Dad’s Eye View: Nurturing Healthy Father-Son Relationships
Empathy and engagement are vital for abusive fathers’ rehabilitation, Chapman stresses. “Once fathers engage with a child,” he states, “it’s almost physically impossible for them to hurt that child.” One of the most important ramifications of Chapman’s work is that young boys whose rehabilitated fathers model empathy and engagement to them are less likely to become abusive themselves than if the reintegration had not been achieved.
Positive Rituals of Manhood: As a whole, the typical Western rites of passage into manhood consist of dubious practices: the first underage beer or haphazard sexual experience may be celebrated by a boy’s peer group, but unfortunately these activities pose serious future risks to the boy and the larger community.
After learning about the importance of ceremony in teaching values to children, Matt Nightingale, a father of three boys from northern California, decided to celebrate his son Joshua’s tenth birthday with a manhood ceremony of his own. The following excerpt comes from Matt’s post “Belonging to the Brotherhood of Men” on the DadBloggers website:
I took [Joshua] to Mount Diablo, and we climbed all around what’s called “Rock City”—huge boulders with little caves and great easy climbs. It’s a stunning place, and it was really fun to hang out with him, climbing and laughing and jumping. We had dinner in San Francisco, at his favorite place: The Rainforest Café. He decided that since he was such a man now, he would eat something brand new: calamari. And he liked it! As a gift, I gave him a DVD that was all about him—pictures of every year of life and happy memories, along with messages from me and four other men I had chosen. These guys have agreed to walk with me and model manhood to Josh, to pray for him, to be there for him to confide in as he grows and needs advice or understanding or whatever. They all appeared on the DVD with stories from their childhoods, affirmations for Josh (the good they see in him and their hopes for his future), and promises of being there for him as he grows. It was a really cool day that we can look back on with great memories. And the DVD is something he can watch whenever he wants to, and hopefully a marker of sorts … a solid reminder that he is loved and that he has people in his life who are on his side.
As a guy who always wanted a family but was scared to be a dad, I know how daunting it is to imagine the children growing up, with my basic vision of the kind of person I want them to be but few clear ideas of how to help them get there. It’s been helpful to me, then, to learn about myself as a man and dad and find out about safe roughhousing, empathy, and positive rituals. Too often, I think, the “boys will be boys” attitude is an excuse to avoid teaching boys and young men how to control their natural aggression—and actually put it to positive use. But if we want our boys to become responsible men and fathers, the responsibility to guide them with authority is one we can’t ignore.
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