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Are Christians the Progressives?

parent, child

The Christian church has long supported marriage, an intact family, and father involvement. Yet we have called it "progressive" to focus on women's freedom to have children without being married, or to be the primary parent after divorce. And currently, 53% of women under 30 who have children, do so without being married.

In the past eleven years, as I have researched The Boy Crisis, I have found that children with minimal or no father involvement—and especially boys—are much more likely to suffer in more than seventy ways. Even if a mom has a child while living with a man, but is not married, 40% of these children rarely see their dad after the age of three. If "progressive" is defined as what benefits the children, then the Christian church has been the progressive force.

Dad-deprivation was the greatest predictor of a boy becoming addicted to drugs, or committing suicide. Dad-deprived boys are much more likely to drink excessively, be bullies, drop out of school, be alienated, and rudderless.  The result? Our prisons are centers for dad-deprived boys and men. In contrast, boys who are dad-enriched do better in school even when they come from poorer areas; they have less ADHD and more empathy.

Dad-deprived boys hurt. And boys who hurt, hurt us. Since 1948, 26 out of 28 of the deadliest mass shootings (between 8 and 58 killed) were marked by dad-deprivation. And, of course, dad-deprivation plagued Nikolas Cruz of the Parkland shooting. As it did Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook), Elliott Rodgers (UC Santa Barbara), and Dylan Roof (Charleston Church).

Dad-deprivation doesn't just hurt us via mass shootings. ISIS recruits are almost all dad-deprived—not only the boys, but also the girls.

Exactly what do dads do that leads to children benefitting so much? Dad-style parenting differs from mom-style in about ten different ways.

Take roughhousing. Although many mothers just see a roughhousing dad as one more child she has to monitor, few dads know that roughhousing helps children distinguish between being assertive and aggressive. And rough-housing creates a father-child bond, which allows the dad to enforce boundaries ("OK, no more roughhousing until you've finished your homework") without the children becoming resentful or rebellious.

Boundary enforcement is pivotal. Both dads and moms set boundaries similarly (e.g., "you can't have your ice cream until you finish your peas"). And kids test boundaries with both parents. But when the child tries to persuade mom to have the ice cream before she or he finishes the peas, mom is more likely to think, "I'm not going to waste these few precious moments arguing about a few peas." Dad is more likely to say, "you know the deal—finish the peas, then the ice cream."

Enforced boundaries—requiring the child to focus on what she or he needs to do (finish the peas) before he or she gets what she wants (ice cream) develops postponed gratification. A boy without postponed gratification often slides down a slippery slope:

--He gets too distracted to finish homework; thus

--He fails in school, and feels less respect from friends, teachers and parents;

--He feels ashamed of himself, depressed, and "escapes" via addiction to drugs, video games or porn;

--In worst case scenarios, he commits suicide, or, angry at being invisible and unappreciated at school, shoots the people to whom he was invisible.

The dad-mom boundary-setting versus boundary-enforcement gap manifests itself in many ways. Thirty percent of children living only or primarily with their mom had problems with concentration (e.g., ADHD), versus 15 percent who live with their dads.

Children who do especially well have parents who engage in checks-and-balance parenting: respecting the positive contributions of each parent's style, and communicating non-defensively as they apply both parenting styles to each situation that arises in their children's lives.

Although our sons are damaged even more than our daughters by the loss of family or father, every boy who is a failure to launch leaves a woman without a man who is worthy of her love.

When it comes to men and women, we are all in the same family boat. Whenever only one sex wins, both sexes lose.

Sometimes what "progressives" call progressive is not progressive. Sometimes what evolves over thousands of years in the past is what is best for our future. In these respects, perhaps the real progressives are Christians.

Warren Farrell, Ph.D. is the author of books published in twenty languages, including Why Men Are the Way they Are, and Father and Child Reunion. He was selected by The Financial Times of London as one of the world's top 100 Thought Leaders. He is the only man ever elected three times to the Board of the National Organization for Women in New York City. This article is adapted from his 2018 book, The Boy Crisis (co-authored with John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus).

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