For Fathers Only

January 6, 2014 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Father and Son“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

These famous words from the apostle Paul are meant to call fathers to Godliness as they raise their children.  Negatively, fathers are not to “exasperate,” or anger, their children needlessly or vindictively.  Positively, they are to “bring them up,” or rear them, in the Lord.  The Greek word for “bring them up” is ektrepho, meaning, “to feed.”  Fathers are to feed their children.  But this means much more than simply “bringing home the bacon,” as it were.  This also means feeding children’s souls with time, affection, discipline, and grace.

Sadly, this call to fatherhood is lost on far too many men in our society.  And the effects are devastating.

Kay Hymowitz, writing for the City Journal, a quarterly affairs journal for Manhattan, recently published an article titled “Boy Trouble”[1] in which she attributes much of the dismal performance in school, in jobs, and in life of a great number of boys to absentee fathers.  In other words, fathers who fail to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord because of their non-presence have a profoundly negative impact on their children.  Hymowitz expounds:

By the 1970s and eighties, family researchers following the children of the divorce revolution noticed that, while both girls and boys showed distress when their parents split up, they had different ways of showing it. Girls tended to “internalize” their unhappiness: they became depressed and anxious, and many cut themselves, or got into drugs or alcohol. Boys, on the other hand, “externalized” or “acted out”: they became more impulsive, aggressive, and “antisocial.” Both reactions were worrisome, but boys’ behavior had the disadvantage of annoying and even frightening classmates, teachers, and neighbors. Boys from broken homes were more likely than their peers to get suspended and arrested. Girls’ unhappiness also seemed to ease within a year or two after their parents’ divorce; boys’ didn’t.

Since then, externalizing by boys has been a persistent finding in the literature about the children of single-parent families. In one well-known longitudinal study of children of teen mothers (almost all of them unmarried), University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg, a dean of family research, found “alarmingly high levels of pathology among the males.” They had more substance abuse, criminal activity, and prison time than the few boys in the study who had grown up in married-couple families.

Hymowitz goes on to consider some of the ways in which societies have sought to compensate for absentee fathers.  Some societies have tried to provide robust social support programs, ensuring single mothers have all the financial resources they need to give their sons opportunities that will serve them well.  But these social support programs have not stemmed the tide of troubled, fatherless boys.  Others have tried to encourage male role modeling in the form of coaches, teachers, and even stepfathers.  But the problem remains.  Indeed, Hymowitz cites one study done on boys who were raised by their stepfathers and notes that these boys were “even more at risk of incarceration than the single-mom cohort.”

Finally, Hymowitz reaches an inevitable, even if unsurprising, conclusion:  “Girls and boys have a better chance at thriving when their own father lives with them and their mother throughout their childhood—and for boys, this is especially the case.”  A household needs a father.

Please understand that I do not mean to belittle or disparage the contributions that mothers – and especially single mothers – make to a household.  Indeed, I know and have known many faithful single mothers who do all they can to raise their children faithfully, compassionately, and evangelically with great success.  To them, I say, “Thank you.”  I am saying to men, however:  You are needed.  The stakes are high.  You cannot afford you to be derelict in your duties toward your families. 

So get with it.  Heed the call of the apostle Paul.  You have more influence than you may ever know.  Which means you have more responsibility than you could ever dream.  Take that responsibility seriously. Little eyes are watching.


[1] Kay Hymowitz, “Boy Trouble,” City Journal 23, no. 4 (Autumn 2013).

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