A father’s role is critical to the life of his family and thus not optional to the greater society as well. A father is a leader and educator to his children and the necessary supporter of the spouse. As co-educator, he helps provide the necessary fertile soil for his children to accept faith in God. Fathers have a particular role in forming their child’s self-control and can help protect them from the pitfalls of impurity.
In the words of Dr. Meg Meeker, a boy who is raised with a father and mother in the home is “better able to develop deferred gratification skills, less likely to drop out of school, less likely to smoke, drink, have early or frequent sex, use drugs, commit suicide, or commit vandalism or violence or any other type of criminal act” (Meeker, Meg. Boy’s Should be Boys, (2008) p. 147). Particularly in the family, gender does matter. Certainly, fathers, when in the home, also have to fulfill their role.
There is no coincidence that pornography detaches a father from his role in the home thus isolates him from valuing what is important. Men are needed to secure and guard the home and when we go down our family suffers.
The Vulnerability Needed to Guide and Correct Children
Fathers are called to share their vulnerability. This idea could be similar to sharing with our children the lessons we have learned. Kids love to hear stories about what we did when we were young. They want to know us through our stories. There is an appropriate vulnerability for fathers to have with their children in order to guide them to see how they overcame difficulties and ultimately to share more of who they are.
“By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them” (CCC no. 2223). This is not the same as parents confiding with their children the burdens of conflict with a spouse or unloading their daily frustrations on their children as if they were an adult. This is more of an age-appropriate mentorship to help guide and allow for dads to be approachable.
For fathers, silence or disinterest are not options. A father who is engaged can impart a particular blessing on his children. Similar to the idea of what is conveyed to children in a Jewish home by their parents, a father’s blessing conveys a kind of love and acceptance on a child. “This fatherly blessing is mysterious and unquantifiable, but it is a rite of passage every boy desires. It is so personal that only a son will know when it occurs. It can come in an instant, with a father’s smile or nod, or it can be full of ceremony. But when a boy receives his father’s blessing, he has a sense of having been affirmed, and he feels he can live boldly” (Meeker, p. 149).
This blessing can be the first ingredient to inoculant a child against addiction and can play a role in protecting children from shame. A father is able to convey blessing through his presence, actions, words, and hope for his child’s future. It is a sense that you are valued. Often if men received this blessing from their fathers, they are better able to avoid seeking after false sources of affirmation. Fathers can also help their children know that they are loved in the concrete little actions of time and attention.
Sharing a Postive View of Sexuality
Fathers play an important role in purity and can foster an example of service. “This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom” (CCC no. 2223). All of this presupposes that we as fathers are working on these virtues ourselves. I hear stories of men and women who grew up with fathers who did not respond with any guidance when sexual material in movies or discussions came up. Sometimes dads give the opposite example of purity through their own words or watching of pornography.
Often it appears, men who have struggled with impurity themselves, have greater difficulty with guiding their children through these issues. It is also observed that a child’s response to authority closely relates to how they will engage their sexuality. Both require the ability to trust. Will they discover internal freedom through the virtues or will they grasp for control? As fathers, we can share a positive view of sexuality, and not be afraid to help guide our kids to respect themselves.
Prayer of a father. In the early life of Saint Pope John Paul II, he witnessed his father kneeling in prayer at his bed. He was a father of prayer. When we guide our children to pray and receive from their heavenly Father, we offer a great gift. There is a pretty strong correlation between a life of chastity and a connection with God as Father. So, please pray for your fathers, and fathers remember who you are called to be.
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