The Importance of Positive Male Role Models

Everyone can help to make sure kids have the role models they need.

Many boys today don’t know what it means to be a man, and it’s often because they don’t have a man in their lives. So many children will go to bed tonight without saying goodnight to their father because he just isn’t there. Dad may work a lot, be deployed, or be distracted and uninvolved. He could be living somewhere else, have another family or not be in the picture at all. Whatever the situation, research shows that having a positive male role model is vital for child development.

Check this out:

  • Nearly one-fourth of America’s children live in mother-only families.
  • Of the children living with their mothers, 35 percent never see their father. 
  • 24 percent of kids who live with their moms see their fathers less than once a month.
  • Even in homes where the father is present, research shows that the average father spends less than 10 minutes a day one-on-one with his child. 

More than likely, women teach them at school and at home. 

So, where do they see and interact with positive male role models? 

Or, how do the boys learn what it means to be a man? Television? Movies? On the street? 

In our society, emotional and spiritual fatherlessness is becoming the norm. Many of today’s fathers didn’t have positive role models to show them how to be a father, either. As a result, they may be repeating the cycle of the absent father.

Irrefutable research shows that mothers are typically nurturing, soft, gentle, comforting, protective and emotional. Fathers, however, tend to encourage risk-taking and be challenging, prodding, loud, playful and physical. Children need a balance of protection and reasonable risk-taking.

Positive male role models have an excellent opportunity to step in and fill any void that exists.

In fact, doing so can help these children without positive male role models in so many ways. For instance, when Dad isn’t around, children are more likely to be involved in criminal activity, sexual activity, do poorer in school and participate in harmful activities.

Studies have shown that a father’s involvement or a positive male role model profoundly affects children. Father-child interaction promotes a child’s physical well-being, perceptual ability and competency for relating with others. Furthermore, these children demonstrate a greater ability to take initiative and evidence self-control.

The good news is that everyone can promote positive male role model involvement!

How can you make a positive difference for these children? 

  • Mom, you can encourage positive male role model involvement in your child’s life.
  • Non-custodial dad, you can make an effort to visit with your children more often and be intentional about teaching them important life lessons.
  • Educators can encourage fathers to be more active in the classroom.
  • Men can influence kids in your community by being the positive male role model they need.
  • Faith-based institutions and programs can bring fathers together with their children and encourage men to engage children in their sphere of influence.
  • Business leaders can encourage employee involvement in community efforts with children. For example, you can promote mentoring with organizations like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, youth groups, Boys Club or Girls, Inc.

Every child needs someone who is absolutely crazy about them. What can you do to make sure they what they need?

In 2014, NBA superstar LeBron James posted a picture of himself, and an open letter to his father, on Instagram:

“Like wow dad, you know what, I don’t know you, I have no idea who you are but because of you is part of the reason who I am today. The fuel that I use — you not being there — it’s part of the reason I grew up to become who I am. It’s part of the reason why I want to be hands on with my endeavors … So me in a position allowing people around me to grow that maybe wouldn’t have happened if I had two parents, two sisters, a dog and a picket fence, you know?”

His Instagram comment: “Because of you Pops! Thanks all along. Could have said why me with u not being there but look what I made of myself.”

In spite of the “thanks,” reading between the lines one could hear sarcasm, pain and anger about his father’s absence.

“I can so identify with where LeBron is coming from,” says Kenneth Braswell, executive director of Fathers Incorporated. “I am a black man whose pent-up rage for my absent father drove me to do what I believed to be the right thing, for the right reason and with the right justification. Then I found out it was all wrong.”

Braswell believes, and research concurs, that there are hundreds of thousands of boys and men in America harboring pain and anger as a result of father absence.

“The biggest lesson I have learned in life about my anger towards my father is: The more anger towards the past that I carry in my heart, the less capable I am of loving in the present,” says Braswell. “It is essential that fatherless sons are supported in multiple ways to address our pain and anger appropriately so we can be positive male role models for all children.”

Braswell wants to help people deal with the pain and anger they feel. He offers these words of advice to those growing up without their father:

  • Acknowledge the anger. Many males put forth a tough exterior, but on the inside the anger is raging. Acknowledge it.
  • Embrace forgiveness. It takes a strong person to forgive someone they don’t feel deserves their forgiveness. When you don’t forgive, you allow pain to reside in your heart. Forgiveness gives the benefit of understanding and closure.
  • Embrace your heart. When you embrace your heart, you want to release anything that causes pain. The only way to do that is through love. You cannot do it through hate.
  • Communicate through transparency. You have to find a way to communicate your feelings, not just express them. A lot of what fatherless guys deal with is a result of not wanting to talk about what is happening on the inside. This really isn’t about the other person, it is about you releasing yourself in order to grow.

“My goal is to be a positive role model for my son and other children,” Braswell says. “Every now and then, I felt like I had to tell the world I was OK.  And, that my father was insignificant in my life in order to suppress the fact that his absence was extremely significant in my life.

“I will never be able to offer the world my best based on the hatred of another.  Especially not the hatred of my father.”

Sara and Jonathan Emanuel have five children between the ages of 3 and 13. At one point, their kids participated in cheer, dance, baseball, swim, tennis, Indian Princess and Girl Scouts.

“In our home with children involved in this many activities, not to mention school and youth group, we never had a moment that wasn’t filled,” says Sara. “I got to a point a couple of years ago where I hit a wall and didn’t want to do anything because I was so overwhelmed. I felt like I was being hit, rolled and turned like waves on the beach.”

Sara and Jonathan began seriously discussing some much-needed changes. Close examination made them realize they were neglecting the things they believed were most important.

“We wanted to recalibrate our family, which meant some big changes,” Sara says. “We made the decision to homeschool for a period of time – we also decided to pull back from all of the activities. For our family, it was probably the best decision we have made.”

Because Jonathan has job flexibility to work while traveling, the Emanuels decided to head out for an extended summer trip.

“Three years ago, we took our camper and drove to the furthest southern point of the Keys and stayed for a month,” Sara says. “We camped, cracked coconuts, biked all over the place and stopped at every place on the way there and back we thought would be interesting for the kids. We were studying biology and marine life so it was perfect. Lots of museums and other places to visit that fed right into what they were learning. The kids didn’t have Wi-Fi most of the time, which provided a welcome break from electronics. They read books and played board games purchased from McKay’s. I am pretty positive I played Go Fish 1000 times in one week that summer.”

Last year the family camped all around the Ozarks for three weeks. This year they had planned to go to Canada, but had issues with the camper. After a quick fix, they will head to Washington D.C., instead. They plan to visit historical sites and camp in the Virginia mountains for several weeks along the way.

“It was a very tough decision to pull back, but if we had it to do over, we would definitely make the same decision,” Sara says. “I went from an attitude of ‘as long as my kids are breathing and aren’t hungry then I have done my job’ to long walks with them where they asked thought-provoking questions. The stress level in our family went down tenfold and the fighting between our kids diminished significantly.”

The Emanuels realize this wouldn’t work for everybody. They do believe, however, it has made them purposefully examine their family’s activities. Instead of doing what everybody else was doing, stepping back helped their family remember what really matters to them.

“Both my husband and I came to the realization that once this time with our kids is gone, it’s gone,” Sara shares. “You can’t be afraid to do what is in the best interest of your family – no matter what everybody else thinks. Instead of being exhausted all the time, we are more engaged with our kids. Jonathan takes two of our kids to weekly boxing lessons and that’s something the three of them do together. Sometimes we head out to the lake to throw the football and wander around. I love that we are not ‘go, go, go’ all the time. Both of us see a huge difference in how we communicate with each other and the amount of play that actually goes on. It feels like we are all more loving toward each other.”

In his book, Take Back Your Kids: Confident Parenting in Turbulent Times, Dr. William Doherty says that while families have pursued worthwhile activities for their children, they have lost family time. Without consciously focusing on maintaining internal bonds, choices lead to hyperactive, emotionally-depleted families. He encourages parents to make family time and family activities a high priority.

When the Emanuels were courageous enough to step back, they discovered what they were missing. Is your family missing out, too?