Raising Sons to be Great Fathers
Updated: May 13, 2019
By Dr Pat Fagan.
To do a good job in raising their sons, modern fathers have to dig deeper into the nature of fatherhood, deeper than fathers ever had to in all of human history because of the Marxist feminist assault on “patriarchy”, amplified by technological shocks (the pill, internet pornography, etc.). Because the enemy dug deep so as to understand how to deconstruct society and family (see Shulamith Firestone’s seminal influence on 1970’s feminism: The Dialectic of Sex), men today have to dig deeper still. This may well turn out to be a great blessing because hereafter, men can pass this deeper knowledge on to their sons and in the process become better men themselves while forming their boys to be even better. While the father will make the boy, the boy will also make the father. As Seneca said: “While we teach, we learn.” Understanding fatherhood better, men will live it better. What ironic justice if “man, fully alive” develops as an unintended consequence of feminism.
During the different stages of his son’s growth into manhood, the father will touch on fives themes repeatedly, going deeper each time, as he judges what his son needs to know and what he is ready to absorb:
About the physical and biological facts of sexuality (male and female) that his son will need to know during the next phase he is entering. It is best the son get this information from his father first --- not on the playground from other boys nor on the screen from strangers.
About the differences between men and women. This is remote preparation for understanding and accepting the very different modes of seeing and experiencing things that are the ways of his mother, sisters, and future wife.
About how to choose a good wife. Prudently prepared and lightly delivered, these nuggets of wisdom will affect his choice of a good wife.
About the inner moral struggle that all boys and men have to engage in, deep in their own hearts, on their way to manhood. This is a key point of identity between a father and son: That unique male way of battling to live well. This aspect is the core of a father’s formation of his son.
Sadly, about the dangers of abuse and pornography, which will have to be introduced early in a boy’s formation because of their pervasiveness.
The relational foundation of a boy’s sexuality is his earliest relationship with his father. If this is warm, affectionate and enjoyable the journey is off to a great start. The demand on the father is one of time and possibly of temperament. Giving his time to his son is his greatest gift, always. The more and the earlier the better. As the child reacts with joy and laughter the father is naturally encouraged and rewarded. The embrace and horseplay that father and child engage in develops his son’s trust and confidence. The task is friendship, the method is play: Anything and all that the son enjoys with his father. It can be tiddlywinks or football, drawing or singing, reading or baseball, fishing or hiking. Whatever brings joy to the child. Also, this early stage is the time that deep friendship is most easily formed. It will yield fruit in mid-childhood and adolescence when that friendship will be tested by the strains of that phase. With such a friendship in place the later phases will be handled with much great ease.
The solution is simple though taxing: Fathers raise their boys to be great husbands and great fathers.
Dr. Pat Fagan has been a grade school and college teacher, a therapist specializing in child, family and marital issues, executive director of a small think tank, a Senate staffer, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Family and Social Policy at HHS under President George Herbert Bush, a Senior Fellow of Family and Culture at the Heritage Foundation, and founder and Director of the Marriage and Religion Research Initiative ( www.MARRI.us ) first at Family Research Council, now at The Catholic University of America. The thread of continuity has been a pursuit of ways to help the family thrive. He is publisher and editor of Marripedia.org, and the weekly Faith and Family Findings, and has authored over thirty synthesis papers and has commissioned from others dozens of original research projects in marriage, family, child development and religious practice. His work has appeared in or covered by Time Magazine, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Globe and Mail, USA Today, and The Guardian. He and his wife Theresa have eight children and thirteen grandchildren.
Patrick Fagan, Ph.D. Reprinted with permission. This blog first appeared on Marripedia, March 2019. ©KM Associates.