(This tribute was originally posted in June 2021 and will be republished every Father’s Day as long as I’m alive.)
The root cause for virtually every cultural problem in the United States is the number of children growing up without fathers in their homes.
This is not the case within my own family. I am fortunate to have four sons (two sons, Mike and Matt and two sons-in-law, Dustin and Patrick) who are loving and dedicated fathers to their children. My grandchildren are all very young, very blessed and just assume that having dad at home is the way it is with kids everywhere. We know it is not.
This Sunday is the nation’s 113th celebration of the value of fathers. My effort here is to personalize this day by publicly thanking these men who are raising my grandchildren to let them know how valuable they and fathers like them are in the lives of their kids, their wives and society at large.
Government – no substitute for fathers
Since 1968, the number of children under 18 living with just their mother has doubled from 7.6 million to 15.3 million in 2020 as estimated by the U.S. Census.
According to the National Fatherhood Initiative this means that “1 in 4 kids live without a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home. Consequently, there is a father factor in nearly all social ills facing America today.”
This is not a surprise. Fathers have been in competition with the federal government since Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” welfare programs began paying women to have children out-of-wedlock thereby making the father economically irrelevant.
Far too many American families are now generationally “married” to the state. Combined with the introduction of the “Pill” and the legalization of abortion in 1973 sex was separated from procreation and kids.
Children went from a semi-surprise outcome of marital sex to a planned event or ‘consumer good.’ And abortion forever changed the role of the father as protector for his child. He no longer had any legal right to prevent his own baby’s execution in the womb. With this protector role enormously diminished, the perceived importance of fatherhood suffered greatly.
Many today believe fathers can be substituted in the life of a child by a boyfriend, a family friend, a teacher or even a second “mother.” A few years back a poll asked this very question: Could another role model be an “adequate substitute” for a father. 68% of women said “yes” and astonishingly, 57% of men agreed.
But this sentiment could not be more wrong.
Married fathers in the home are vitally needed by their kids, their wives and the society in which we live. There are reasons why the adorable 15-month-old toddler that his mother can handle easily too often becomes a muscular, full-grown, violent 16-year-old gang member that she has no control over. Both are legally considered children. One obviously needs protection, the other we need protection from.
Civilizing Men: Step One – Marriage, Step Two – Fatherhood
The primary difference between a civilized society and a barbaric one is its men who have been transformed from predators to producers. A civilized society needs its men to take on the commitment of marriage and the responsibilities of fatherhood.
Marriage harnesses the “animalistic” sexual urges of men. Women domesticate men but the birth of children takes this domestication to a much higher level. As a guy I do things differently as a married father than I did when I was single. Why? Because I now want to behave in a way that earns the respect of both my wife and children and sets an example for my kids so that someday they might be respected by their children as well.
The voluntary commitment of a man to faithful monogamy with his marriage vows is the critical first step for this male transition from predator to protector. Fatherhood and acknowledgment of his role as caretaker for his children, in most cases, completes the domestication process.
Society is (or should be) hugely interested in encouraging and stabilizing every marriage. After all, the intact family is, historically, the quintessential “civilizing unit.” It both protects children from society and protects society by restraining the development of predatory children. It is an 18-year long training ground for bringing forth a new generation of solid citizens.
Marriage produces “legitimate” children. It gives them extended and supportive family relationships — aunts, uncles, cousins — that often lead to a broader education, better jobs, and greater future social responsibility and charitable involvement. This broader family results in lower crime levels, lower rates of poverty, higher education levels, even lower taxes as less revenue is required to spend on poverty, health care, crime prevention and incarceration.
Benefits of fathers in the home
There is no greater societal benefit to children than living with, and being raised by, their married fathers and mothers. Those who are not are more likely to: drink, smoke and do drugs; not do as well in school, drop out or be expelled; be aggressive, violent and get into trouble with the law; be physically and sexually abused (and abusive in turn) and considerably more likely to become single parents themselves.
Then there is the poverty impact on children.
Lack of marriage by parents is the single greatest indicator of poverty in America. Marriage and education combined is the dividing line between an upwardly mobile new generation and one mired in intractable, generational poverty.
The poverty rate for kids under 18 living with just a female householder and no spouse present (30.7%) is 6 times that of kids living with married parents (5.1%).
Unfortunately, the total illegitimacy rate in the U.S. is outrageously high at 40%. (For black children the “Great Society” programs have been especially harmful. Just before they were introduced in 1965, just 24% of black children were born out of wedlock. Today, it is 70%).
Nothing provides a more nurturing environment for a child than a loving mother and father. Such gender diversity in a household is best for the complete education and development of both sons and daughters. Living with committed parents will likely produce a new generation of committed parents as well.
Dr. Kyle Pruett of Yale Medical School in his book, “Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child” says “dads matter simply because fathers do not mother.”
Mothers and fathers parent quite differently which is the way it is supposed to be. This produces child behavioral outcomes that are, on average, the best.
It is not unusual for parents to disagree about disciplinary approaches regarding their children. They bring two completely different perspectives to every situation. Either style by itself can, in fact, be harmful. An emotionally well-developed child is produced by this healthy balance between the different, but aligned, parenting styles of mothers and fathers. Diversity matters in parenting.
Mothers are more about care and compassion. Fathers are about resourcefulness and responsibility. Mothers protect, fathers prepare. Moms give their children hope, grace and security. Fathers promote justice, courage and duty. None of these characteristics are necessarily exclusive to mothers or fathers but they are predominant. All are developmentally necessary for children.
By eight weeks old, an infant can distinguish the distinct communication style of its father. From this point forward it begins to learn the differences between men and women. Mothers and fathers deal, play and discipline differently with their kids.
Father and mothers also talk to their kids quite differently. Mothers use more words and are more relational, dads more brief. Fathers use body language (quite naturally) along with simple but very readable facial expressions. They can communicate quite well without using a considerable number of words.
Mothers help kids develop their fine motor skills; dads develop their children’s large motor skills.
Fathers wrestle and tickle. They would rather roughhouse than play house. They toss their babies in the air. Mothers comfort and cuddle, dads encourage independence and competition. They are physical. With the roughhousing, kids learn what is acceptably ‘rough’ and what is unacceptable violence like biting or kicking. Dads will let them know quickly when they step over that invisible line that every child must learn.
This diversity of parenting, this balance of styles is enormously important in childhood development. Mom’s normally say, “Be careful, don’t go so fast or so high.” With dad’s you’ll hear, “Go faster, take the shot, take the risk.” Fathers encourage their children to push their limits to get more out of themselves. Mom’s will push safety, protection and security.
Mothers and fathers see their children differently in relation to the world in which they live. Mothers mostly try to protect their children from the world, fathers agree that the world is harsh and seek to prepare their children to deal with it.
To a father, a child’s self-esteem isn’t learned, it’s earned through work, achievement and the development of self-confidence. Fathers play harder and more actively; they are slower in fixing or assisting a child when they get frustrated. Problems aren’t to be avoided — they are welcomed as the catalyst to develop analytical and problem-solving skills.
A father’s value specifically to his sons
Boys need fathers to serve as their instructors and role models so they can do likewise when they become fathers to a new generation of sons. They need to learn what real “maleness” is. Boys don’t become men on their own. Not responsible, moral, Godly, loving, protective, productive men. These values must be taught.
Boys close to fathers at home are far more likely to be secure and comfortable with their masculinity because they’ve been shown what it actually is. A truly masculine father is strong yet tender, loving yet stern, principled yet tolerant.
Unfortunately, actual masculine men are becoming a rarity. There is nothing “masculine” about a fatherless, hyper-violent teenage gang member. Older gang members acting as surrogate “fathers” don’t show boys how to become real men. A father will teach a young male how to use his masculinity for productive, societally useful ways. Or that strength doesn’t require violence for validation — though it doesn’t rule it out when the cause is just.
The fatherless crisis is the true masculinity crisis in America. There are increasingly fewer men who know how to act like men with the women and children in their lives. It seems like we’ve veered off to the extremes: on one side is ultra-macho male as seen in gangs or promiscuous sperm-donor “fathers;” and on the other side is the so-called metro-sexual, drag queen or some other hyper-feminized persona.
Fathers show their sons how to (hopefully) understand the world of the female. They endeavor to produce sons with a greater respect for women than boys who grow up without fathers. The daily communication and interaction between a son’s mother and father — permanently bonded together by commitment — are enormously instructive in dealing with his future relationships.
And for the worthy father, who has been intimately involved in his son’s life, that child will always strive to earn his respect and affirmation for the rest of his dad’s life — and beyond.
A father’s value specifically to his daughters
A father’s value in the life of his daughter is often overlooked or ignored but daughters look to their fathers to be their primary male behavioral role model.
“Privilege” in America has much more to do with parental involvement than race. Consider those poor girls who grow up in a home without a loving father, a man fully committed to their well-being. Unfortunately, such girls are twice as likely to have illegitimate children themselves. This, of course, will likely repeat and continue a generational cycle. Additionally, girls without fathers in their homes are nearly twice as likely to divorce if they do get married.
Fathers (who are reasonably worthy) earn an authority with their daughters they will never give another man, even their husbands. Daughters will always care tremendously about what their fathers think of them and how they respect them.
Girls with fathers present in the home are more secure, confident and likely to explore or take risks. They are more social and have more overall positive behavior. They demonstrate greater analytical and mathematical competencies.
In her book, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” Dr. Meg Meeker writes, “Daughters look to their fathers for “heroic” qualities – leadership, perseverance, courage and integrity.”
Daughters learn about love and relationships with men from their fathers. Dr. Meeker: “Every man who enters her life will be compared to you; every relationship she has with a man will be filtered through her relationship with you.”
Glenn T. Stanton writes that girls who grow up with fathers in their home develop “healthier relationships with boys into adolescence and with men in adulthood.” How? Because their fathers have shown them how a real man acts toward women.
These daughters are accustomed to being held and hugged by strong arms. As such they don’t need to become promiscuous as teens to fulfill a longing to be held in a man’s arms.
They are taught to develop high expectations for themselves and how they should expect men to treat them. When daughters are involved daily and consistently with their fathers they are much more likely to choose a man who will make a good husband. They have learned the qualities and expectations that moral, reliable men ought to have. They have been given a solid standard from which to judge.
Fathers who have good relationships with their daughters will be their wise protectors and try to screen out those males they think see their daughters as prey. And these daughters who have a lifetime of trusting their dads are far more likely to respect his advice and opinions.
Among the most important examples a loving father can convey is by treating his wife with tenderness, respect and honor. It shows how a truly masculine man relates to, and affirms the femininity of his wife. Their marriage becomes the role model for what a challenging but loving and romantic relationship should look like. It is the duty of the father of every daughter to set this example how a man should act even under the most emotional of circumstances.
Bottom line: girls do better with dads.
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There is no substitute for a married, Godly, involved father in the home of his child. Of course mothers matter immensely and this tribute is not intended to diminish the irreplaceable role of moms. But it is fathers who have been deemed substitutable or, worst of all, irrelevant in the lives of their children.
To Mike, Matt, Dustin and Patrick, you personify all the positives I’ve related about fathers in this article. You have my deepest appreciation and respect for your amazing involvement in the lives of my grandchildren. They will be blessed long after their Pop-pop is gone.
Happy Father’s Day, men!