“Every son quotes his father, in words and in deeds.”
- Terri Guillemets
When I was about twelve years old, I was visiting my paternal grandmother in the small rural town where she lived. She was widowed when I was two years old after my grandfather had died of sclerosis of the liver. She was tough, having raised 6 boys and one girl while she and my grandfather operated a rough and tumble bar. I think using the term “raised” may be generous.
My father and grandmother were close in a strange way. He would stay with her after long trips at sea as a merchant marine. He was a hard drinker like my grandfather had been, and my grandmother tolerated him as she had done with her husband and the men who were patrons of their bar. The fact that my dad gave her some of his sea duty money ensured him a place to land between jobs. He had not lived with us for a few years.
I asked my grandmother why she let my father stay with her since he was almost always drunk. She said she was used to simple men like him. I asked her what she meant by simple men, although I'm certain that was not the term she usually used. She said all simple men want to do is drink, gamble, and whore around.
Simple or Ignorant?
Looking back on this conversation, I think ‘simple men’ was too simple of a description--an adjective or two is missing. A better description may be a ‘simple-minded’ men, or a ‘simply-selfish’ men, especially since many of the simple men in my grandmother’s bar were married with children, or at least had children.
Why did they act this way? One simple reason, for many--it was all they knew, all they ever saw. Their own fathers may not have shown them much attention, but they still hungered for it and some thought following the lead of their fathers was a connection to them. Having goals was a foreign idea from generation to generation. The closest thing to a goal would be instant gratification. In these men’s lives, there were few who would bother to challenge this type of behavior. Those who tried became worn down.
Certainly, this would not be the kind of man who would be an example for a young person to follow, yet his example is followed. To drink, gamble and whore is somewhat appealing to an impressionable young man without alternatives. It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s even dangerous which makes it more exciting. If that’s all an impressionable young man sees, then to do otherwise would be foolish in their gullible minds.
A simple man thinks little beyond the world in which he exists. He’s been indoctrinated to take advantage of others because he’s been taught that those who allow it are fools and deserve it. It’s a lesson your father and possibly his father have passed on to you. Why upset the apple cart? Why dare to be better? To do more would bring a wrath of criticism from buddies. The women they live with may not like it, but they expect it and have always put up with it.
Certainly many men surrounded by this nonsense break away from it, but too many do not. Habit, conditioning, and custom are tough to break away from, especially when you are free of concern, responsibility, or guilt. A simple man doesn’t know how to balance his many responsibilities nor does he care to accept any. A simple man has no problems--beyond getting out of his own way, his own mess.
A good father is not a simple man
A good father is anything but a simple man. He takes time to relate to his children even though he spends many hours working to provide for them. A simple man would not understand the power of a modest smile or pat on the back. Nor would a simple man take time to listen to his children or encourage their interests, even if they aren’t his interests.
Some say a simple man is one who doesn’t need much and asks for little. But that is not a simple man. That’s a contented man. Contented men are often multifaceted and very accomplished. Accomplishment is a necessary facet in contentment, having met challenges and conquering them. Accomplished men breed more accomplished men.
A simple man is not burdened by the needs of a loving family, or a happy wife, or the success of a child. They are simply out for themselves. Simple men breed more simple men. Unless a son breaks the mold, unless he doesn’t ‘quote his father, in words and in deeds’, simple men can continue for generations.
It’s a simple truth!
Fathers have an enormous advantage over just about any other category of people. Even many mothers would agree with this claim. To be accepted, all dads have to do, is to be there. To be loved, all they have to do is smile and care. To be revered, all they have to do is support and encourage. A dad doesn’t need to be anyone but himself. He doesn’t have to be the same as the dad next door. He just has to be available--physically and mentally. Yet too many men fail to be contributing fathers!
In a allegorical sense, fathers are rain while mothers are soil. We notice the rain more than the soil. When it gently rains on a field of corn, it is something for which we are thankful. When the rain becomes a deluge and doesn’t let up, damage can occur. The rain or lack of rain is usually noticed. But where crops are grown, the soil is quietly there, usually full of nutrients, but not as noticed.
An excellent book for all men with daughters is Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters
by Meg Meeker, M.D., a pediatrician who is an expert on treatment of adolescents with medical and social problems. She writes: “I have watched daughters talk to their fathers. When you come in the room, they change. Everything about them changes: their eyes, their mouths, their gestures, their body language. Daughters are never lukewarm in the presence of their fathers. They may take their mother for granted, but not you. They light up — or they cry. They watch you intensely. They hang on your words. They wait for your attention, and they wait for it in frustration — or in despair. They need a gesture of approval, a nod of encouragement, or even simple eye contact to let them know you care and are willing to help.”
With boys, their fathers are the example that their sons look to when they are learning to be men. In his book, Man Enough: Fathers, Sons and the Search for Masculinity
Dr. Frank Pittman states,
“There was no secret to fathering, no magical answers about masculinity that are passed on from generation to generation. Boys learn to be men by being with their fathers, experiencing the world and living life. But if they haven’t had that experience, they may never feel comfortable with an awareness of what it means to be a man, what they are supposed to do with their masculinity, and how they can become fathers themselves.”[J1] [MS2]
Of course, mothers have been the standard bearer for parenting. They have shown to be the more reliable and nurturing parent over the course of history. But mothers and fathers have different roles, often characterized by the steady hand of the mother and the stimulation of the father.
Both the soil and rain are needed for the fields of corn to thrive. The roots of their stalks are in the soil--but they thirst for the rain. So it is with children, who depend on roots and thrive on nourishment. It is good for the family when parents have different strengths because children have various needs that can vary from child to child.
When rain is not sufficient, crops will not flourish. When the soil has little or no nutrients, rain will have little impact on the crops being healthy. When fatherly attention is lacking or motherly love is weak, children are at high risk for trouble or failure. When both situations exist, a child’s future is tragically burdened with predictably bad results.
Of course the metaphor is not perfect. Parental roles and family outcomes are not set in stone. But both parents are critical factors in the mental and physical health of their families. Fathers mustn’t waste the advantage they naturally have with their daughters and sons. They want your attention and need your positive influence. Having happy children grow into responsible adults will likely be your greatest contribution to society.
May your crops be healthy and bountiful!
When surrounded by good people, a child will very likely become a good citizen--if they listen and learn. When that support is missing, a child will fail--unless they have... grit!
The Silent Hand
For every successful person, there are those behind the scenes that helped that person along their way. They are often the silent hands that lifts a person’s chin up, keeping eyes focused. Encouragement, lessons, advice, or just a smile can be the key to someone’s success. Most often, the person best suited to be the silent hand--is a mom and/or a dad.
Credit is still due to the one who listened and learned because many do not succeed even when helped. Supportive families have their share of lost children because of a myriad of reasons, (drugs use, rebellion, outside influences, etc), all of which can result in children who do not respect or believe what they hear from their true mentors.
Sometimes it takes grit!
Lastly are those who, lacking someone to look up to, put on their spurs and 'cowboy up' to take charge of their lives when encouragement is as common as cool water in the desert. That's what I call 'grit', and those that have it eventually find their silent hand, anxious and willing to help.
I am reminded of all those that helped me, from the elderly couple that praised me for my efforts learning to ice skate, to the high school counselor who helped me get a college scholarship. Of course, my mother deserves credit for showing me love, feeding me and putting a roof over my head during very stressful times, especially for her. My wife Kathy pulled me through my early adult years, years when I was so naive, unsure of myself, and clumsy (I'm still clumsy). She kept me on track and I thank her for that. I got out of a bad situation, but I needed their help, and the help of many others.
I do not claim to be a successful person in some glamorous or heroic way. No, I am successful for taking what was handed to me and making something more out of it. That is the only kind of success we can ask or hope for. That kind of success is made possible by taking advice--and using it, while adjusting it to your situation. We are often quick to blame others for our failures but slow to give a nod to anyone who gave us a push in the right direction. My high school counselor couldn't have helped me had I not the 'grit' to put my nose in the books. My wife would not have stayed with me had she not seen my determination. Grit will call out the silent hand!
Cooperation is key
If I may use a few metaphors. We notice the apple falling from the tree, but we forget--except Isaac Newton--that gravity made it possible. We see a sail billowing and give it all the credit for propelling the boat, but the sail is useless without the breezes it captures. We appreciate the rain when it nourishes our crops, but the soil is always there for us, relatively unnoticed.
Still credit goes also to the doer. The apple falls but it also held on until ripe. The sail billows only because it is strong enough to withstand the stress of the breezes. The soil must have sufficient nutrients or the crops will still fail, rain or not. So it is with us and our children. It takes both a community of helpers, and an individual that will listen and learn, and maybe have some grit, to make a success story.
When success loses
Success stories are rare when either the community of helpers does not exist, or the individual fails to take advantage of the help. To be successful when one or the other is missing takes enormous energy. For a young man to climb out of a fatherless home in a crime ridden neighborhood to be a success--is an almost miraculous feat requiring enormous grit. Not only is help difficult to find for him, but forces that would pull him down to the gutter are rampant. He must struggle mightily to find his way out and too few do so. In the opposite situation, a young man will fall far short of his potential when he has all the advantages which would seem to make success obtainable, but fails to use some or all of them.
The first example of no support is a situational tragedy that takes tremendous spirit and grit to escape. The second example of a lost child is a spiritual tragedy that requires an inordinate amount of tireless and selfless assistance from friends and loved ones attempting to correct their attitude or internal issues.
A family is the perfect community to help young people succeed
A self-driven young person with a supportive family would have an atmosphere of encouragement and cooperation to help pave the way to success. However, a young person who seems lost, lazy, or defiant will need a supportive family even more so. Not supportive in accepting their negative characteristics, but supportive in getting them psychological help, or supportive in demanding better from them, and/or supportive in an encouraging, caring way. When those things fail to help, then the negative consequences they have brought upon themselves must be experienced to the fullest. The silent hand is not there to be shunned. The family community must relent when it is evident their help is not working.
We all fail and there are two types of failures. One type fails by trying and the other type fails by not trying. The first type will be helped--with the admiration of the community--to become stronger. The second type will be helped—with the compassion of the community—but will become weaker. They will survive, barely, on the patience and pity of others.
When the silent, lifting hand of a strong family does not exist, it will take a strong individual to break through and achieve success. Escaping to success from a non-supportive family is a gift to society as much as it is a blessing to the escapee. Support, wherever you find it, is key! But support has limits and must stop when it is forever fruitless. My heart goes out to both, the family strong enough to stop the feeding the endless ne’er-do-wells, and to those who succeed with grit from little or nothing. It takes so much energy and patience to be a good and contributing citizen, also called a success. And that's what makes it special!
The perceived truth is always in the eyes of the beholder. The factual truth sometimes has to be painstakingly excavated like an ancient pharaoh’s tomb. This article is a follow up to my previous article, The REAL Problem in Ferguson and America!
Things in Ferguson have progressed from a terrible incident that needed a thorough formal review, to a reasonable protest for justice that some assumed would not happen, to an unreasonable call for quick justice based on what people chose to believe, to violent protests and looting from opportunist who really didn’t care about Michael Brown, to other opportunists who sought to sell their brand, to anarchists and professional agitators from around the country enticed by the stage, the bright lights, and provocation of the media.
Racial divide is often the blame. It is my contention, however, that race is not the real issue here—broken families are! In recent times, race was THE issue when justice was questioned regarding Blacks, so it is difficult to get away from it. Certainly race has a place because statistics show Blacks have more chronic family issues; and not enough Blacks are represented in law enforcement for reasons that include a lack of interest, qualifications, and prejudice.
It is a lazy person who will not go through, or wait for, the proper process to find answers. Answers to questions are too often assumed, too often slanted, and too often rushed. The reason issues are often not resolved, is because the wrong questions are asked, or the right questions don’t go deep enough!
The following process is what must happen to get to the root of any issue. Not but a handful of people in the night streets of Ferguson care about what I am about to suggest or explain. That is part of the problem! I hope you can have patience and follow me through to conclusion.
In engineering, when something goes terribly wrong, the cause is analyzed with something called the “5- Why Analysis”. Here is a simplistic example: Problem
: An Airplane Crashes Why 1:
Why did it crash? Answer 1
: The wing broke off. Why 2:
Why did the wing break off? Answer #2;
The supporting beam failed. Why 3:
Why did the beam fail? Answer 3:
It had a structural flaw that cracked because of vibrations. Why 4:
Why did it have a structural flaw? Answer 4:
While the wing design was good, the beam material was bad. Why 5:
Why was the material bad? Answer 5
Because the tests used to look for flaws were not designed or performed properly. Solution
: Correct material tests to find all known possible flaws or correct the process of performing the tests.
Note that the root cause was not that the wing fell off!To get to the root cause of an issue, you must drill down from general questions to specific questions. Here is a more specific and timely example.Why 1
; Why is violence and looting almost always in poor neighborhoods?Ans 1: Because clashes between authorities and citizens are more frequent.Why 2
; Why are clashes between authorities and citizens are more frequent?Ans 2
: Because there is more crime and there is more suspicion between citizens and authorities.Why 3
: Why is there more crime and suspicion?Ans 3
: Because education levels are low, jobs are scarce, and authority is not respected. (And authority is not always perfect, causing suspicion, which could be another 5-Why analysis.)Why 4
: Why are education levels are low, jobs are scarce, and authority not respected?Ans 4
: Because it is not an area with a large base of strong families.Why 5
: Why is this an area without a large base of strong families?Ans 5
: Because less than 30% (example) have fathers in the home to help guide young men and women.Solution
: Devise programs that will provide encouragement, incentive, and training to allow men to be a larger part of raising their children!
In this analysis, the Ferguson ‘unrest’ issue is not about race--it’s about the struggles of the family! I would have no hesitation whatsoever to walk in a Black neighborhood with a large base of strong families
at 2 AM .
Nor would I likely walk at 2 AM in a white neighborhood without
a large base of strong families.
The fault lies with both the police and the community. Assumptions are made that are often wrong! And, unfortunately, the violent acts and images of a few Black men, magnified by media coverage, understandably frighten many--and unfairly tarnish all Black men.
Certainly race is a peripheral issue because there are few Black fathers in the home, resulting in a poor social and often violent upbringing. Subsequently, the profiling will be projected unto the innocent--who look, or act in some ways, like the perpetrators! There are many secondary causes for all of the troubles between police and the Black community. But the root cause is the lack of fatherhood/mentors in Black communities, which is chronically more prevalent than in other racial groups. Only 28% of Black families include two-parents as compared to 70% in white families. If that number was reversed, then it would be white kids having the majority of issues with police.
My opinions will not be accepted by many in the Black or more liberal community. It is up to Black leaders to fix troubled Black youth caused by a lack of good role models. Only the brave jump in, with both feet, to resolve the family issue in any ethnic group. Solve the fatherless family issue and I would predict a much brighter future for all and--much less looting and violence!
An African-American young man, Michael Brown, is shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The facts of that case will eventually come out. Concerned citizens protest, as is their right, and they want justice. Many want justice before justice can be properly served—prior to all the facts. Emotions are high!
On the other hand, the facts are out, but the emotion is lukewarm, about the statistics regarding what happens to young men when they are raised without responsible fathers in the home. There has been generations of time to address the clear issue of fatherless homes, but nothing substantive happens at the family level. This is one of the key issues in the looting and constant confrontations with police in Ferguson.
I have never pointed out--in any of my posts—that, 72 percent of African-American children are raised in a single parent home. I only bring it up here because the situation in Ferguson calls for it. If video is a good indicator, the perpetrators of violence and looting of Ferguson, not condoned by truly concerned citizens, are 99+ percent young Blacks. In the first night of looting, reports were that only one Black looting suspect was from Ferguson.
When young people, especially young men, are brought up without fathers, they are prone to prove themselves to other immature and fatherless young men. In his book, Fatherless America, David Blankenhorn states, “For boys, the most socially acute manifestation of paternal disinvestment is juvenile violence.” This is truly being manifested in Ferguson during the violence there.
The anger is not that a young Black man was killed. It is because a white police officer was involved. Over 90 percent of Blacks are killed by other Blacks. This is common enough that only the next of kin and friends of the victim raise an eyebrow. But when we can blame someone out of that community, concerned citizens raise their voices more loudly. Those not having the same values as the more responsible protesters see this as a great opportunity for violence—for proving themselves to the people they hang out with, and it is not their fathers.
I am white and I live in the St. Louis area. I am very familiar with Ferguson. I have family and friends who live there and my in-laws had a business there a few years ago. I always knew it as a great example of a very proud mixed community. They are surrounded by other communities who are mostly black and low income. But being black or low income is not the reason a small percentage of them are looting and causing issues beyond the case itself. It’s because those young men and women have been fatherless most of their lives!
Did I interview every looter to know this is the situation? Of course not, but I am convinced that it is overwhelmingly true that most do not have involved fathers. Certainly, some single mothers can control their children. What is missing is the fact that while a young man can get love and attention from his mother, and respect her for that, he also needs to find acceptance and respect from a male. If that male is not a father or a respected mentor, that acceptance may be found in the streets. And the streets have a different code of ethics!
The facts will determine whether the white officer was guilty of excessive force and a crime, or if he was in fear of his safety and defending himself from an enraged young man. None of us know that yet. What we do know is that opportunists are making the situation much more dangerous, potentially causing more deaths than Michael Brown’s. The added tensions would likely not have occurred if restraint was shown on both sides. But when the restraint on the part of police was eased, as many agreed should happen, the opportunists moved back in.
Respect for authority is taught in the homes. Sometimes authority oversteps! More often, however, authority is challenged out of a perceived or learned distrust. If you do not trust that authority, violence will never bring trust to either side. The answer can't be solved at this level, it must be dealt with at its root cause.
When you ask why there is violence almost every time an incident like this happens--and continue asking why to the answers of the previous whys-- eventually you will get there. The real problem--the root issue--in Ferguson and America, is the failure to encourage and successfully create more structured two-parent families.
Walking to school on the first day of Kindergarten
My five-year-old granddaughter started school yesterday--her first day of kindergarten. She was excited! She wore a colorful dress that clashed with her oversized black and yellow backpack, filled to the brim with more supplies than a survivalist flea market. Her grandmother and I came to her house that morning to take photos and walk with her and her family to school. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and cool! On the way there my granddaughter skipped, looked back at us, urging us to catch up, and seemed happily prepared for her new adventure. Meeting her teacher
We took pictures in front of the school with her mom, dad, and little sister. Then it was time for the bell to ring so we escorted her into school, then her classroom. We met her teacher, a very pleasant lady in her early forties wearing a blouse, skirt and comfortable flats. My granddaughter had already met her once before, during orientation. Only as she was greeted by her teacher did she get a little quiet, becoming uncharacteristically shy. She sat in her assigned seat, delighted that a friend of hers was assigned to the same table.
We stayed less than a minute, leaving my granddaughter to fend for herself on this first day of a very important phase of her life. She never looked up--just a slight wave of her hand--I assume due to the anxiety of the moment. As we all walked out of the building, I could see that her mom (my daughter), was gently crying. She then said something quietly to my wife that has been said countless times by countless moms, “She’s growing up so fast!” Backpack or mobile home?
On the walk back to the house, I held my other granddaughter, a 10-month-old, smiling charmer, who wrapped her legs around my waste and waved to anyone who would look at her. I thought about how fast time goes by the older you get. It would be a blink of an eye and we would repeat this scene with her in five short years--when her big sister enters the 5th grade.
“I like this age!” I thought to myself. I love to see this little one smile and reach for me. I love the rolls in her thighs and her chubby feet. When you play a song she will sway to the music and wave her hands. Her big sister used to be like that! Now her big sister is just perfect in another way. The same girl but not exactly the same girl. We all loved her as she was, and now we love her as she is! We want both, but we can’t have both. It’s the one thing that we can’t change that we really would never change if we could. Yet the melancholy still gets to most of us parents and grandparents, especially the moms! My daughter and younger granddaughter
The melancholy is a signal that you are in love with this moment, and you don’t want to lose it! But you are forgetting that you will be in love with the next moment, then the next moment. A better way to look at your children growing and maturing is to love the process, the process of going from moment to moment--while really living in each of those moments.
Life sometimes gets out-of-whack when we get too caught up in lesser thoughts. Things we can’t control, trivia that pollutes our minds, work that becomes a bigger priority than family, all these things and more will rob us of parenting moments if we let them. The melancholy is natural and loving. It’s when you miss moments that can’t be repeated or remembered that fleeting melancholy becomes permanent regret and sadness.
A tear streaming down a mother’s cheek, coming from the deep emotion of love is beautiful. A tear streaming down an absent father’s cheek because his grown children won’t have anything to do with him—is tragic!
Sometimes, you can become entangled.
As parents, two of the most important things we want for our kids are their safety and success. Sometimes safety, especially the kind where you want to protect your kids from failure, has to be sacrificed to gain success. Still, what if? A safety net would be nice. But safety nets are just as likely to entangle those who use them as they are to prevent their harm.
When it comes to helping others, I think most people believe in safety nets. The disagreements involve how the safety nets work. I’m not just talking about government safety nets, but those we have in our families. While all people are created equal, we know that equality starts to deviate with abilities, circumstances, desire, luck—you name it.
The Truths about Safety Nets
There are two truths involving safety nets. One, they are absolutely necessary and humane for many situations. We must help those that are disadvantaged, mostly by mental and physical health, sometimes for various other issues. The second truth is that there are those who will take advantage of the humaneness of others and use safety nets for personal gain. But I submit that there is a third truth! There are those that get help too early, unintentionally allowing them to get tangled in the safety net, unable to get out. I think the third truth is more often accurate regarding our children.
How a Safety Net Should be Constructed
How I imagine a safety net should be constructed can be explained best by thinking of an actual safety net. Safety nets are intended to prevent harm. Those in place for high wire acts are obvious examples. What is not so obvious is the fact that those who fall into the net climb out to try again, and to get better, to the point where the net is rarely necessary—their true purpose!
My imaginary safety net would be made of rubber bands, catching the victims in their fall, but slinging them back into the fray with some momentum. This can be done with training, encouragement, and mentoring. On the other hand, if the safety net is strung with the help of shock-absorbers, the victim will sag gently into the net and it will difficult to escape. This happens in government when the assistance is in proportion to the need. More need can mean more assistance and therefore, more need is created by those with who would take advantage of the system. Similarly, this can happen in families when children are overly protected.
For example, allowing adult children to live at home can entangle them if they aren’t working to get out on their own. Paying for older children’s casual expenses instead of them earning their own spending money can be a trap. Not coaxing younger children to face their fears (water, people, heights, etc.) by shielding them from those fears is certainly a form of protection that does not serve well.
Devise Smart Family Safety Nets
In families, you must construct a safety net, designed to benefit your children the best way you know how. When you do, think about their growth and what you want to accomplish to prepare them for their future. When your children fall into your safety net, think about rubber bands and avoid shock absorbers. For example, if they are overly shy, put them in situations where they can learn confidence finding, then building upon skills. That’s a safety net made of rubber bands. If, instead, you sympathize too much or protect them from their fears, your safety net is cushioned to the point that it is too comfortable—and they will return too often to that comfortable place. That is the third truth of safety nets.
Family safety nets are weak when it is a one-parent household--if there is a safety net at all. In one-parent households there is only parental hand that a child can hold, only one set of ideas to approach problems, only one person to earn, protect, and provide daily care. Real damage can occur and can be irreversible when the family safety net fails. When it does, the government safety net takes over valiantly, yet often without the ability to keep victims from returning. Government safety nets, like food stamps and Section 8 housing, are notorious shock-absorbers. These programs are one size fits all, with no ability to consider individual talents or issues. Because of this, a cycle of need can continue into the next generation.
Avoid using or even allowing safety nets whenever possible. It’s amazing what one can do when there is no alternative. In the U.S. Air Force, I was required to attend survival and POW training to become a combat ready pilot. There was no safety net other than quitting and ruining my career. I didn’t want to do that so I pushed through an experience for which I was really not prepared. I may not have completed this training if it was optional. However, I would have prevailed even if optional because I did have a personal safety net--pride and determination. There was no way I would not complete something that I knew I could complete with a little grit.
The Three Levels of Safety Nets
Safety nets are meant to help, not hinder. I've discussed three levels of safety nets.--use them smartly! The first level starts with your personal safety net of determination. Determination is a safety net of rubber bands, throwing you back to the task at hand. Determination is a safety net that protects you from failure. If that safety net fails, then the family safety net may help--if properly devised to encourage and support improvement. Lastly is the safety net that one should never want to use, although many seek it, and that is the government safety net.
Look at your family situation in terms of the safety nets you may not have even realized were there. Are your safety nets too comfortable? Or do they help those that fall into it--to rebound? Look at yourself as a parent. Do you have a safety net of determination for yourself to raise self-reliant children? Remember how high wire acts use safety nets as tools to help them become more skilled!
Safety nets can be wonderfully effective. They can also be tragically misused. The best safety net is one’s own personal safety net of determination and self-respect. Less effective, but potentially very valuable, is a smartly devised family safety net. The most ineffective and inefficient safety nets are the government safety nets. With a strong two-parent family there are few reasons, outside of health issues, to ever become dependent on government safety nets--unless personal and family safety nets fail first. If 'constructed' properly, that will not likely happen.
Thank you for reading!
Celebrities! Is there anything worse than listening to advice from a celebrity? By definition they are famous, some we like, and a few are even talented. Celebrities are usually known for one thing, mostly in the areas of the performing arts, sports, or politics. Take away that talent or expertise and they are just like the rest of us no-names. Yet an impressionable society will listen to their views and/or comments on just about anything.
She Doesn't Need a Dude!
In a recent interview, the singer, Katy Perry, announced that she would like to be a mother someday, but claimed, “I don’t need a dude” to have a child. Outside of the obvious biological necessities, she is right. Ms. Perry is rich and can provide quite nicely for as many children as she wants. But maybe her children could use a dude—a dude her children would call…Daddy!
I understand Ms. Perry’s desire to have a child. It’s natural for a woman to want to be a mother. It’s also natural for a child to have both a mother and a father! Unfortunately, too many children do not have two parents in their lives and they almost always suffer for it--in obvious and not-so-obvious ways! If Perry cannot find a man suitable as a loving mate and responsible father, then she may be too busy making money, or too much into herself. Good men are out here if Katy and other women look in the right places.Fatherless Homes are a Worldwide Issue
I was disappointed when I heard a panel of three women and two men discussing Katy Perry’s “dude” quote. The three women discussed the financial aspects stating that, unlike most single mothers, she could afford a nanny and all things necessary to raise a child. Maybe it was alright for Perry, but not for most single women. Not until one of the two men spoke was the child’s need of a father mentioned. This points out, to me, the lack of emphasis on the importance of men being necessary in parenting. Unless you are interested in the topic, few people are familiar with the magnitude of issues involved in fatherless homes. A topic I have addressed quite often.
Single parent families exist for many reasons, many of which are preventable. Couples have children before they really know each other, and eventually separate. Irresponsible people can also have children, but can’t commit to them. But to plan, in advance, to have a child without a father’s involvement in its upbringing is never fair to the child. When impressionable young women hear Ms. Perry say that she can have a child without a father (dude) in its life, it’s a dreadful, misleading message! I would ask her to not sacrifice, on purpose, a child’s right to have two parents just to fulfill a personal desire. Role Models?
As a role model, involuntary or not, Ms. Perry should be aware that there are those that will follow her lead, or feel vindicated by their choice to be a single mother. This creates huge personal challenges for the mother and her child and contributes to many growing social problems. Having been raised by Pentecostal parents in a strict religious atmosphere, Ms. Perry’s comments are more confusing. She had a loving mother and father and was raised with values that one would assume would never tempt her to think this way. Maybe saying she would have a child without a father was a way to get publicity. If so, it certainly worked—but at the expense of possibly causing undue influence on young women and their decision on this topic.Think for Yourself People!
We have enough problems in this world without having celebrities putting their stamp of approval on questionable behavior. Single motherhood is not cool! We don't stutter just because Porky Pig is cute when he does so. So don't drink beer thinking beautiful girls in bikinis will magically appear. Don't vote for legalizing pot just because Willie Nelson would endorse it. Don't twerk because Mylie Cyrus twerks. You just might look like a jerk when you twerk! They and other celebrities don't live in the real world--especially Mylie, Willie, and Porky! And think very long and hard before purposely bringing a child into this world without all the advantages that are due it. This includes having a father in his or her life!
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
If this was your daughter, I'm pretty certain that you would tell her she was a terrific dancer! After all, anyone with this much enthusiasm can't be denied. Along with her enthusiasm, she also has an imagination that allows her to be anything she wants to be. Most of us would never think to discourage her.
There is another side to this scenario. Some kids don't have much confidence or enthusiasm--and it holds them back! Their imaginations are more like wishes than goals. We, as parents, need to consciously build their confidence and praise their efforts.
I remember an incident that happened no less than 56 years ago, but it has stuck with me. I was eight years old, learning how to ice skate on my own. It was an indoor rink, in a landmark long ago torn down, called the “Winter Garden”. I had never been on ice skates before and if you were to see me, I would have reminded you of Bambi walking on a frozen pond.
I hugged the railing around the rink with the iron grip of a skinny kid, sprawling every few feet, face down still holding the rail. After a few trips around the rink, I let go for a foot or two, eventually skating maybe 10 feet without holding on to the rail. Of course, I fell along the way, and became very familiar with the hardness of ice!
The Winter Garden once hosted a minor league hockey team and had stands where parents and other relatives could watch the skaters. As I was leaving, with my bruised bottom and ego, an older couple looked down from the stands and said, very enthusiastically, “You did such a good job!” They had been watching me all this time and were impressed, or pretended to be impressed with my progress.
This small kindness had an almost profound impact on me! I remember smiling broadly, amazed that they had been watching and rooting for me. They weren’t praising my skating, they were praising me for my efforts. I grew an inch that day and my confidence in myself grew also. Their comments stayed with me and made me want to try to conquer other new things.
The Elephant in the Room ... anchored by a rope.
Just as I was inspired, your children need praise and encouragement also! They need praise for their efforts--and encouragement to try new things or to keep trying difficult things. Without encouragement, a child can become numb and stop trying. If you’ve seen elephants in the circus or zoo being held in place by a rope that they could easily escape from, then you have an example of what I mean.
These elephants were trained, when young and not yet as strong as they would ultimately become, that the rope was stronger than them and they were not getting away. The elephants soon stop trying and eventually, just knowing they were tethered to a rope kept them in check. Never allow your children get into a situation where they stop trying too soon. And certainly don’t be the rope that holds them back with discouraging words or unsupportive behavior.
When you praise your children’s effort and encourage their will and determination, you make a significant difference in their attitude and likely success. It’s not just helpful towards the goals they are trying to reach, but they realize something very important. They realize you notice, you care, you have faith, you love, you direct, you push, you validate, you empower!
It sounds so logical to praise and encourage your kids so why does it not happen more often? I think one reason is we just forget, especially when our kids get older. Parents miss opportunities to praise, which is natural when they are toddlers, learning to walk and talk. As they mature, some parents forget how important it is to be their kids’ cheerleader, or worse yet, parents can be overly critical. It is also possible that, in an effort to protect them, you may discourage your children from trying things at which you think they will fail. Don’t make these mistakes! Be positive and guide gently.
If you simply praise and encourage effort, and let them know that results are secondary to you, you won’t make the mistake of being a part of their failure. Of course, results are sometimes the bottom line, but not in parenting--not when your children’s determination and will are being demonstrated. With that going for them, your children will find what is right for them—and the results they and others are looking for will come.
Mentoring by the Letter
What is a father if not a mentor? He can be a wonderful provider, and that’s good! He can be a fun guy to be around, and that’s good too! A father can be a loving man to his children! I know men who are all that in one package. But if he is not mentoring his kids, then he is not helping to prepare them for the future.
Passively, of course, your very presence is helpful for their learning. They watch how you treat people and handle problems. They ask you questions and you answer them, most of the time. When a son watches you, he mimics you. When a daughter watches you, she assumes that’s how all men act and react. Hopefully, you are an excellent example.
Actively, you can be a teacher of life, purposely guiding them to adulthood. This is called mentoring. A mentor is a guide, supporter, advisor, and a trusted individual that counsels someone usually younger. But what is one doing when mentoring? The letters in the word mentoring can be helpful to help remind a father or mentor what to do.
You can be a motivator by introducing new experiences to your children. Notice what they are good at and support them. Teach them about goals and planning. Motivation is the spark that starts any undertaking or adventure. Be the one they know will support them in any honorable endeavor. See Nurturing 101.
Encouragement is what fans the flames of success. Be a cheerleader. Give pep talks when failure makes a surprise visit. Tell them they are good when they are good. Think back to a time when someone’s encouragement helped you.
Help them to take on life’s little, and not so little, lessons. Correct them when they make mistakes. Guide them down the right path regarding social situations, education and friends. See “Will Your Help Make Them Stronger or Weaker?”
Teach them how to be strong. How to be on time. How to treat others. Teach them how to handle and learn from failure. If you don’t, who will?
Be approachable. When your children have issues, they need someone to open up to. See ‘How to Talk to Your Kids’.
It’s very important to give your children praise and pats on the back when they do well. Also important is to recognize when they are making mistakes so you can correct them. Both actions show that you care. It’s another way to encourage them to keep on a positive track.Be the mentor your children need. Be their hero and guardian.Your goal is to help them reach their goals! Future posts will discuss, in further detail, praise, recognition, and encouragement. Thanks for reading!