I’m sure you’re well-aware of the drug abuse, suicide, and violent crime rates with regards to young men. It’s all over the headlines these days and, with the latest school shooting in Florida, it’s become impossible to ignore. There is a real problem here.
And, while the rest of the world focuses on gun control and legislation in hopes of putting a bandaid over the problems that are becoming all too common, I’d encourage us here within the Order of Man to look at the root of the problem, which I believe is fatherless homes.
Let’s take a look at some of the statistics:
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census).
- 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes (Center for Disease Control).
- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (National Principals Association Report).
- 70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988).
- 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction).
I could go on and on about this but I think you can see that there is a problem with fathers being absent in the home. I do want to be very clear here, this is not intended to put down women who are raising children on their own. My mom did for much of my early life and she did a terrific job. That said, the facts are the facts. And this is what the data is telling us.
I know I could also talk with you about the impacts on girls when fathers are absent but for the sake of this discussion, I want to talk about boys exclusively because it’s boys who are perpetuating much of the problems we see in society. I believe the solution is homes where fathers are present and engaged.
What I wanted to do today is connect the dots between boys and fathers and why this relationship is so critical for the well-being of our sons and society as a whole. Here are 5 reasons why dads are needed now more than ever.
Protect Children from Danger
One of our primary responsibility as fathers is to protect our children from danger. Not shield them or bubble wrap them from the difficulties of life but to keep our children safe from physical and emotional harm.
When we are not present for our children the way we should be, these dangers creep into their lives and expose them to horrible atrocities no child should ever have to witness. Left unchecked, these negative experiences pour over into their adult lives and damage the way they view the world moving forward.
Harness the Power of Masculinity into Productive Outcomes
There is raw masculine energy coursing through our sons’ veins. This is a good thing. It’s that masculine power and energy that, when fully developed, will allow them to go into the world the way a healthy man does and produce for himself, his family, and his community.
When these energies are not harnessed and focused, they are released in negative, destructive, and sometimes violent ways.
Our boys are being raised by women at home and in the school system who will never fully understand the masculine energy our boys possess. They’re told to sit down, shut up, do as they’re told, and not to act out when in all reality, the potential energy they wield is being suppressed and will find a way to escape in unproductive ways.
If our sons are angry, good. It’s okay to be angry. It’s our job to teach them how to harness that anger. If our sons are feeling threatened, good. It’s okay to feel threatened. It’s our job to teach them how to equip themselves to deal with threats. If our sons are feeling rage, good. It’s okay to experience rage. It’s our job to channel that rage into a healthy outcome.
A boy can only learn how to harness this power from someone who has already learned how to harness this power. It’s like asking someone who’s never played the guitar to teach someone how to play the guitar (only at a much higher stakes). A student cannot learn from a teacher who does not know.
Help Develop Hard and Soft Skills Required to Succeed
A man’s job is to protect, provide, and preside. He cannot be capable of doing so unless he learns the specific skills required to succeed at all three. And, unless a boy learns what those skills are, he will wander around aimlessly in life until he figures out how or does something stupid in order to find the meaning and significance he so desperately craves.
Basic automotive and home repair, using a firearm, lifting weights, shaking another person’s hand, becoming self-reliant, holding a conversation, telling a joke, chopping firewood, developing discipline, courting a woman, doing homework, becoming situationally aware, throwing a punch, displaying self-restraint, and so much more are critical to a young man’s development in life. I know I’m missing other skills here but this is simply a starting point with regards to teaching a boy what he needs to know in order to protect, provide, and preside.
Foster Physical, Mental, and Emotional Strength
Let’s face it, life is tough. That’s the reality of the hand we’re dealt. I know parents who spend so much time coddling their children that they’re actually doing them a disservice in the later years because they’ve never built up the physical, mental, and emotional strength to thrive on their own.
Now, let’s look at human nature. When a boy falls off his bike and scrapes his knee, what does mom do? She rushes over to hold him and kiss hiss booboo. But a man doesn’t rush over at all. In fact, he doesn’t even move. He tells his son to get up, wipe himself off and get back on the bike.
Please don’t misunderstand me, there is a time and place for both. But that’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is that our boys are becoming weaker and weaker because they’re only getting one side of the equation (the soft, effeminate side).
Then, when the boy enters the real world and someone challenges him or makes him feel uncomfortable, he tries to run to mommy. But mommy isn’t around so what does he do? He lashes out like an animal backed into a corner because he doesn’t know any better. And, he ends up leaving a wake of destruction in his path.
Dads, your job is not to keep your boys out of difficult situations, it’s to expose them to them in controlled environments. This way, when life gets hard, your sons have acquired the fortitude, toughness, and grit to face whatever the challenge is on his feet.
Enforce Consequences for Poor Choices
There are consequences for our choices. Our job as fathers is to enforce those consequences on our children. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. But who said this portion of the job was supposed to be? I see kids yelling at their parents in grocery stores. I see other kids quit on schooling or sports teams because it gets a little hard. I see moms and dads to swoop in and blame school districts when little Timmy makes a poor choice.
If my children are going to make stupid decisions (and they will, just like we did), I want them to fully experience and live in the result of those choices so they don’t do it again. That’s the point. If it hurts to do dumb things, maybe they won’t keep doing dumb things.
People will say, “Ryan, how could you be so insensitive?” You tell me what’s worse, letting my children live with the results of their actions or giving them the false sense of reality that they can do whatever the hell they want with no repercussions?
I realize I’m skimming the surface on a very deep and multi-dimensional subject. These trends of crime, drug abuse, and violence are not going to change overnight but if we, as men, can step up into the role of father and exemplify masculine behavior, we will be giving our boys a leg up as they venture off on their own to start their families, run their businesses, and lead their communities.
I’m fully on board for exploring what needs to be done about the consequences of a fatherless society but until we address the real root of the problem, we’re going to continue to see the horrors we’ve only begun to experience now. There is no amount of legislation that can replace the power of a well-fathered home.
Our job as fathers is to protect our children, harness the power of masculinity into productive outcomes, help develop hard and soft skills required to succeed, foster physical, mental, and emotional strength, and enforce consequences for poor choices.