15 Quotes That Explore the Complex Father-Son Relationship

Father and Son
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Dads and sons have a complex relationship. As Frank Herbert said, "What is the son but an extension of the father?" Fathers try to pass on to their sons the knowledge of what it means to be a man and to be successful in life. Most fathers raise their boys based on their own experiences with their fathers, for better or worse.

Former President George H.W. Bush

"It’s much worse to read criticism about your son than yourself."

Johann Schiller

"It is not flesh and blood but the heart, which makes us fathers and sons."

Aldous Huxley

"Sons have always a rebellious wish to be disillusioned by that, which charmed their fathers."

George Herbert

"One father is enough to govern one hundred sons, but not a hundred sons, one father."

Marlene Dietrich

"A king, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties. A father can do neither. If only sons could see the paradox, they would understand the dilemma."

William Shakespeare

"When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry."

Walter M. Schirra, Sr.

"You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes."

James Baldwin

"If the relationship of father to son could really be reduced to biology, the whole earth would blaze with the glory of fathers and sons."

Robert Frost

"The father is always a Republican toward his son, and his mother's always a Democrat."

Relationship Between the Father and His Teenaged Son

The need to emulate the father seems to dissipate when kids reach adolescence. The rebellious hormones want nothing of the old man's wisdom. Most young teenagers want to distance themselves from their fathers. Relationships that were built with a bond of love and trust become strained and withdrawn. Most fathers remain distant when their kids are growing, to avoid a clash of personality. Is this normal or a trend towards growing family discord?

On the TV sitcom " Home Improvement," starring Tim Allen. In one of the episodes, Wilson makes a wry comment:

"Parents are the bone on which children sharpen their teeth. What I'm saying is that when a boy is young, he worships his father and in order for the boy to become a man, he's got to see his father as a fallible human being and stop seeing him as a god." 

The cold war can continue well into the adult phase of the child's life until he himself becomes a father. Sooner or later, the cycle of life allows the new father to reminisce his childhood days and recount the innumerable ways his father showered love upon him.

American actor James Caan once said, "I never saw my dad cry. My son saw me cry. My dad never told me he loved me, and consequently, I told Scott I loved him every other minute. The point is, I’ll make fewer mistakes than my dad, my sons hopefully will make fewer mistakes than me, and their sons will make fewer mistakes than their dads. And one of these days, maybe we’ll raise a perfect Caan."

Fathers and Sons Can Share a Bond Through Fun Activities

Fathers who nurture their sons through projects and activities have a strong and healthy relationship. Usually, fathers and sons enjoy the same activities, whether fishing or football. Find an activity that suits you and your sons. You could choose to go camping with your son. Or consider teaching the young boy basic techniques of golf. If football is your first love, share anecdotes and funny stories with your boys while catching up on the action on Super Bowl.

These quotes about fathers and sons reflect on the wonderfully complicated relationship between boys and their fathers. On Father's Day, help every father and son reach out to each other through these loving words.

Alan Valentine

"For thousands of years, father and son have stretched wistful hands across the canyon of time, each eager to help the other to his side, but neither quite able to desert the loyalties of his contemporaries. The relationship is always changing and hence always fragile; nothing endures except the sense of difference."


"The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty with the son who neglects them."

Ralph Waldo Emerson, (on the death of his son)

"My son, a perfect little boy of five years and three months, had ended his earthly life. You can never sympathize with me; you can never know how much of me such a young child can take away. A few weeks ago I accounted myself a very rich man, and now the poorest of all."