Feeling the Pain of a Fatherless Generation: Angry Boys

A few months ago, a friend of mine bought me a copy of Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story, by John Sowers. In Allendale, where 70% of households do not include a married couple, this book is particularly relevant.

I recently finished the first part of the book, which Sowers wants to help the reader “connect with the story. . . . that you will feel the emotion — the rejection, the raw anger, and the haunting shame, the themes so deeply woven into this story.” He accomplished this goal in me. Parts of the book left me shaking my head in near-disbelief, and parts just left me disturbed and troubled.

Even more, this book provided great answers and support to a couple of topics that I wrote about last year, that of Angry Kids and 3 Basic Problems in Allendale. In the former post, I knew that kids were angry, but I couldn’t figure out why. In the latter, I supposed that teenage pregnancy was related to disconnected dads.

In his book, Sowers makes a great case that being fatherless has a strong and direct connection with anger (especially in boys) and teenage pregnancy.

A Fatherless Rage

While we see that many children and teenagers exhibit extreme anger, we particularly notice it in boys. Boys, more than girls, miss out on learning to control their emotions. All children have to be taught emotional self-control, but when you couple that with the rejection and abandonment from your own father, these feelings become nearly uncontrollable. And science indicates that many times, these boys just can’t help it.

Like a runaway nuclear reaction, a long-term meltdown ensues. Sometimes the ensuing damage is on the boy himself; and, unfortunately, most of the time the damage (physical or emotional) is inflicted on others.

The fall-out is not temporary or intermittent. A pattern of pain results from the child’s feelings of rejection. “Distrustful of authority, fatherless boys leave behind a wake of failed jobs and failed relationships.” The pattern goes on and on.

As an extreme — but not uncommon — example, fatherless boys turn to gangs for acceptance, support, and unity. As a former gang members says, “The common thread throughout all of these conversations, throughout our communities, seems to be, for the most part, the absence of a father, a male figure, a father figure in the home.”

More to This Story

Some boys, in the face of fatherlessness, are filled with anger, leading to self- or others-directed destruction. But I think there is an opposite end to the same spectrum. Instead of becoming an angry bully, a boy may turn to passive withdrawal.

Men are created to be leaders, and to have responsibility. I’m not saying that girls cannot be leaders or should not have responsibility, but the core of manhood — all men — involves being a leader in their families, in their careers, and in their communities. A society that doesn’t have men bearing responsibilities is a society that is on the path to devastation, or it has already arrived there.

Without a father, who is going to teach a boy what it means to provide for his family? Who is going to model what it means to protect others, instead of ignoring (at best) or abusing (at worst)? Who is going to challenge a boy to “man up” and be a blessing to others, instead of being a consumer?

In the absence of men and male mentors, moms and grandmothers and aunts have stepped up to do this. But I am convinced that no one can teach and model true masculinity like another man.

What Is Needed?

We need to reach young boys, and teach them about what it means to be a real man. Yes, there is a pain of fatherlessness for girls as well, the pain of Forgotten Fairy Tales. We need to help girls, too. But I think if we can get more boys on the right track, the girls will follow.

Here are 3 things that I think can help us address the fatherlessness we see in Allendale:

  1. Male Mentors.  We need male mentors in the schools. I’d love to see 20 men in each elementary school (and then more in the middle and high schools), coming in a couple of times per month. They could have lunch with a specific child or a specific class, or they could help during reading and math times. Want to learn more? Read about this Gameplan for Poverty.
  2. A Language for Manhood. I am thinking about how we can introduce the material from Men’s Roundtable in Allendale. If we want to give boys a vision for authentic manhood, we need to have a language for where we are going. Perhaps this will be a ministry that we could run through some churches.
  3. Activities.   This past week we ran a soccer camp for boys and girls, over spring break. Due to the limited number of volunteers, we had to limit the number of students who could attend. But kids (especially boys, andboys with issues of emotional self-control) need an outlet. There are some activities for boys, but these are limited in number and in availability (including transportation and fees). Is there a way to encourage more activities, which also would require more male coaches and leaders?

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21 responses to “Feeling the Pain of a Fatherless Generation: Angry Boys”

  1. Bill Moore says :

    My Dad left home when I was 21. He passed away 2 years later. Even as an adult there was and continues to be, a huge hole in my life…Don’t kid yourself even grown men need their Fathers.

  2. Joffre The Giant says :

    Reblogged this on Joffre The Giant and commented:
    In Allendale, South Carolina, 70% of households do not include a married couple. Fatherless boys either join gangs or become extremely passive. What solutions are there?

  3. DD. says :

    Fatherless and an Abusive Mother at 5yrs old, i did not head to gangs, take drugs or get into other related issues. As an Adult though, small matters, arguments with the kids or Wife can easily turn more serious. effecting the relationship of the kids and wife. IT REALLY MATTERS>>

    • joeyespinosa says :

      Yes, I didn’t intend to imply (and neither does John Sowers) that all fatherless kids wind up in gangs; it’s just that it’s much more common. I would say that the bigger issue is that there is no one how to teach a boy how to be a real man, a man who contributes instead of destroys or consumes.

  4. Karen Heath Allen says :

    I love this Joey, you are so right. When these boys are angry and frustrated the response is too often to label them as bad, ADHD, oppositional or defiant when so many of them really need discipline, compassion, love and encouragement.

    • joeyespinosa says :

      Yes! And I read that boys, especially, need to be taught to control their emotions when they are between 18-36 months old (at least that’s when it must start). Too often, this window of opportunity is missed, and then it gets more and more difficult as they get older, which means that that loving guidance is more likely to be neglected.

    • Remixed says :

      The thing is, you give someone too much “love and compassion” they’ll be labeled as spoiled or one who gets their way all the time. It’s like nobody wins.

      • joeyespinosa says :

        I would think that depends on what you mean by “love and compassion.” Sometimes “love and compassion” means extra attention and a warm hug. And sometimes it means a (metaphorical) kick in the butt. Depends on the context, and the individual child.

  5. Theresa Williams says :

    I have three fatherless sons . I know this story all to well , the half have not even been told what lies in the heart of a fatherless man . we need help were do we get the help that they need

    • joeyespinosa says :

      I am sorry to hear your story, and the story of your children. Perhaps there are men in the schools, recreation department (coaches), or local churches who can help your sons.

      I’m not sure I can help, but please feel free to contact me (look for me email on the Contact page), and I will do what I can to suggest resources.

  6. Scully Speaks says :

    Yikes, anger in young boys :/ dang…so much pain. It’s such a tough thing, Allendale is blessed to have people like you trying to help!!!

  7. reubenkerrlostsonsreturning says :

    This is an excellent excellent post Joey. Just saw the heading in the contents and went for it! I write a lot about fatherlessness in my posts. From the standing of someone who grew up as an orphan in the 60,70s in the care system. Looking forward to more. Be blessed – Reuben

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