“I've learned that although it's hard to admit it, I'm secretly glad my parents are strict with me.”
A 15 year old

By being tough on your kids, you can take the pressure off of them. That pressure often comes from forces outside the home. I wrote in my book about a time I was in a car as a young teen with some boys who decided to smash mailboxes with a baseball bat. I didn’t want to do it but I didn’t know how to get out of it. I didn’t have the moxie to object. Although I wasn’t actively involved, I was part of the problem.

I’m sure many of you who are reading this did things that were destructive when you were growing up. A few people might look back and think it was fun or a rite of passage. Many others just went along with the crowd either out of fear or just to fit in. Still others can’t explain it. Of course, these things happen today.

I’m not talking about being mischievous or inquisitive. All kids learn about life, rules, and limits by doing things, not always in the smartest of ways. But anti-social behavior, experimenting with drugs, drinking, making fun of others (outside of your friends), being destructive, mean, or uncouth are not activities that can be easily overlooked.

Some reasons young people exhibit anti-social behavior.
  • A social disorder like ADHD
  • A lack of self-esteem
  • Frustration
  • Family environment
  • Peer pressure

Parents are a factor in all of these reasons with the possible exception of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I’m not qualified to determine if parents are a factor in ADHD and some experts may disagree. Certainly parents can be a factor in their child’s self-esteem.  Self-esteem can be nurtured with positive talk, support, and demonstrated love. On the other hand, kids can be depressed or filled with frustration when they are ignored, belittled, or never praised by their parents. Lacking self-esteem, young people look for ways to create it themselves. Their immaturity will often do so in the wrong ways, with bravado and/or looking for affection in the wrong places.

Family environment is very important! Parents of troubled children often show a high level of antisocial behavior themselves. In one study, the parents of delinquent boys were more often alcoholic or criminal, and their homes were frequently disrupted by divorce, separation or the absence of a parent.

My brothers, sisters and I really had no rules beyond “don’t kill each other”. My dad didn’t have rules for himself or us when around, nor did he leave any words of wisdom behind when he left. My mom didn’t have the time nor the energy to enforce any rules. Subsequently, there were a lot of issues among my siblings when we were growing up. 

While boys are most likely to cause physical damage when getting into mischief, girls are not immune to their own brand of rebellion. Besides less disruptive acts like smoking and drinking, girls can rebel or look for approval through sexual activity. You’ve got to have control and the respect of your daughters. Mistakes in sex usually punish the females more than their male partners.

Continuing with daughters, I state in The Power of Dadhood, “Many times the father will be “hated” by his daughter for doing what is right for her. Do what you must anyway—she doesn’t really hate you. She’s really tricking herself, and you, to see if you really care enough to be engaged in her life. Her ego may actually be angry, but her real being will feel love and protection. The ego’s anger will fade, and your daughter’s love will grow. This is difficult to believe sometimes, but if you are not unreasonable in your demands and really show concern for her, no amount of proper interference will ever harm your relationship.” 

Lastly is peer pressure. A kid can fight peer pressure in several ways. Again, the parents are key! Here’s how:
  • Strong values: Kids who have been taught strong values seldom find themselves in sticky situations. They have friends who they are more comfortable with--which means they likely have similar values and are not tempted to do something they should not.

  • Restrictions: Good parents have restrictions, keeping their children out of potentially bad situations.

  • Respect: Good parents are respected and their children do not want to let them down. Their true friends will understand this and won’t even suggest destructive or bullying-type behavior to them.

  • Alibi: Following up on respect, when tempted or harassed into doing something like knocking mailboxes down for a cheap thrill, a kid with good parents will admit to those ‘friends’, or acquaintances, of not being willing to disappoint, or letting down their parents.

There are few reasons, when your children get into trouble, which do not have something to do with how they were raised. Learn the ropes of being a parent. It’s not always instinctive. Have rules. Be consistent. Take time to know what is going on in the lives of your children. 
Dr. James Sutton, the host of the Changing Behavior Network gave me the opportunity to tell my story and how I came to write "The Power of Dadhood". I hope you can find time to listen to why I write about and discuss fatherhood. Every child deserves and benefits from both parents being educated and involved in their most important responsibility, raising healthy children. This 29 minute interview reveals my childhood story, a story I want others to avoid.

For the introduction to the interview AND to learn more about the Changing Behavior Network, click here.

Click --> THE INTERVIEW  to listen
PictureThe Author with his first child, April, in 1976
Kids start out in this world knowing nothing, so like little birds in the nest, they are blessed with certain instincts. Not only that, they have super powers of hearing and eyesight. They are in tune with every vibration that would benefit them.

Our first child, April, had terrible sleep habits as a baby! She does to this day. As first time parents we would do anything to get her to sleep…so we could sleep. We made the rookie mistake of patting her gently in her crib to calm her. It seemed to soothe her, but even though she appeared totally zonked out, she would start crying as soon as we stopped. What to do?

So, okay, I’m a smart guy. I decided that I’ll pat her bum--but I’ll start out firm. Then I will s-l-o-w-l-y pat her lighter and lighter, until I’m barely touching her, then she won’t notice when I stop…. Whaaa!

Okay, maybe I was impatient and slowed my pace too quickly. So, the next time I bent over the crib with my forehead resting on the rail, blindly patting. PAT,PAT,PAT, then Pat-Pat-Pat, then paat—paat—paat, then and paaat---paaat---paaat, barely touching her. I then stopped for a moment. Then another paaat---paaat---paaat, assuming I could confuse her timing mechanism for expecting pats.

I stopped patting again…and patiently waited. QUIET! I raised my head off the rail--I’m sure I had a red mark on my forehead--and thought, with possibly a little smirk of pride, that I had done it! But I waited a little longer. Easier to resume patting a half-asleep kid than to start over with a screaming one.

I must have stood there over three minutes, making sure April was sound asleep. Too many nights Kathy and I had not gotten the rest we needed. Since I was often gone a week at a time while I was on alert duty in the Air Force, I felt it was my turn to get her to sleep when I was home. So did Kathy!

Well, April was breathing in a nice deep rhythm. My weary body was imagining the coziness of the fetal position I would soon be in! With a fluffy pillow and warm blanket! It was time to s-l-o-w-l-y walk out of her room.

Now I had been through this before, and I knew the creaks in the floor. Those creaks that you never notice during the day but sound like a Gabriel’s trumpet in the quiet of the night! She had been awakened by these creaks before. The loudest creak was about four slats from the doorway. I would stay away from that slat the same way I would stay away from rattlesnake on a hiking trail!

To get to the hallway was my goal! It was about four tippy-toe steps away. But with that creaky slat in my path, I would take three small tippy-toes, then one big one over the slat from Hell! My first tippy made a small creaky noise. I froze! She still slept. I took another tippy, all okay. The third tippy and I was getting slightly delirious with relief. Now the big tippy, over the fourth slat from the doorway. I reached for the wall to steady myself. No way did I want to lose balance and make a noise of any kind.

One last balanced tippy-toe step and I was free! In the hallway, I was making the same motion with my arm that a locomotive engineer makes when he pulls the rope to blare his horn. I went to the bathroom but I didn’t flush--too risky. I crawled in bed and it was Shangri-La! I fluffed up my pillow, closed my eyes and then……Whaaaa- whaaaaaa! Ten minutes later, still wailing!

This is how kids are! They have no sympathy for you and they never give you a break. They know the sound of a hard candy wrapper from the next room. They can see the look in your eyes when you are trying to hide something. You can’t whisper low enough when you’re talking about something fun or tasty; and you can’t talk loud enough when you want them to stop doing something. Finding tempting hidden treats is just child’s play to them. But they can’t find their shoes! Its normal behavior and you will live through it.

Every mom and dad has a story like this. I’m sure as experienced parents read this, their heads nodded up and down. Yep!

But WOW! April has paid us back a million times over with her accomplishments, her love, her notes of thanks, and the beautiful grandchildren she gave us! Each of our three children gave us challenges, but every challenge we faced with each child has brought us rewards beyond our comprehension.

So go forth young parents! Do your duty and you will get your rewards! They seem to come slowly at times but patience will be rewarded! It’s a lot of fun if you do things right!

PS. We stopped that ‘patting them to sleep’ thing with our second child!

I like the notion of professional fathers. No, I don’t mean paying men to be dads. I mean really understanding the role of a dad. Being called a professional in any area is quite a compliment. Professionals are qualified, proficient, trained, skilled and, experts in their field. I want my doctor, teacher, lawyer, carpenter, dentist, and financial advisor to all be professionals. It would be unwise to ask Uncle Joe for financial advice beyond the ABC’s of--”save, invest, and be prudent”. Or silly to ask neighbor Francine about dental hygiene beyond a recommendation to “brush regularly”. Yet, raising a child is often left to amateurs!

There is no way around this dilemma! It is not against the law to have babies and we cannot force their parents to raise them a certain way, nor should we. It is up to the parents to be responsible, which most are. But being responsible is not always enough. Uncle Joe is very responsible as is neighbor Francine. Neither are out to deceive, but their inexperience could damage us financially or orally.

Instincts are what save most parents. But is that enough? Is that what you want for your children? Not everyone has good instincts and there are necessary parental tasks that don’t rely on instinct alone. My personal belief is that mothers have more parenting instinct than fathers—of course with many exceptions. I assume maternal instinct comes with carrying a baby to birth or the fact that mothers generally spend more time with their children. I respect those that disagree, but if I am correct, fathers need even more help in parenting. Equal instincts or not, fathers are missing from their families much more so than mothers--not just physically, but emotionally. So what about recognizing exceptional fathers as “professional”? And how do they get this designation?

I developed a checklist which goes into depth asking paternal parenting questions. It’s a way a dad can judge his own skills, thoughts, and/or habits of being a father. You don’t come away with a score. You come away with knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses as a dad.

But if I had to reduce the ‘Professional Father’ requirements to three  important criteria. It would be these.

1.       Are you there for your children when needed or appropriate?

2.       Do you have high standards that you teach and enforce?

3.       Are you loving towards your children?

Being there when needed assumes you take action on your own to be aware of special events and celebrations, of your children’s needs, their times of sorrow and/or fear, or the one-on-one time they often crave.

Having high standards is crucial in raising and mentoring children. Rules, consequences, consistency, patience, and nurturing are standards that must be discussed and agreed to with their mother.

Kids crave love more than food according to a quote from Mother Theresa. Love gives a child a feeling of belonging, acceptance, and self-worth. Without those values, any child will struggle.

When you fulfill these three criteria, you are not an amateur father, you are a highly paid professional-- not paid in dollars, but paid in love, pride, and the accomplishments of your children. And by the way, the preferred abbreviation for professional father is…Dad!

Human beings are social animals. We thrive when we have meaningful and loving relationships. Parents and their children have the most important and delicate connection of all humans. We need to find ways to make lasting connections and make efforts to do so.

One way to connect with your kids is to read with them. Certainly this is true when they are toddlers. They sit on your lap and love to hear your voice reading the story as they look at the drawings of bears or pigs, or cars and trucks, or princes and princesses. But reading together shouldn’t stop there!

Of course, sitting on your lap may go out of style, but when they become older you can read the same book at the same time and spend a few minutes a night discussing it. The book doesn’t have to be particularly educational, although it wouldn’t hurt. The discussion, the reading, the connection between parent and child is the important thing. Think of it as a family book club.

I remember the first book I really enjoyed reading as a kid was “Johnny Tremain”. It was historical, set in the early days of our country, but it was a story. I wanted to talk about it but no one else was reading it. Today there are scores of wonderful books written for young adults which are also enjoyable to adults. We’ve all heard of "Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling. I have heard of parents and their kids enjoying these series of books together, giving them something in common.

Finding books of common interest is key! If you find your son is becoming distant but you both like sports, find a good book on sports to read. There are tons of sports books available both fact and fiction. If you read the book separately, but during the same time period, you can discuss the plot, the characters, the parts you enjoyed, the lessons therein and more. This is a perfect way to keep in contact if the father is away for work, or doesn't live under the same roof. Finding something to talk about and having something in common could be a wonderful breakthrough for both of you!

Recently, I met a fellow rookie author at a book signing in Springfield, MO. He was a very pleasant older gentleman with distinguished careers in the FBI, higher education, and coaching basketball. His name is John Nickols and like me, he has a passion for baseball and wanted to write a novel involving his favorite pastime that also had Christian values. His book is entitled “The Last Three Outs”. It is the perfect example of a book that a sports loving father and son (or mother, or daughter) could both read, enjoy, and discuss. John told me he wanted to write a book that could be read by all, without unnecessary expletives or graphic sex scenes—perfect for sharing with a younger boy or girl.

"The Last Three Outs" is the story of a young man named Danny Hill who once had a promising career as a major league pitcher but hurt his arm, placing serious doubts regarding his future as a ball player. But his love for baseball kept him in the game, even at the lowest levels—until he met an old man in a nursing home who gave him hope, and a new pitch—a new pitch which helps him find his way to the Major Leagues! Needless to say, he finds challenges, love, and adventure along the way!

Filled with descriptive and knowledgeable baseball scenes, Jon Nickols, weaves an enjoyable and inspirational story of love, struggle and triumph. It is a story for both adults and kids alike that teaches, thankfully, that good guys can win even when tragic events interrupt their lives.

The Message

Reading/stories/discussion make(s) connections. Of course, if you like another sport, or another topic altogether, you will have no problem finding something you both will enjoy. But lean towards something your son or daughter likes to read about. Not only will you encourage a love of reading, you will find another way to connect to your kids. And that is the lesson here--connection with your children. Reading together, even separately, is just one way you may not have considered.

John Nickols, a native of the Ozarks, has a Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Baylor University. He is a former FBI agent, a longtime basketball coach, and presently an Assistant Professor of History/Political Science at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. He and his wife Barbara have three children: Eric, an attorney; Mrs. Molly Purl. a school administrator; and Mark, a teacher and basketball coach.

The Last Three Outs is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Hastings.com.

Most of us learned about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in school. Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to fulfill the next one, and so on. While talking to a friend one morning, Maslow's theory came up. I then realized that my Pyramid of Dadhood, which I discuss in my book, closely paralleled Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and, therefore, makes apparent how much fathers are instrumental in helping their children in fulfilling their needs! Below I discuss the connection between fatherhood and Maslow's theory at each stage

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the Role of Fathers

1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.

A father begins his responsibilities at this basic level, but he has to be present. He has the primary duty and ability to provide food, drink, shelter, and warmth. Of course others can provide the needs at this level--but who better than the father (with the mother) should do this?

2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.

A father adds to his family responsibilities at the safety level. A basic responsibility of a man is to protect his family, to work with the mother to create order, to allow his children to grow without fear. 

3. Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, affection and love, - from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.

Fatherly love and acceptance is a base need of every human being. When it is missing, the consequences are revealed in many ways, from emotional suffering and greater challenges to succeed, to mental instability, crime and teen aged mothers.

4. Esteem needs - achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.

A nurturing father teaches and guides his offspring. His involvement is a crucial aspect in his children's success, pushing them, encouraging and challenging them. Kids with involved fathers have, in general, more confidence, higher goals, better educations, and the knowledge that someone very important to them is cheering for them and wants them to succeed.

5. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Too few of us ever get to fulfill the self-actualization level of Maslow' s needs. But far fewer will reach it without two parents in their lives. Two parents are essential in every step to get to self-actualization. Of course, any individual can waste the advantages of his/her life, just as those without these advantages can become self-actualized. But this is not about the extremes of performance, it is about the helping the vast majority in between who will rise with, or fall without, the help of two parents. And when one parent is missing, 90% of the time it is the father.

From "The Power of Dadhood" (click to order)

"Fathering styles can range from being totally out of the picture to being a controlling tyrant. We want a father to be around, but not in the way. We want him to be loving, but not overprotective. We want to learn from him, but not if he’s teaching a lack of values and self-respect.

So to be an effective father means to understand the need for balance and to have solid principles. That’s not too much to ask, but it is a tough assignment to deliver because the father has to be present, physically and emotionally, while also providing for his family.


The Pyramid of Dadhood shows a hierarchy of traits needed for effective fathering. The foundation of the pyramid is for a father to be present in a child’s life, a necessary place to start and an immediate and immeasurable benefit to all involved.

At the next level of the pyramid, a father expresses love for his children and provides for their safety and comfort. When he achieves or naturally acts from this level, it is a colossal benefit to his children and lays the foundation for the pyramid’s pinnacle, where the father teaches, nurtures, and prepares his children for life. This hierarchy will be discussed in detail in future chapters.

Challenges do exist within each step and among all involved. None of this responsibility comes easily. If it did, the need for more fathers actually fathering would not be so great.

The missing father does not act within this pyramid. We can only discuss why he may be absent and the implications of his absence as they impact his children and our society, which we will do in chapter 2."

Being in The Pyramid is a good thing. Rising to the top is much better! I believe the very best parents have a goal of doing all they can to help their children become self-actualized. Read the characteristics of a self-actualized person described by Abraham Maslow and think about your children having these characteristics. 

Characteristics of self-actualizers: (By studying 18 people he considered to be self-actualized (including Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein) Maslow (1970) identified 15 characteristics of a self-actualized person.)

1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;
2. Accept themselves and others for what they are;
3. Spontaneous in thought and action;
4. Problem-centered (not self-centered);
5. Unusual sense of humor;
6. Able to look at life objectively;
7. Highly creative;
8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;
9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity;
10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;
11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;
12. Peak experiences;
13. Need for privacy;
14. Democratic attitudes;
15. Strong moral/ethical standards.

These are truly worthwhile goals for anyone!

The information regarding "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs" came from:
PictureThe worst mistake is having child you're not ready to care for!
On the news this morning was a story of a carjacking. This was not an ordinary carjacking--if there is such a thing. This one was perpetrated by five kids aged fifteen to six years of age at 10:30 at night! Did this come about as a mistake in parenting? Absolutely not! The parents of these young men (boys) are criminally negligent!

This is not how I originally intended to start this article. But it points out the biggest mistake a man or woman can make, that is, having a child when you have no intention of nurturing him! Where were these parents while their children were committing this serious and dangerous crime? A child of six was in peril just by being out at this time of night, let alone being involved in a car jacking! Clearly, parenting is not the first priority of these parents, nor is it a priority at all.

The overwhelming majority of  parents are not this reprehensibly inept or corrupt. But even decent parents make honest mistakes or get caught up in everyday life. Dads have their own set of predictable mistakes. Mistakes are never planned--but not planning is also a mistake. 

The five fatherly mistakes I will point out most often come about by:
     1) being too busy or too self-absorbed or,
     2) simple ignorance or neglect of fatherly responsibilities. 

The Five Most Common Mistakes Made by Fathers, in my humble opinion

The following are five mistakes all fathers make in varying degrees, at various times, usually because of being too busy. When done sparingly there will likely be no serious consequences. None are specific, tangible errors. They are symptomatic errors and if any are left unchecked, they could create unnecessary issues in the family.

1.       Assuming

When a father assumes everything and everyone is okay, without taking time to notice, he is shortchanging his family. Look into the faces of your children, look eye to eye. Ask them how they are doing and listen to what they are saying and how they are saying it. Hearing “I’m okay” does not get you off the hook. You must ‘listen’ with more than your ears, and 'look' as if you have eyes in the back of your head. And remember to talk with their mother and her concerns.

2.       Forgetting

Forgetting what you have promised or even mentioned to your children is mistake number two. Never let your word become a useless utterance that is doubted or ignored! Kids remember what you say whether it is good or bad. This includes when punishments are announced but not carried through. You must keep your word and be consistent. Your word should be accepted and respected!

3.       Stagnation

Believing you are a good dad when you do nothing to be a better dad is stealing your best from your children. I guarantee you there are things to learn—methods, approaches, techniques, and more which could make fathering easier, and your children more successful. Don’t be satisfied with being just an okay father. There is no rule that says fathers can't discuss fathering with each other. Read up!

4.       Unintended Mentoring

You are always mentoring whether you know it or not, and whether you like it or not. Your kids watch you closely, assuming what you do and how you do it are correct or, at least, acceptable. When you smoke, complain, throw trash out your window, are disrespectful to anyone, use profane language, etc. – you are mentoring in all the wrong ways. “Do as I say, not as I do” may sound like parenting, but it is the worst kind of parenting. Be aware of your actions around kids, especially your own, and be the example of how you would like your children to be as adults.

5.       Mixed Priorities

There is only ONE ‘number one’ priority if you are a parent—it’s your children! That’s not to say you skip an important meeting at work to see your child's kindergarten play. But think about both your job responsibilities AND your child before you make an honest decision. Do this as a rule and you will find more time to be a dad, because ‘being there’ is the most important thing you can do for your kids!


If you are a father, I hope you have read this thoroughly and thought about how you parent your children with their mother. Reflection is one of the best characteristics of good dads! My book, The Power of Dadhood: Be the Father Your Child Needs, goes into much more detail and includes much more information about the need for and challenges of being a dad. 

Thank you!

It’s my honor to have a distinguished guest author this week--Dr. James Sutton.  Dr. Sutton is a nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist and speaker. He also has founded the popular Changing Behavior Network podcast. His article is entitled “A Gentle Lesson in Responsibility".

An Introduction:

What is the most important characteristic you would want in your son or daughter? Is it being on time, paying attention, being accountable for their actions, keeping their word, being respectful, having goals, being persistent, or having gratitude? All are wonderful characteristics to be sure, but failing in just one of these areas could cause a serious threat to a child’s future success.

There is one descriptive word that will cover all of these characteristics quite nicely. That word is RESPONSIBILITY! When you teach your children responsibility, you are teaching all of the attributes above. If your kids are not responsible, they will not be trusted, they won’t succeed with honor, and neither will they be rewarded in honorable ways. Responsibility is learned behavior and must be taught at a young age--before bad habits are ingrained and have to be undone.

Here is Dr. Sutton’s story of a lesson he received from his father as a young boy. You see how this story has stuck with him over the years and was a guiding moment in his development of the principles of his life.

PictureJames Sutton and his English racer.
A Gentle Lesson in Responsibility

Children and teens learn responsibility by making a few mistakes along the way. Since mistakes are part of the process, wise parents allow for lessons learned through forgetfulness and error. It's not a time for tough discipline, necessarily, rather a time for simply correcting those mistakes. We've ALL been there.

One of my first lessons in responsibility came wrapped in a present from my parents. Well, actually it wasn't wrapped; it was a bicycle. But what a bike it was; a gleaming black, three-speed English racer. It was too, too and too: too big, too fast, and too much for this kid to handle. With Dad's help, however, I caught on quickly. That bike quickly became my chariot for discovering the world that included the three blocks I was allowed to travel.

On My Own

One evening my father handed me 75 cents for a haircut. He told me that, since I now had my own transportation, I could now go to the barber shop all by myself, if I so wished.

If I so wished? I was overjoyed! I don't remember much about school that next day; my mind was focused on the adventure of that solo trip after school.

My Discovery

The journey to the barber shop and back came off perfectly, without a hitch. Or so I thought. That evening at suppertime, I discovered I still had the barber's money in the pocket of my jeans. In my excitement to get back on my faithful steed and return home, I had forgotten to pay the man for the haircut.

I showed Dad the three quarters and confessed my mistake.

Making It Right

He immediately called the barber at his home and took down his address. Dad then drove me over to the barber's house so I could pay the man that very evening.

I want to make it clear that Dad was NOT angry or upset with me; mistakes happen. He wanted to impress upon me that a debt unpaid remains a debt, regardless of the amount. Besides, the barber had rendered a service and deserved to be paid for it.

As I reflect on the lesson learned that night, it seems to me that my father's insistence that I pay the barber on his doorstep that very evening carried another powerful lesson for me: Mistakes are best repaired IMMEDIATELY, whenever possible. It's not a bad formula for sleeping a little better at night.

Besides, it's the RIGHT thing to do.

About Dr. Sutton
A nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the author of The Changing Behavior Book: A Fresh Approach to the Difficult Child. He is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, a popular internet radio-style podcast and blog supporting young people and their families. A link to the Network and other resources are available through his website, http://www.DocSpeak.com.

I look forward to being a guest on Dr. Sutton's podcast on August 14th, 2015. Broadcast date will be later in the month and I will announce it when known.

Why do some neighborhoods live in relative peace and prosperity while others live in fear and dread? The real answer is rarely discussed or seriously attacked.

In any society you will find:
  • Child abuse
  • Education issues
  • Poverty
  • Crime
  • Emotional and behavioral problems
  • Inappropriate sexual activity involving minors
But in a society where few fathers are engaged with their children, these issues explode!

The societal symptoms mentioned above are addressed much more aggressively than the cause. We often blame crime on drugs, drug trade is blamed on the lack of work opportunity, lack of work opportunity is caused by educational issues, educational issues exist because of poverty, and poverty is caused by all these issues. Where does it begin and how do we stop it?

Many believe, as I do, that most of these issues are rooted in the breakdown of the family.

What Linda Eyre’s says is true! Can anyone deny that the issues of society would be dramatically decreased with more effective families? Families are ineffective for many reasons, often because the parents were the result of other ineffective families. And if we are honest, the reason families are not whole or effective is most often due to the lack of fathers in the home.

One vs Two Parent Homes

One parent homes can and do work, but not nearly as often or as well as two parent homes. Two parent homes have twice the love, twice the variety, better financial capability, and both feminine and masculine models. 

Having positive role models is vitally important! A boy needs to watch his father and learn from him. He needs his father’s approval and validation. If not, the boy tries to prove himself to the wrong people in all the wrong ways.

Girls need to be loved by a father who will show her how to be properly treated by a man and to experience male approval. If she does not find male approval from her father, she will seek it elsewhere, often in the wrong places.

The Cycle of Despair

When a fatherless boy, who is desperate to prove his masculinity, meets a girl who is looking for male approval, you can assume we have the making of another dysfunctional family. In my book, I call this the “cycle of despair.” Defeated mothers and absent fathers create future defeated mothers and absent fathers.

Let’s look at some statistics which come most often from the US Census Bureau.

So we do have serious issues in society, but these stats tell us they are caused, in very large part, by kids growing up in homes without a father involved.

Teen pregnancies and high school dropouts alone are serious issues that can take generations to correct. I know....I’ve seen it firsthand. Around 85% of these situations are from father-absent homes. Resolving these two issues alone, by closing the fatherhood gap, would erase many other social issues.

Fathers or Government?

Most government programs address symptoms that will never go away without addressing the cause. We can build drug treatment centers and prisons, rely on government-assisted childcare, provide school lunch programs and food stamps, which are well intended programs that help and often work well in smaller numbers, but they won’t stop these societal issues from reoccurring. And no matter how hard it tries to provide food, shelter, and medical care for needy families, our government cannot provide the two most important things a child needs from a father: love…. and emotional support

The only program that would help every issue mentioned is a program to encourage, train, and mentor young parents, especially the dads.

It’s not my intention to blame all our social ills on irresponsible fathers. There are some fine families with troubled kids and some troubled families whose offspring find a way out and are very successful. Many times the mother is ill-suited as a parent, or the mother may block a father from seeing his children. No matter the situation, it is clear that healthier and whole families would allow our social issues to be much more manageable!

My Thoughts

Lets spend money on something that will eventually save money, and much more importantly, save lives! 
It is my hope that many more private and government led programs will evolve that promote family welfare, not through subsistence but through better educated, willing and able parents. That education needs to start before young people become parents and continue after they are parents, especially if they have no example at home to follow. And admittedly, it would likely take three generation to see significant results--but it HAS to start!

The Correlation Between Single Parent Homes and Social Issues

If the statistics above don't convince you of the crises of father absence, examine the two maps below. (I'm from St. Louis so I'm using my home town as an example, but you will find similar maps in any city.)
  • On the left is a map displaying areas, in orange and red shading, where single parent families exist. The green shading show areas where two parent homes exist 90-100% of the time.
  • On the right is a map displaying areas where major crimes occur.
The correlation is astounding if not surprising! 

If you imprison every perpetrator of every crime, but don't fix the families--is there any doubt that those crime dots will reappear in the same places with the same density in little or no time? In too many single parent homes, there are teaching gaps, morality gaps, social misdeeds and immature philosophies that become accepted. But there are too few organizations, leaders, or mentors to counter this kind of thinking and the cycle continues. 

Could the root cause of our social issues be any more clear!? Can we not concentrate on educating and emphasizing family values and responsibility? 

Responsible fathers could work miracles. This is why I wrote, and why I believe in, "The Power of Dadhood"!

(Below are larger versions of the maps above)

To the right (east) of the Mississippi River is East St. Louis, IL.
 * http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/25/fathers-disappear-from-households-across-america/?page=all
** http://www.stltoday.com/news/multimedia/special/st-louis-area-homicide-map/html_aac4a83d-2729-58b6-9abe-158e8affa085.html
This blog is normally for the topic of "dadhood". But I occasionally do photography. If you read my last post, you know I just returned from vacation with my wife and the families of my two daughters. It was a blast! But upon return, I had to go mow the 2.6 acres at my farmhouse property. It usually takes about an hour an acre because there are lots of trees, slopes and obstacles. 

I started about 5:30 pm on a hot day. As I was mowing, a couple of rain clouds passed by and a rainbow popped into view. I stopped my John Deere XL500 and took a photo of the rainbow with my iPhone, then another a little later. After I finished mowing, around 8:00 pm, I could see the clouds in the west and I knew there was some potential for a good sunset. I went inside, grabbed my Nikon 5100 and started walking towards the field behind the farmhouse. When I looked out, a family of deer was watching me closely. I snapped their photo and kept walking into the field, which chased the deer away.

I took a few blah photos, which I won't bore you with and waited some more. I looked away from the west and looked straight up, noticing the moon and some hazy clouds. I rested my camera on a bale of hay and took some zoom shots. I could tell I might be able to do something with them. They turned out to be very interesting and clear for a day shot without a tripod.

Finally the sky was starting to change. Some clouds became fiery while others were dark. To the northeast, white billowy clouds contrasted with the blue sky. I took panoramas, and close ups at different points along the horizon.The final shot was of some white clouds over my barn--just to show I was at my farmhouse.  It was beautiful and timeless. Nothing else entered my mind at all during my shooting.

I enjoy writing my blog "Helping Fathers to be Dads", because it is a very important topic and I am passionate about fatherhood. But it is a lot of work writing so much while also trying to publicize my book. But photography is a release for me! I am lost in the moment during times like I had tonight. It is fun making something normal look interesting, but nature made it easy on me this evening. Rainbows, deer, the moon, clouds and a sunset--all within three hours! 

Man! I's so happy I had to come to the farmhouse to mow tonight!! 

I hope you enjoy the slideshow!

Three hours on July 26, 2015