April 26, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
And who better than Warren Farrell to explain why fatherlessness is so important (Daily Caller, 4/24/18)? Farrell of course is the man who’s been sounding the alarm about that very topic for longer than anyone else on the planet. Farrell's piece comes within the context of Terry Brennan's DC series on fatherlessness.
It just so happens that Farrell’s just published a book entitled The Boy Crisis, so his information is nothing if not up to date.
When I began the research for The Boy Crisis some eleven years ago and discovered that boys in more than 60 of the largest developed nations were falling behind academically, and in mental health (e.g., suicide; shootings); physical health (e.g., sperm count, IQs); and in preparation for employment, I naturally wondered why this was the case. I was able to identify 10 causes. But one cause consistently surfaced as more pivotal than the others: minimal or no father involvement. What I came to call “dad-deprivation.”
Farrell isn’t the only one to identify fatherlessness as the common denominator of a range of personal and social pathologies. As was widely noted after the tragic slaying of high school students in Parkland, Florida, 26 of the 27 deadliest mass shooters grew up father-deprived. Astonishingly, dad-deprivation comes from public policy.
Developed nations, it turns out, were indirectly fostering dad-deprivation in two ways: More permission both for divorce, and for children being born to unmarried mothers.
Warren Farrell is the kindest and gentlest of men. In this case, he’s too kind and too gentle. “More permission… for divorce” is one way of putting the matter. “Financially incentivizing mothers to leave their husbands and take the kids free of any adverse consequences” is another. “Lauding single motherhood as heroic while it damages both boys and girls” is still another. Farrell’s not wrong, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him take off the gloves once in a while.
There seems to be a theory that contemporary readers can’t absorb anything printed on a page if it’s not in numbered, bullet-point form. So Farrell obliges:
So what are the five “must do’s” for a biological dad and mom (whether married or not) to give their child (boy or girl) the best chance of doing well?
- Approximately equal time with both parents (more important when not married);
- Married parents living together, or unmarried parents living within about 20 minutes of drive time from each other;
- No bad mouthing (especially if divorced);
- Consistent couples’ counseling (especially if divorced);
- “Checks-and-balance parenting”
Yep. Kids need both parents equally, whether they’re married, living together or neither. If we truly care about kids’ interests the way we say we do, we’ll drum that into everyone, adults and children alike from dawn to dusk for the next 20 years or so. That way a generation will have gotten the message and we’ll see what they do with it. Whatever the case though, our current policies and pop culture that frankly lie about the need for fathers need to change and change fast.
And let’s be clear; fathers aren’t mothers. Dads do parenting differently than do mothers and that’s a good thing. Humans are a bi-parental species so our kids benefit from the different style each sex offers. The two together create a sort of synergy that teaches children that they’re special and loved unconditionally (mother), but that there are limits to acceptable behavior and that respect must be earned (father).
Checks-and-balance parenting means giving equal credence to the natural tensions between mom style and dad style. For example, most of us already know that mom style is more likely to involve considerable nurturance, vigilance and protection of the child. Few of us know dad style, or its importance.
Dad-style more often includes these ten behaviors:
- walking a fine line between safety and risk-taking
- juggling the roles of player and coach during play
- being creative, spontaneous, and silly
- being less likely to set boundaries, but more likely to enforce the boundaries they set
- Immersing children in camping and nature, and encouraging independent exploration while providing a safety net
- Letting children wrestle, climb trees or do other activities that could result in minor injuries, while protecting against major injuries
- When playing with their children, allowing them to lose when they are not trying to their maximum capacity;
- Challenging the kids’ limits;
It’s very hard for children to become complete adults without the active input of both parents. We’re humans; it’s how we evolved.
When both a mom and dad hear each other’s best intent with equal respect, and then negotiate the best blend for a given situation, the result is the checks-and-balance parenting that becomes their child’s best inheritance.
That’s a pretty good description of what ought to happen in divorce, but often doesn’t.
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