Kathleen Parker: A father teaches a boy ‘how to get up when he falls down’

Los Angeles, CA–Kathleen Parker’s Save the Males criticizes the way “men, maleness, and fatherhood have been under siege in American culture for decades.”

In the following excerpt from her chapter “Our Fathers, Our Selves,” Parker discusses the importance of fathers. Parker writes:

For boys, what better way to learn to become men other than by observing the model of their own fathers? A boy watches how his father walks and tries to copy him. “Monkey see, monkey do’ isn”t just a cliché, but one of the most powerful forces of nature. He watches how he ties his shoes, combs his hair, and shaves.

More important, he observes how his father treats his mother and learns in the process how he should treat women. He also learns from his father how to manage his temper, how to laugh at himself, how to get up when he falls down.

Without a father and those lessons in channeling aggression, boys are more likely to become predatory males, more likely to engage in violent behavior and promiscuity. Research shows that 60 percent of rapists in this country came from fatherless homes.

Here”s the truth: A man who has been initiated into manhood by his father has no need to be macho. An insecure, uninitiated man takes on the symbolic, exaggerated masculine role because he has never been given the real thing.

Other men–grandfathers, uncles, stepfathers, adoptive and unrelated mentors–can and do serve as role models. Biological fathers aren”t the only people who can guide a boy along the path toward manhood, but the fact that we recognize the need for a male role model merely underscores the fact that a boy needs a father figure. The only thing better than a father figure, of course, is a father. They”re really so handy to have around, one wonders why we go through such contortions to make substitutes necessary.

Some argue that mothers can do most things fathers do, but that”s true only if we reduce a father”s contributions to a series of mechanical drills. Fathering is more than a skill set, and besides, men and women do things differently. They talk different, smell different. They even hug different.

A father can feed a baby a bottle, but he”s still not a mother. And a mother can play catch in the backyard, but she”s still not a guy playing ball with his son.

A dad playing catch with his daughter is more than a free play period or a gratuitous gender equity exercise. It”s a learning opportunity for male and female to experience fair play, to accept failure in the presence of the opposite sex, to be clumsy and foolish and cute all in the glow of deep, noncompetitive, nonjudgmental, protective, accepting paternal love. That”s quite a package to ignore.  

To learn more or to purchase Save the Males, click here.

Parker, a syndicated columnist who is published in over 300 newspapers every week, is concerned about the decline of fatherhood, and has favorably covered many of our action campaigns.

These include: Campaign Protesting Fox’s Reality Show Bad Dads; Campaign Protesting Florida DCF’s Mistreatment of Loving Father in ‘Elian Gonzalez II’ Case; Campaign Against PBS’s Father-Bashing Breaking the Silence; and Campaign Against ‘Boys are Stupid’ Products.

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