What has gone wrong with us as men? The list of horrific events done by men, from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Newton, is becoming too long. At the hands of boys we see unthinkable acts. Which begs the question, what has gone wrong?
An article in the Washington Times titled, Fathers disappear from households across America highlighted these points:
- 1 in 3 children live without a father (that’s 15 million children)
- Vincent DiCaro, Vice President of the National Fatherhood Initiate summed up a number of societal woes by saying this:
- “Deal with absent fathers, and the rest follows. People look at a child in need, in poverty or failing in school, and ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ But what we do, is ask, ‘Why does that child need help in the first place?’ And the answer is often it’s because the child lacks a responsible and involved father.”
The connections are self-evident to the honest observer of the data. The connection between our nature and what is nurture is undeniable. Human beings crave relationship. Relationship comes from intimacy. So our natural human desire for intimacy is nurtured through relationships. Intimacy implies many things but at the most basic level, it is the foundation for security and protection. It is in the home, the family, that we develop an identity. Families provide us with moral, social, and economic support. And whether you have a good or bad family, an intact or broken home, we share this in common: we all have parents. It seems however that we have forgotten that a critical part of being a parent is actually being there and engaging in a relationship.
There are many reasons we are not engaged at home as men. We can blame depictions on TV and in other areas that show us to be buffoons, but we all know that is not who men really are. Men can even say that we are confused about our role: are we the provider, a nurturer, or simply a knucklehead? But is that truly honest. The result of the confusion, criticism, and depictions is that men, like all people, distance themselves from what they are insecure about.
Men provide may reasons for distancing ourselves. They sound like this:
- I’m tired when I come home from work.
- I work so hard to try and help my family get ahead that I simply don’t have the time.
- I don’t know how to connect with my child; we are so different.
- I watch TV so I can escape the pressure.
Whatever the reason or excuse, men are distancing themselves from the family, and the consequences are dire. We could cite endless statistics that support the cultural consequences of disengaged fathers. So, whether it is weariness, selfishness, exhaustion, laziness, or simply escapism, ultimately the role of the father cannot be one of being unengaged. So what is the role of the father in the home?
- To provide an example:
- To initially understand the importance of this, it is important to know that son means example of. So when we hear someone say John is the son of Henry, we are saying that John is the example of Henry. Men are the examples of their fathers. For wives then it is important to understand that husbands are merely the examples of their fathers.
- So men set an example to their children, families, and others in the community.
- To be a provider:
- This is not solely financial.
- It is also a moral and social provider.
- Time is one of the most important things you can provide your child.
- To be involved:
- This does not simply mean attending a baseball game or a trip to Disneyland.
- Involvement requires intentional relationship and interaction. It is more than the cursory question of “How was your day?” Intentional involvement requires time, looking through schoolwork, engaging with your child’s teachers, communicating with your spouse on what each other is seeing in your child.
- To praise:
- A father needs to not just praise success. Praise effort, not just success. If all a child hears is praise when they succeed and silence when they don’t, then their effort in both situations is ignored.
- Don’t simply tell them all the time how good they are. Goodness is overrated. Praise the positive qualities you see in them. Tell your son or daughter what makes them unique. Each child has their own unique talents so learn your child’s talents.
A closing comment was once made at the end of a familySTRONG conference we held by a mother of 3 and what she said was this: “You can talk till you’re blue in the face about how to do it, but ultimately, you just have to do it.”
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