Setting a Low Standard for Men

In my driveway is an adjustable basketball standard or hoop. When my son was younger, he and I would shoot hoops together. Often, he would often lower the basket to 8 feet because it is very easy for him to make his shots. After about 5 minutes, I would raise it a couple of feet and he would usually protests. But I knew that he’ll never improve his game or himself with a low standard (pun intended).

Many of you have probably seen the following 2009 Hanes socks commercial

Personally, I’ve never seen an advertisement that depicts women as the buffoons and men as competent. Dr. Leonard Sax, author of the insightful book Boys Adrift: What’s Really Behind the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boyselaborated on this mindset:

Permissive social mores have ‘let men off the hook’ as it were, so that many think it acceptable to father children out of wedlock and to cohabit rather than marry. Dodging commitments is considered smart, but sacrificing for the good of others, naive.

The tragic irony is that many of those who lower the standard for dads—claiming that fathers are expendable or useless—are likely individuals whose fathers were absent or emotionally unavailable to them.

The Ripple-effect of Absentee Dads

While camping near a lake, my son threw a rock in an attempt to skip it across the water. As it plunged into the lake, it was remarkable to watch how one little rock could generate a disturbance (ripples) far from it’s point of entry.

When men father children and check out of their fatherly duties, it doesn’t just impact that child. Unfortunately, its “ripple effect” spreads through both society and generations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America, one out of three children, now live in a biological father-absent home. Here is just a small sample the ripple effect of absentee dads:

  • Infant mortality rates are nearly 2 times higher for infants of unmarried mothers than for married mothers.
  • Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. In 2011, 12% of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 44% of children in fatherless families.
  • Youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families.
  • Father involvement in schools is associated with greater academic success and achievement in their children.

Gender Matters! 

There are many today who—in the name of equality—are attempting to erase any differences between men and women. Logically and scientifically this makes no sense. A whole raft of research has shown the biological and psychological differences between boys and girls that are evident from birth. Boys and girls see, hear, think, feel, and learn differently. Of course both genders have much in common, but many individual and societal problems have come from trying to make men and women the same. Professor David Popenoe summarizes what this gender research means for parents:

We should disavow the notion that ‘mommies can make good daddies,’ just as we should disavow the popular notion…that ‘daddies can make good mommies.’… The two sexes are different to the core, and each is necessary—culturally and biologically—for the optimal development of a human being.

Because of their distinct gifts and abilities, men and women each bring to a family unique perspectives and experiences. Dads think and relate differently than moms. Some of these distinct differences are in the areas of regulating aggression and general activity, cognitive skills, sensory sensitivity, and sexual behavior to name just a few.

To illustrate this, think of raising children like a person’s stability in standing, walking, and running. An individual with only their left foot (due to birth defect, amputation, or accident) can probably stand upright, especially with assistance. A person with 2 left feet (not likely, I know) may have more support. But a left and a right foot both compliment and stabilize each other.

Hence, a mother and a father is the most ideal scenario for raising children. Yet, with our current culture and laws we send the message over and over again that dads are optional.

Fathers Be Good to Your Daughters

There is mounting evidence demonstrating the harms of an absentee father. Girls whose fathers are absent and uninvolved are much more likely to become sexually active, sexually exploited through pornography and prostitution, struggle with their male/romantic relationships, and become mothers as teens—perpetuating the cycle of children without fathers.

This is largely because dads lay the foundation for how girls understand and interact with the opposite gender. If a father is physically—and especially emotionally—involved in his daughter’s life she is likely to forge healthy relationships with men through her teen and adult years. Dads, telling your girls when they are sad to “just get over it,” “suck it up,” or “stop your crying” is not helpful or healthy.

A popular song by John Mayer speaks volumes:

Fathers, be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers.

Daddy-daughter dates are a terrific way to build and teach healthy relationships. I try to take each of my 3 daughters on a date every other month and I consider it a great honor. I want them experience the kind of treatment they deserve from boys and not settle for anything less. Here is a beautiful example of a dad who gets it:

Raising the Standard

Let’s help raise the standard for men. If you are a dad, like me, regularly evaluate the time you are investing in your most important work—your family. Have consistent one-on-one chats with each of your children where they can talk to you about school, peers, hobbies, and their hopes and fears. Get into your child’s world and truly understand them. William Shakespeare has said, “It is a wise father that knows his own child.”

If you are a man who has fathered a child and are living with your child’s mother: strongly consider marriage! Professor Robert P. George wrote:

Marriage increases the odds that a man will be committed to both the children that he helps create and to the woman with whom he does so.

If you are a divorced father, heal the relationship with your children’s mother. That doesn’t mean you need to remarry her. But it does mean you should try to make peace with her. The best predictor of divorced dads being involved in his children’s lives is the quality of relationship he has with his child’s mother.

Thanks be to the fathers who—motivated by love and selflessness—hold themselves to a high standard of commitment; for their influence can be felt by us all.