Successful Fathers: The Subtle but Powerful Ways Fathers Mold Their Children's Characters by James B. Stenson
(New York: Scepter, 1989), 66
- "The greatest challenge a man can face, by far, is that of raising his children well." (9)
- falling short as a father is rarely intentional but comes through unwitting neglect
- "Raising children who have strong character is an essentially mysterious process."
- character = virtue
- bosh: a great word as an alternative to "BS"
- "Character is what you have left over if you go broke" (13)
It Needn't Be Traumatic
- Adolescents look to their father to give final form to their conscience (21)
The "Natural" Family
The features of the historic, universal, "natural" family:
- The home was essentially a small business.
- The children played a low-level but necessary part in this enterprise.
- As children grew, they would take on increased levels of responsibility.
- Because cash and materials were scarce, everyone in the family had to wait for things, and to earn them.
- Living directly or indirectly off the land taught some truths about life: Some things have to be earned, some things can't be hurried, some things are inherently out of anyone's control.
- Practically every family had other adults aside from mother and father associated with it.
- Conversation and reading were the principal ways in which young people learned about adult life and the whole world outside the family (they lived the life of the mind).
- Parents did not think overmuch about the children's eventual careers. Rather they thought in terms of their children's future character.
- Families were united in prayer and religious conviction.
- Since so much of life was perilous and essentially out of control the whole family was conscious of their dependence on God.
Western Middle-Class Families Today
The features of a typical western middle-class family today:
- Middle-class children today almost never see their father work.
- The home itself has become a place of play rather than work.
- Conversation with the father and other adults is minimal.
- Older children and adolescents today function as consumers, not producers.
- Adult society, outside the family, also fails to make responsible demands of older children and adolescents.
- If everything important is done for children, then how much do they really learn about adult life or themselves?
- Television and the other entertainment media have become the principal means by which children form concepts of adult life.
- The practice of religion is seldom a significant part of family life.
- Wealth gives us the illusion that we have life under control
Successful Fathers Today
The features of a successful father:
- "A great many fathers think they are adequately filling their fatherly role by simply providing for their family's comfort and then sharing in it. They're wrong." (50)
- Successful fathers have a sense of supportive partnership with their wives.
- show appreciation for their wife in front of the children, especially since she often won't receive that appreciation elsewhere
- They think long-term about their children's future character as grown-up men and women.
- see yourself as raising adults, not children
- As a consequence of this vision, they frequently talk with their wives about the children's character strengths and weaknesses.
- They frequently discuss things with their children.
- They listen to their children.
- They keep television-watching to a minimum
- They see discipline not as punishment but as a means of building the children's self-control. "No" is a loving word.
- They are confident of their authority, and not afraid of being temporarily unpopular.
- They have a number of close friends.
- They have a deep and active religious faith.
- A lifelong habit of prayer is the greatest thing they can teach their children
- They teach their children to be poor in spirit.
- work alongside children at home
- sparing in allowances
- make children wait for things and earn them
- give time and money to the needy
- don't fill the home with gadgets
- budget and save for the future
- They always put their family's welfare ahead of their jobs.
- parents have only one chance to raise their children right