Protector of Life

by James B. Stenson

So how does a man protect his children long-term? What sort of lifelong strengths does a smart, effective father teach?

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• 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 achievement. If he fails here, his children may never outgrow the dominant attitude of childhood -- that life is play -- and remain stuck in a permanent adolescence. This can later destroy them, their careers, and their families.

• 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 conscience.

• 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 (daughters especially) 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 daughters (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 someday marry. This may explain why great fathers so often get along well with their sons-in-law.