Each month as I sit down to write my newsletter, I begin by thinking about what’s happening for families in the month ahead. Of course, Father’s Day jumped right out at me. What do I have to say to this parenting community about dads?
My first thought is how much fatherhood has changed in the 20 years that I have been a parent educator. Dads are really starting to find their voice and create their own community, which is amazing. I personally enjoy the articles on fatherly.com. The ideas are fresh and offer a unique perspective. I suggest you check them out!
I also think that the topic of gender, and raising boys in the #MeToo generation, has been on a lot of parents’ minds. My favorite go-to Adlerian for raising boys is Barry MacDonald of www.mentoringboys.com.
So, the question I am pondering this month is; what role do dads plays in raising boys who are respectful to women rather than acting entitled? How can dads raise their boys to be moral men who see sexual relationships as acts of consensual intimacy instead of something they are owed? As an act of mutual pleasure, not domination and power?
Adler spoke of equality between the sexes at the turn of the century, which was long before society was ready to accept his message. He argued with Sigmund Freud about his notion of penis envy. Adler’s position was that women didn’t want to have a penis or be male, but rather, that women wanted the same power and privilege that men were afforded in society. Adler’s work was aimed at seeking out social equality in all relationships, and in sharing power in appropriate ways. For over 100 years we have been improving the balance of power, but we clearly still have a long way to go!
And so, dads are very import role models to their boys. They demonstrate every day, in a million nuanced mannerisms, what it means to be a man and how men relate to and treat the opposite gender. They especially watch as dad interacts with their mother – or, partner if you are in a same sex marriage.
does your marriage reflect a respectful, socially equal, power sharing model? Or is someone stifled, subservient or one-downed?
I am sure your immediate response will be “of course we are on an equal ground with one another!”. But, reflect on the last time you were making a large purchase decision that you disagreed on. Who’s more likely to make the final decision? Does one person usually win in a fight? Remember also that power can also be passive. One might have all the bravado, but the other might quietly run the show.
Furthermore, besides working towards respectful relationships in the marriage, dads can also educate their boys on the greater cultural messages that degrade women and elevate men. When reading books or watching movies and commercials, pay attention to how men and women are depicted differently. Point this out. Ask your sons about their own thoughts on such things as equal pay for equal work. Ask them why some careers seem to be dominated by males and whether or not they think that’s fair.
Parents can help ensure their sons don’t develop an “I am the centre of the universe and others are here to service me and ensure my hedonistic happiness” attitude. Instead, guide the child towards constructive social living to safeguard against a feeling of entitlement.
Adler called this the “Iron Clad Logic of Social Living”. What he meant by this was that when you live with other people you are expected to give yourself to others. Do not take advantage of others or cause a burden to others. Do your part to contribute and be helpful too. You are not above others. This fundamental idea teaches children “the give and take” of living together and can be expressed in our important intimate relationships with one another.
So, as we move through June, keep an eye on how power is shared in your home. Celebrate all the dads who are showing up more in their fatherly role, and how society is indeed moving towards more gender equality! Adler would be proud.
Happy Father’s Day!