Building Better Father-Son Relationships

Follow my lead. Here’s the story. Tray is a hero among his peers. Tray has fathered several children from different women at his high school. Instead of his behavior repelling other young ladies, Tray finds himself a babe magnet. Tray sees himself as a “real man.” While students see Tray as an American icon, adults see Tray’s attitude as both arrogant and embarrassing. Tray’s mother complains that Tray’s like his daddy. His daddy is useless.

Are you still trying to figure out your man? Why does he keep you at great length? Are you a man still dealing with your past masculine issues? Let’s examine this closer. First, many critics argue the significance of men in today’s family structure. Some people argue about the relevancy of fathers in the family environment. Women don’t need men. Today’s woman is the head of the household and makes her own money. Let’s explore the statistics for a moment. According to the 2005 Census Report, there are 66.3 million fathers in the United States. There are 26.5 million fathers in a traditional family environment. There are 2.3 million single fathers living with children under 18 years old, up from 393,000 in 1970. There are also approximately 98,000 stay-at-home dads in America. Unfortunately, everything is not a pleasant story. There are 4.6 million fathers who pay child support, representing 84 percent of child support providers.

The Gospel Truth
Fathers in traditional families are more engaged than several decades ago. According to some studies, members of Generation X and Y are more likely to be family-focused. For example, Generation X fathers spent more time with children compared to Baby Boomer fathers. The impacts of the male influence in families may not be obvious. Does it really matter if a male is not a part of a child’s life? Many people grew up with fathers whose primary role was as provider. The presence of a male figure in the home does impact children. Nationally syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. wrote a book, Becoming Dad, where he surveys his tortured relationship with his abusive father. Pitts discusses how it affected his relationship with his own sons and daughters. He writes, “My father made our lives hell. And yet, for all of that, he was one thing many other fathers were not: He was there.” While millions of men celebrate their manhood, others try to conceal the broken relationships with their fathers and its consequences.

Obviously, fathers are imperfect and this has been amplified in our society. Personally, I blame postmodern culture for fueling this negativism. Clearly, we are being bombarded with negative concepts of fathers. We do not live in an era of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ where dad knows best, and we have a caricature of Superman. My experience is that many fathers of our era are trying to do the right things; however, this gets lost in the day-to-day drama of life. I mentor many young men in my community and would offer some suggestions for men (current or future fathers):

  • Determine to live life as a positive influence on others.

  • Encourage your children to read and grow their dreams.

  • Volunteer to help organizations(lacking males leaders).

  • Expose your children to males who are doing positive things.

  • Mentor children, other than your own.

  • Be the spiritual leader in your home.

A Happy Ending
Fathers are necessary to achieve a healthy family balance even though they are not celebrated as such. Obviously, there are numerous examples of deadbeat dads, abusers, and downright losers. But, if society buys into the notion that fathers are useless, how do we give our children a sense of hope for the future? We must showcase the positive things fathers are doing in the community while counseling the misguided ones. America cannot survive without real fathers and real men.