|James Stenson on Men's Duties
CHESTNUT HILL, Massachusetts, 16 DEC. 2005 (ZENIT)
In an age of
same-sex "marriages" and children having "two mommies," the meaning of
fatherhood has become blurred for many.
James Stenson, educator and author of parenting books, including
"Father, the Family Protector" (Scepter), clearly sees men's
irreplaceable and imperative role in their marriages and families.
Stenson shared with ZENIT the different ways men are protectors, and how
they uniquely contribute to the development of their sons and daughters.
Q: Why is it important for fathers to maintain the traditional role as
protectors of their families?
Stenson: It's important that we see the role of a father's protection in
a broad sense, not just as physical protection from harm.
When we look at the very important ways a man protects his family, we
can better understand the dire effects in today's families caused by the
either physical or moral
in family life.
So, what are the different forms of this manly protection?
First of all, a family man devotes his manly powers to protect his wife
from anyone who would threaten her. It seems to be a natural instinct
among males, to protect the women in their lives
wife, mother, sisters, daughters
from outsiders' aggression.
For instance, if a man were standing next to his wife in a crowd and
some male stranger turned to speak loudly and angrily toward her, the
husband would instantly rise in rage to her defense. Adrenaline would
rush through his blood, his muscles would tighten and his first impulse
would be to rearrange the aggressor's face.
No self-respecting man would stand by and let anyone treat his wife with
disrespect. He would take swift action to defend her.
Related to this physical protection is another aspect of a man's
protectiveness, one that fathers today often fail to understand. A man
permits no one to threaten or upset his wife
and this includes their own children.
A hugely important part of a father's job is to defend his wife against
their children's rudeness, insolent disobedience and impulsive
aggression. This protection counts most to his wife when the children
under 7 years of age
and later when they enter adolescence. A man will permit no one to
disrespect his wife, including
and even especially
A man also defends his family through what he earns in his work. That
is, he doesn't just provide for his family; he protects them from
poverty. He shelters them, takes care of their needs for a roof, food
and clothing. While Dad has a job, the family feels secure. Even in a
two-income home, it seems, children sense that Dad is the main provider,
and therefore the family's main protector.
Moreover, he protects his children from forces that threaten them here
and now: drugs, bullies, criminals, unjust aggressors of all types and
potential disasters arising from their inexperience and impulsive
such as dashing out into traffic or playing with matches.
Peace, it is said, is the condition we enjoy when other people just
leave us alone. Throughout history, the father of a family would
protectively stand in the doorway of his home and say, as it were, to
the whole world: "Leave us alone. Leave my family alone."
For instance, if a father glanced out his living room window and spotted
a male stranger chatting with his small daughter, coyly beckoning to
her, he would swiftly lunge into defensive action. He'd race out the
door, stride aggressively toward the stranger, then confront the man and
demand to know what he wanted. With muscles taut, he would stand between
his daughter and this potential aggressor, physically shielding her from
Another example: When his teen-age daughter is being picked up for a
date, a father goes out of his way to size up the young man she's going
out with. He wants to meet him
insists on meeting him
to look him in the eye and intuitively size up his intentions and his
worth. A father senses a duty to assess any young male who approaches
his daughter. An unspoken message seems to pass between them: "She's my
daughter. Treat her nicely, kid, or else ..."
But most of all
and this is crucially important
father protects his children by strengthening their judgment and will so
they can later protect themselves. In the lives of his children, he
asserts loving leadership toward responsible, competent adulthood.
It is a father's mission
the challenge that brings out the best in him
to form in his children the powers and attitudes they will need to
succeed in life, to strengthen them so they in turn can later protect
themselves and their own loved ones.
So, in his children's eyes a great father is a lifelong leader and
teacher. His protective, empowering lessons about right and wrong live
on in the inner lives of his children, long after they've left home for
good, and indeed long after he has passed to his eternal reward. A great
father never stops being a father, for he lives on as a great man in the
hearts of his children.
Q: In what other ways do fathers uniquely contribute to family life?
Stenson: The father's contributions to the children's upbringing derive
from his mission of protection, as mentioned above. I'll spell these out
in broad terms.
A father strengthens his children's competence. He forms lifelong
healthy attitudes to work, along with serious habits of work. Without a
father's leadership in this arena, his kids can have trouble grasping
the connection between effort and results, between standards and
If he fails here, his children may never outgrow the dominant attitude
that life is play
and remain stuck in a permanent adolescence.
He teaches respect for rightful authority. He insists that his children
respect and obey him and their mother. His wife sets most of the moral
tone for the household
what's right and wrong in family life
and he enforces it.
Being smart and far-seeing, he knows that when children fail to respect
their parents, they can later clash with all other forms of rightful
authority: teachers, employers, the law, God's law and their own
A father teaches his children ethics and gives final form to their
lifelong conscience. That is, he shows his sons and daughters how to
comport themselves justly and honorably in the world outside the home.
In his children's eyes, he is an expert on fair dealings and personal
integrity in the workplace and community. He shows his kids how their
mother's moral teachings carry over later to life outside the home:
telling the truth, keeping one's word, putting duty first, deferring to
others' rights and feelings.
By his example and correction at home, he shows how responsible adults
respect each others' rights and assert their own.
A father builds healthy self-confidence in children. His presence around
the home as a physically strong man leads his children
to feel safe, securely protected and therefore self-confident.
As a father, he corrects and encourages, and he helps his children to
learn from their mistakes. In this way, he leads his children to form a
realistic sense of their strengths and limitations.
Youngsters who receive this protective fatherly love, along with
self-knowledge and experience with problem-solving at home, eventually
form a lifelong self-confidence.
A father leads his children to adult-level sound judgment and
shrewdness. He helps them to use their brains like responsible adults:
to frame questions and answers logically, to think ahead and foresee
consequences, to assess people's character and values, and to know
malarkey when they see it.
A father provides an attractive example of responsible masculinity. He
acts as a model for his sons' growth into manhood. And he conveys to his
most often unconsciously
the traits they should look for in judging the character of men their
age, especially suitors for marriage.
In countless subtle ways, Dad forms a pattern for manly character in
each of his sons and, indirectly, for the kind of man each daughter will
Q: For what crucial areas in childrearing are fathers best equipped?
Stenson: A man is best equipped to give support and encouragement to his
God-given partner, his wife. When a man treats his wife as the No. 1
person in his life
when he loves, honors and cherishes her, and shows all this
his children are prompted to treat their mother with love and respect
and deep honor.
It seems that the parents' attitudes toward each other form the way the
children honor each of them. When the man treats his wife with honor,
the children honor their mother; when the wife honors her husband, the
children honor their father.
Q: In your work with families, what traits have you noticed in fathers
who have excelled in their role?
Stenson: Men who live as great husbands and fathers enjoy the lifelong
love and deepest respect from their children. They have a unity of life
the welfare of their families
and therefore a peace of mind throughout their lives.
Their powers, their work accomplishments, their friendships with other
men all come together to give their life meaning and a profound
happiness. I have seen men of all different temperaments and backgrounds
succeed in this way.
Q: What are the main obstacles in society that threaten a father's
teaching role? his role as protector?
Stenson: I would say the main obstacle is that men today have never been
taught their role as a father. That is, they've never been given a "job
description" of fatherhood.
This situation has come about gradually over the past several
generations, a lessening of understanding their protective role and what
All too often men have been urged to behave like a second mother to the
children, or just a figure around the house
an older "playmate" to the children.
Most men are ill at ease with this role and rather resent it, but they
have had no alternative role model, especially if they grew up without a
strong father at home. This problem is what I address in my book,
"Father, the Family Protector."
Q: Contraception, the weakening of moral values and cohabitation have
disconnected sex from procreation and "liberated" men from fatherhood,
marriage and responsibility. How can we bring the father back into the
Stenson: We can start by teaching men that their masculine character is
hugely important to their wives and children, and indeed to their own
happiness in life.
Unfortunately, males today are presented with the stark and false choice
of being either a wimp or a predator. They must be led to see that the
choice is really one of being a predator or a protector.
Moreover, they need to see that young people do not grow up when they
can take care of themselves; rather, they really grow up when they can
take care of others
and want to. This is why God has given them their masculine traits,
strengths that lead to lovingly protecting others in their lives,
starting with their family. ZE05121623