Rob Jenkins - 06/21/09
We must raise boys to become good fathers

I've complained before about the short shrift fathers get in the popular media. I don't even know what a shrift is, but you can bet that if Hollywood is involved, fathers will get a short one.

Think about your typical sitcom dad. At best, he's a lovable doofus; at worst, he's merely a doofus.

But that's not what I really wanted to write about. Instead, I'd like to acknowledge that we fathers are, to some extent, responsible for reinforcing those negative stereotypes, inasmuch as we've abdicated our responsibilities as bread-winners and child-rearers.

More to the point, if we're ever going to get beyond the doofus image, we've got to do a better job of raising our sons to become the husbands and fathers we wish we were.

We can start by making sure they learn to treat women with respect - even those women who don't particularly want to be treated with respect. That means helping them avoid pornography by, if necessary, taking their computers out of their rooms, canceling our subscriptions to Sports Illustrated, and putting parental locks on all cable channels except Nickelodean and the Food Network.

That's because pornography is acid on a boy's soul. It's at least as addictive as cocaine or gambling, and countless studies have shown that young men who become hooked on porn have great difficulty establishing normal, healthy relationships with actual women.

Teaching our sons how to treat women also means setting the example, by how we treat their mothers and sisters and any other women with whom we happen to come into contact. I'm assuming most of us do not come into contact with Nancy Pelosi.

Another thing we need to teach our young men is how to work. Unfortunately, our comfortable suburban existences don't offer the opportunities for back-breaking manual labor that most of us encountered growing up. Personally, I didn't realize my home wasn't a prison farm until I was 15.

If we're creative, however, we can at least approximate that environment for our sons. There should always be something for them to do around the house, in the yard, or in the community: dishes to wash, laundry to fold, grass to cut, gardens to tend, projects to tackle, service to render.

Finally, we must teach our sons responsibility by holding them accountable for their actions. One of the best ways to do this, I'm convinced, is to create a realistic system of rewards and punishments.

For instance, how about not letting them drive unless they're fulfilling their obligations: keeping their grades up, doing their chores, staying out of trouble. If you don't think that's realistic, try not doing your job and see how long you have a car.

Just be warned that if you do all this, your son will probably think you're a doofus. But maybe he won't grow up to be one himself.