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'Men Behaving Dadly'
by Dr. Nathan L. O'Neal
In the last several months, I have noticed articles that referred to men as worthless relative to fatherhood, and then someone upset that the first article was even published.

This initial writing will share some general thoughts and ideas for first, improving the understanding of fathers and increasing the behaviors of fathers in the parenting role, secondly, for sharing some general information as a foundation for future articles, and thirdly, for discussing why women are a viewed as a part of the problem and how each of us can become a part of the solution.

With this exposition, I will share some historical perspective and the statistics that support the theory that fathers, no matter their ethnicity, are vital in the lives of their children. I will endeavor to answer some of the following questions in a series of articles to enlighten our community with respect to true father engagement in the black family.

Why are Fathers Missing?

—        The system

—        Multiple Families

—        No Money, No child

—        Operating under the wire

—        Child as a pawn

—        The thrill is gone

—        Adversarial Relationships

—        Family Interference

—        No model for marriage/marriage issues

—        Spiritual or religious upheaval

Data shows that when fathers are engaged in positive, nurturing relationships with their children, the IQ of those children is, on average, 4.7 points higher than children whose fathers were not engaged.

When the parents of a child work together, whether married and living together or in separate residences, children have a greater sense of self-worth and security. These children are less likely to be involved with the criminal justice system and are more likely to graduate from high school and matriculate to places of higher education.

Co-parenting is the key that allows the child to experience the joy of both parents. While it is true that some men are not taking responsibility for their children, it is also true that some women are the reason that men are not engaged in the lives of their children. 

The role of fathers is one of the strongest and most important traditions in our communities. My argument, however, is that rather than being stripped of our masculinity and experiencing the dissolution and overall disruption of the familial structure, fathers have served the community well, for the most part, including in the present.

As a pastor in a multi-ethnic community, I emphasize solutions rather than problems. Thus, I cannot conclude this writing without advancing some suggestions for supporting fathers:

  1. Reach out to fathers. If you know of a "full-time dad," support and encourage him. Let him know you care, and appreciate his presence in his child’s live.
  2. Take your brother/friend/father to church, temple, synagogue, mosque. Faith/Religion is a source of strength for all of us. Too often, because of a false sense of masculinity and machismo, fathers do not want to acknowledge their need for God. Encourage your Pastor/Rabbi/Imam to support "full-time dads."
  3. If the father has been abusive, use the occasion to help him discuss this situation. Again, acknowledging the role which sexism has played in our lives. Encourage him to seek help through domestic violence and anger management classes. It is difficult for men to express their emotions. Encourage him to be gentle and loving. Let him know you love him, even if he is not muscular like Dwight Howard or graceful like Dwayne Wade.
  4. Boycott radio stations, talk-show hosts, newspapers and businesses that defame fathers.
  5. Oppose further cuts in jobs and social service programs. Defend those programs and policies that allow fathers to earn the money necessary to provide for their families.
  6. Encourage "full-time dads" to join a men's group, such as those organized in church, temple, synagogue, mosque and the inner cities. All men need the support of other men in order to be good fathers.
  7. Encourage teachers and professors to discuss the plight of the fathers in their classes.

While these suggestions focus on what others can do to help fathers, there are measures, which we as fathers can do to help ourselves. Fathers are not blameless in our own oppression. Too often, we are abusive toward women; and moreover, we are too often absent as fathers in our families and communities.

Fathers must therefore understand that women are their equals. It is easy to blame the woman for all pathologies in our community, since too many of us leave the raising of our children to mothers. In addition, when children commit crimes, we blame the victims: women and children, and this must stop. We must take responsibility for our role in the events and circumstances played out in the lives of our children.

The positive examples cited in this dissertation debunk the opinion sometimes voiced by talk shows that fathers do not care and have never cared about their children. Ironically, this view is sometimes echoed by some women who assert that "there are no good men left" and that "they (men) take after their no-good fathers."

The majority of fathers, however, are still waiting to exhale. That is, we are still waiting for the media to acknowledge our presence and to write something good about us. We are still waiting for our own to recognize that we are here and we are good fathers and good men.