I’ve written on the topic of parenting for a few years prior and since my retirement, emphasizing fatherhood–its challenges and rewards. The difference it makes when both the mother and father are proactively involved in their children’s lives is astounding. This is evident in every facet of their growth, from self-esteem and personal success to being mentally healthy and successful parents themselves. Certainly, there is a large percentage of families that thrive because of hands-on, intelligent parenting. Unfortunately, however, there are twenty four million children living without their biological father at home in the USA!
If you were to do an Internet search on “fatherless children statistics”, you will find that the social consequences of children that don’t have an involved father are dire! Crime, drugs, emotional issues abound, and those children that come from dysfunctional families are much more likely to have dysfunctional families of their own. Boys without fathers tend to be involved in some form of violence. Girls without fathers tend to become teen mothers. The boys are trying to prove their manhood while the girls are looking for male approval. Both of these social issues would be greatly minimized with good fathers in the picture.
I have personally experienced both father absence as a child and fatherly involvement as a man–and it doesn’t take an expert to figure out which is better for a family. With that said, why is there not more support for educating new or struggling fathers in the joys, necessities, and benefits of being a dad? While I don’t have an answer, my thoughts are shifting from not having enough parenting education choices for fathers, to fathers not taking advantage of the opportunities that exist.
Of course when boys have good fathers as mentors, this is not a real problem. These boys respect their dads and learned how to be a man, how to treat women, and how to be responsible. They may not read up on parenting like mothers do, but they are not the real problem. However, boys who are raised without significant and competent male influence are clueless about their importance as parents, much less how to be a good one. This is true even for some men who had fathers in the home—fathers who priorities did not include being a dad.
I’m convinced that there are adequate resources for those men wanting to become better fathers. I’ve found them in my research in the form of fatherhood programs, parenting books, and organizations like the National Fatherhood Initiative. But what young man, who never experienced a good father, would seek out those resources without a nudge from someone? That is the real problem–getting the attention of those young men who most need guidance in parenting. After all, it is the most important responsibility they will ever have.
For me, there were lessons to be learned that could have helped me immensely in my search for success, but my father wasn’t around and my mother had to support six children and she was too overwhelmed, a fact that is too often overlooked. It takes two parents to handle the needs of children properly. I eventually found success, but it wasn’t easy. I was shy and unsure of myself. Every step up was a struggle even as I approached middle age. I hid my insecurities the best I could.
So what might my father have done to help me? He could have talked to me and understood my fears. He could have known my strengths and bolstered them. He could have known my weaknesses and helped me though them. He could have taught me early on what it took me years to learn on my own.
What every dad should discuss with his children (from The Power of Dadhood)
- You are not alone in having fears.
- Facing fear will dissolve it.
- No one else is any better than you (‘better at’, maybe, but ‘better than’, no).
- Mistakes are okay. (Caveat: Knowingly doing wrong is not a mistake.)
- You can’t wait for others to move forward.
- You always have choices
- Character and integrity are vitally important.
- Develop the joy and beauty of imagination.
- Decisions made for security are not the same decisions you would make for freedom (growth).
Be a man who seeks knowledge about being a father, who listens to his children, and who has a philosophy to teach his children about how life should be lived. Be there as a partner to their mother in raising your children, even if you are no longer married. This is a right all children should have, but at least twenty-four million children do not. Let’s work to minimize the number of fatherless children!
Michael Byron Smith is a retired USAF officer and civilian engineer. His interest in fatherhood came about from watching the struggles of his mother raising six children alone and the resultant struggles of his siblings. He has a blog entitled Helping Fathers to be Dads and is the author of “The Power of Dadhood: Be the Father Your Children Need”, published by Familius.com
Michael lives in St. Louis. MO with his wife of 40 years. He has three wonderful children and four beautiful grandchildren.