From Patriarch To Patsy


On a more serious note than my wife school post below.

In the most affluent parts of the Western world, a historic transference of power has taken place that is greater than anything achieved by the trade-union movement, the women’s movement or the civil-rights movement — and it hasn’t even been extended the courtesy of being called a movement. Fathers, who enjoyed absolute authority within the household for several millennia, now find themselves at the beck and call of their wives and children. Indeed, most of my male friends are not fathers in any traditional sense at all; they occupy roughly the same status in their households as the help. They don’t guide their children through the moral quandaries of life — they guide them to their extracurricular activities from behind the wheel of a Dodge minivan….

Read the rest, but it surely rings true to me. Add in the fact that modern television with shows that feature doofus dads like “King of Queens,” “According to Jim,” “Everybody Loves Raymond”, etc. and most notably “The Simpsons” where the kids (and mom) make fun of dad at every opportunity and you have a situation where most of today’s dads get little respect and even less real decision-making authority in their family lives.

Here’s another great line.

The poor sucker agreed to take on responsibility for all sorts of menial tasks — tasks that his own father was barely aware of — and received nothing in return. If he was hoping for some gratitude, he was mistaken. According to Mr. Lewis: “Women may smile at a man pushing a baby stroller, but it is with the gentle condescension of a high officer of an army toward a village that surrendered without a fight.”

I have raised three sons, all good solid boys from what I can tell, but the truth is even these good solid boys say things to me that I would have never thought to say to my father.  They all aren’t the same in the way the interact with me, and they certainly aren’t disrespectful all the time (they are good boys like I said), but when they do go down that road the things they say are almost word for word from shows like I noted above.  Or could be torn from some movie that they recently saw with their friends that naturally showcased some smart-ass kids who sound so cool dissing (do they still use this word?) their dad.

I blame this on lots of things besides television and movies, of course.  I blame it on a liberal society that teaches everything but discipline. Try spanking your young child while out in public when they are acting the ass and you’ll see what I mean. When I was growing up, you’d get looks of approval from other adults in the vicinity, but now you get looks of derision and possibly a call to 911.

Kids now don’t have the same respect for their dads because in most cases we aren’t trying to be their dads so much as their buddies. And even if we do try to be the dad we just get overwhelmed by other dads who don’t try at all and a modern society that doesn’t teach children that they are better off being our children than our friends. Kids used to be fear their dads, but now it seems we fear them more than they us.

I don’t mean “fear” as in they are being physically or emotionally abused by some monster dad.  I mean a healthy fear of disappointing a man whose respect and approval they want and need so much that any disapproval on his part hurts them to the bone.

But instead of that many dads today fear losing their kids friendship instead.  We are the ones who quake at the prospect of disapproval.

Ward Cleaver never did that I assure you.  And when he did worry about his boys disapproval it was not because he was afraid he would lose their friendship so much as it was because he was afraid he would lose their respect.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this as I often do (wordy doesn’t do begin to do justice to my writing), but you get the drift. And much of what I have said can apply to moms too, who also get less and less respect from their kids these days.  I don’t think it has as much impact on them though, perhaps because they are more into nurturing and mothering than discipline and in many ways depended on the dad to provide that in raising a good child.

So read the article (and maybe the book it is about), which has as much or more  to do with modern wife-husband and mother-father relationships than just father-children, and see what you think.

Via Dr. Helen, a champion of boys and men if I ever saw one.



  1. I think I know what you’re talking about but … it’s from the standpoint of someone who’s father wasn’t one, and who’s ex-husband couldn’t be bothered to stay in the same state to be a father to his kids. We’ve all gone to hell in a hand basket if you ask me. There are so many reasons – I wouldn’t know where to start.

  2. I know it started a long time ago and, as deplorable as it is with regard to fathers and mothers, it doesn’t stop there. Ask a few teachers. Ask some employers. But…if the families were stronger with moms and dads being moms and dads instead of the kids’ staff–where dad isn’t even chief of staff–the problems in the schools would be far less significant.. That’s my NTBHO.

  3. My wife and I were struck when vacationing in Central America, how much less the generations have the gap we are so familiar with. Music especially was shared. There was not that sense, so pervasive here, of generational rebellion. It’s getting thinner, but it is still easy to spot the respect for elders.

    I’ve been reading a lot about “the 60’s” and tracing the predecessors. I think a great problem was when advertising and marketers started focusing on kids. They became valuable, not for themselves, but for the cash in their hot little hands. It was a match made in some odd perverse heaven. Entitlement, meet lifestyle providers. Generations who grew up in or were first hand observers of those who had, wanted their kids to live sans deprivations. Well, perhaps Americas idea of deprivation needs to look outside our privleged borders. But then Carter got raked on coals saying we are not poor, we know we will have beds and food….of course that seems to be less true than it was then.

    Anyway, there is that countercultural thing. Officer to Brando: “what are you rebelling against?’ Brando to officer: “what have you got?” In other words the perception (thanks movies, thanks liberal profs) is that the job of adolescence is to rebell. Not just question but to rebell, to reject wholesale, the old ways. We laughed, we squirmed, we went along. Dad more than mom because he was the king, the rulemaker, the tough love advocate. Wether he wore the crown well or not he was the designated foe.

    Approval? do we want them to be happy because we give into infantile commercial satisfactions? For the most part thats how it is now. Or do we want them to mature and say “now I get it, Thanks.” very few remain who are willing to fight that countercurrent course.

    I remember recoiling when I read the words of a prominent t.v. leader, to the effect that he was going to help this happen. Deconstructing the familial hierarchy. It sounded so liberating back then to so many. The resuklts are coming in. Results are not always identical with what was promised. Sometimes not even close.

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