as a young man, I was too wise in my own eyes to see the wisdom of his counsel. As a result I almost wound up as the main attraction in a real live ‘shotgun wedding.’
The point is that I did not receive his counsel when it was given, and by God’s grace I avoided the consequences of my arrogance.
When I finally understood that my Great Uncle was not only right, but much wiser than I, my esteem for him and his counsel became preeminent in my life – but it took time.
If my Uncle hadn’t been patient. Had he pulled away from the proud and arrogant young man that was before him. If he wasn’t willing to give his advice in spite of the fact that it wasn’t going to be received at the time, I would have never come to see the wisdom of his words or the depth of his love for me.
In other words, share your wisdom with your son regardless of his receptiveness. God is at work in this process and trust that in time your love for him will become apparent him.
- What has been the most difficult thing for you as a father?
By far the most difficult thing for both my wife and I in our parenting experience was launching our oldest son off when he went to college.
He was doing a lot of excellent things there, but we could see so clearly some of the bad decisions he was making and he wouldn’t listen to our counsel when we tried to correct him. It was almost as if he was now his own man. Of course he was his own man.
He had left home, he was paying his own way through college, he was making his own decisions, and making and owning his own mistakes. He was a man, and it caught us by surprise because we hadn’t effectively shifted gears as parents, but we have learned, and continue to learn how to launch our sons to manhood and trust God with the result.
- What about households that have no father figure present, or willing? Are those boys at a disadvantage?
This is an important question, as many households today are single parent households where the Mom has had to assume the role of both mother and father. There are many other households where dads have abdicated their parental responsibilities and have no interest in having any ‘talk’ with their sons.
I want to encourage Moms who are raising boys on their own. God has not left you as orphans or with a lesser plan for your sons. Time For The Talk is all about helping your son draw near to God, to trust God, and to lean not on his own understanding. You need the same grace that any father needs to speak the truth in love to his son, and God’s grace is sufficient for all of us.
In lieu of an engaged father figure in your home I suggest that a mother give the talk to her son herself. If this seems too awkward for some Moms, then a trusted male from family or church could lead your son through the process. I discuss this in the “Preface To Mothers” in my book.
It is imperative, that whether you give the talk yourself, or if you entrust someone else to do it, you, as his parent, should know everything that is being discussed and not discussed at any given point in time. You can give someone else the authority to speak to your son about these things, but the responsibility to see that these discussions are complete and appropriate remains with the parent.
I suggest using Time For The Talk as a guide to help you discuss with the ‘trusted male figure’ what is appropriate to discuss at your son’s age and the things that you prefer to discuss with him yourself.
There is a handy checklist in the back of the book that lists each of the topics. That would be a great resource for to use when delegating authority to others.
- If you had one tip to give fathers what would that be?
From the perspective of raising your boys, I think fathers need to spend as much individual time with their sons as possible, and major on listening.
From the perspective of giving their sons The Talk, I would tell fathers not to delay, and be ready to change. This can be hard to understand because we are teaching our sons the way they should go through the talk so we naturally expect our boys to be the ones who need to change or grow. I think every dad wants to have a strong, life long relationship with their boys and in order for that to happen dads will need to learn how to shift those relational gears, and it’s not always easy to do.