Should a Father be His Son's Friend?

June 10, 2014


fifties_dad_lead_gallery.jpg(left, another father & son)

Today is Father's Day

Should a father be his son's friend
or keep him on the straight and narrow?






by Henry Makow Ph.D.

(Revised from June 18, 2011)

I am not the world's greatest father and I don't expect my father to be perfect either.

He overcame many obstacles. His parents were murdered by the Nazis when he was 19. He survived the war, became a physicist and built a new life. He is 89 now. I salute him on Father's Day.

He was always a father, never a friend. I know the view that fathers should not be friends. "It is the job of parents to see that the [societal] barriers hold," W. Cleon Skousen writes in "So You Want to Raise a Boy?" (1958, p.232)

My father saw his role as keeping me "on track."  Since his success was based on higher education, "on track" meant keeping me in school.

I was not allowed to get off the treadmill. Despite the fact I had written a syndicated newspaper column at age 11, he never believed in me, and my good intentions. He always treated me like a loose cannon. I must have given him reason.

After high school, I wanted to work in a mine. Then, I planned to go to an out-of-town university known for its radical leftist professors. (I was a Lefty back then.)

 My father exerted great pressure, including the inducement of the old family car, to make me enroll at once at the local university.  I succumbed and fell into a depression. I only completed three of five courses with poor marks.

My spirit broken, I ended up staying at university, at first as a kind of hospice, finally getting a Ph.D. that I have barely used.

On another occasion, I wanted to use the family cottage as a spiritual retreat, a Thoreau's Walden Pond. Again, no deal. Get your thesis done.


"FRIEND"



I complain he was not my "friend" yet once he was and made a mistake.

When I was eleven-years-old, my friends and I were swiping copies of PLAYBOY magazine from newsstands.

I summoned up all my courage and asked my father for a subscription. He agreed. I papered the inside of my bedroom closet doors with Playmates-of-the-Month. In retrospect, this distorted my perception of women and undermined my future relationships. I believed a woman's beauty and sex appeal were the Holy Grail.

Nevertheless my father's response created a major bond for me. I really dug him for it. I wish now he had taught me that I was making a mistake that would ruin my life for decades.  He was doing his best and was no wiser than I. "Sexual liberation" was all the rage.

So here I am wishing for a better friend, and wishing he had been a better father. 

Now that he is old, he just sits on the balcony or watches TV. He says he isn't bored.  Many old men are crotchety but my dad has never been kinder and sweeter.   Happy Father's Day, dad!


"RAISING BOYS"

Someone said men don't want children because they're not finished being children themselves. That's more true now than ever. We've been re-engineered to be perpetual adolescents, part of the war on gender and family. I was a case of arrested development. I didn't have the knowledge, stability and maturity to devote to marriage and fatherhood.

I left my son's mom, a feminist, when he was four-years-old. "Now, I'll have mom all to myself," he said. (I can't believe Freud was right about anything.)

I moved just a block away and fatherhood consisted of driving him to school, cooking and playing every sport - soccer, football, tennis, baseball, hockey - on our thrice-weekly visits.  When he was six, he almost blew a gasket when I suggested that the bad guys weren't really evil; and his heroes, the Ninja Turtles, were being deceived.

My son is now 26. I have tried to be a friend, to believe in himI wanted him to become a historian. He took a few courses, was bored silly and became a lawyer instead. He is happy with his decision, and so am I.

The baseball player Harmon Killebrew tells this story: "My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard.  Mother would come out and say, "You're tearing up the grass." 

"We're not raising grass," dad replied.  "We're raising boys."

stevew.jpg(l. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak)

In his book, iWoz, Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the personal computer, describes how he was raised in a traditional 1950's family. His mother looked after his emotional needs and his father Jerry, an engineer at Lockheed, supported him intellectually. There was no pressure but his father was always there to nurture and teach.

"My dad's and my relationship was always pretty much about electronics... Dad was always helping me put science projects together...When I was six, he gave me that crystal radio kit I mentioned. It was just a little project where you take a penny, and touch it with some earphones. Sure enough we did that and heard a radio station...It was so darned exciting, I distinctly remember feeling something big had happened, that suddenly I was way ahead--accelerated- above any of the other little kids my age.." (27)

Fathers build men. Fathers change the world.

In the US, one of every three children have no father at home.


----

Related: Why are Dads Afraid to Say No to their Kids?

Makow - Feminism Deprives Girls of Father's Love
--------   "Sensible Son"


First Comment from Marcos - Father of 2 boys

"Fathers, have been given a great gift. No matter what, raise your kid like a prince. I don't mean with royal comforts and privileges, but with the intention of developing a noble man, in character, spirit and intellect. Think about Aristotle and Alexander.

I like the American idea that anyone can be the President. I would expand on it: your kid can become anything.

I suggest you read "What Is a Man?: 3,000 Years of Wisdom on the Art of Manly Virtue." In this book you will find thoughts about what a real man should be. Why should our kids be anything less than those great men in history? Why should they instead drool over Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian and spend their days on Facebook? Even if your son is not successful moneywise, he should  end up with a noble heart and a wise mind.

We forget that in a kid, there are all possibilities opened to a human. At the same time, he is just a kid. Be too harsh, and you may raise a cruel perfectionist. Be too soft, and you end up with a confused and lost young man. There is a place for love and a place for instruction: both are needed.

I still dream often of my father, who passed away many years ago. I wondered many times why, and I think I know now. Fathers are more than real persons to us, they are symbols of our need for acceptance, of a longing for God, of instruction, a symbol of our search of a model for how we deal with life. Without fathers, we feel lost. Eventually, God Himself should fill this position. "

Ephesians 6:4 - Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.


Comments for "Should a Father be His Son's Friend? "

Linda said (June 16, 2013):

Might I add to your title and write it as, Should a Father be His Son's and Daughter's Friend? Never underestimate the father's influence on his daughter.

Often her perception of the ideal male can be enhanced or distorted by the kind of relationship she had with her dad. Or more importantly the kind of relationship her dad had with her mom.

There is a wonderful saying I saw written on a plaque in the home of a couple whose marriage I greatly admire.

It read: The greatest gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother.

Children learn what they live - the old saying tells us. I am sure the above saying is greatly distorted by those men affected by the sixties "Sexual Revolution" that still rages today. I imagine it might even be difficult to interpret because love is so often equated with sex appeal.

Sons and daughters need good, strong, godly fathers who understand the responsibility they have as the heads of their homes. They must lead by example and they must do it lovingly.

The benefit to future generations, for both sons and daughters, is immeasurable.


Rolph said (June 16, 2013):

As a father, grand-father and great-grand-father myself, I know and learned my lessons the 'hard way', lessons NOT taught in our Schools of Higher Learning. In our western nations, fathers have been under attack by anti-Christian, anti-societal elements for a number of decades. They have successfully implemented the destruction of the family by attacking the supposed to be principal headship of a family - the father, they way the Creator intended it.

You are absolutely correct Henry, when you stated that: "Playboy and Playmates in retrospect, distorted your perception of women and undermined my future relationships. I believed a woman's beauty and sex appeal were the Holy Grail.

Like you, I fell for it in my youth. But I like to add, together with the educational and entertainment industry, and supported
political process, this was the primary cause of western societies downfall and the reason, why "Father knows best" became extinct, and the end results are self-evident as we see today.

Have a Happy Fathers Day.


Olivia said (June 16, 2013):

The only thing a son needs from his father is his approval, if he does not get it he is pretty much under a dark cloud for the rest of his life. No, father should not be friends.


Asim said (June 16, 2013):

Loved your article on fatherhood. I am too, a father, to a beautiful 6 year old boy, Haris. I love him like crazy and to this day, have never stopped telling him how much I love him. My wife, however, scolds me for 'spoiling him' and being more of an 'older brother' to him than a dad. I don't see anything wrong with this-I discipline him when need be and have observed that fathers in general are lacking in showing their physical love toward their sons with detrimental effect I believe. My father was devoid of any display of physical love but was swift in condemnation and rebuke. This left me suffering from a great sense of anxiety and loss of any real sense of identity.

Marcos put it so beautifully when he said that God eventually takes the place of a failed father. I attest to that 150%. One should never ever underestimate the power of a fathers love toward his children, and the craving that children yearn for such love, especially boys.


Hector [reply to woman reader] said (June 16, 2013):

For a woman who describes herself as someone of "High intelligence" you seem very obtuse and close minded to even understand the dynamics behind man -woman relationships. Men and women are not equals (nevertheless the law must ensure they are treated equal) and whether you like it or not, these differences are so powerful that when the gender polarity is altered (ie. nowadays government efforts around the world are focused on neutering men and empowering women), gender relations become conflictive and misery spreads everywhere as a result of it.

Whether you like it Hypergamy (women's desire for a better than her partner) is real and so far recent research has proven that women need someone they can look up to if said union or even attraction is possible. In ancient times, being a man conferred almost immediately a greater status in reference to a woman and thus many men didn´t have to jump obstacles in order to keep their marriage stable. Nowadays it is not possible and everyone has to compete in the relationships free market described by Houllebeque (albeit this market has been distorted by feminism).

Even you yourself admitted (albeit tacitly) than you would need someone equally brilliant or even smarter than you, to keep you on your heels (I may add this person would have to be of greater status economically, socially or at least with a manly physique if he will keep your interest). That in itself disproves all the assertions you made.


JG said (June 16, 2013):

The stories we don't hear about are the Fathers who sacrificed for their family and stayed married for the sake of their children regardless of how rough the road was in their marriage. This was my Father. If he was concerned about himself first he would have "walked" on us.

There is no greater love a parent can give than to dedicate his life for his family. This has nothing to do with a real big house or fancy cars or a Father that earns a huge salary. God blessed me tremendously when he gave me the Father I once had.


Len said (June 15, 2013):

Excellent and honest thoughts on the tremendous issue of fathers and sons, Henry. Here is an article that I think throws further light on this topic from the perspective on one of the great film Directors of the 20th and 21st Centuries: I think you and your readers will enjoy it:

http://moviemezzanine.com/the-terrence-malick-retrospective-the-tree-of-life/


Nelson said (June 29, 2011):

The answer is simple. And it worked terrifically well for my children. When they were boys, I was first their father and their friend. Now that they are men, it has reversed, I am first their friend and their father. You see. It is really very simple.
My boys and now men. They have become very emotionally, socially, financially very very very successful. I have lunch with them at least once a week, and I have dinner with them as well once a week. And on top of that we go for walks once and sometimes twice a week. They and my brother are my best friends. And I am their father.


John said (June 21, 2011):


Thank you for your very and thought provoking website. Here is the URL for an article by William Grigg I think you will find supportive of your own position on the attack on manhood: http://freedominourtime.blogspot.com/. The Article is titled, "When the State Breaks a Man".


Peter said (June 20, 2011):

Raising kids requires discipline. Discipline doesn't grow on trees. It is imposed. If not by the parents during the growing years, then later by the judicial system.

Imposing discipline is not compatible with friendship. Discipline is still a fathers first duty. And if not overdone, there can be a healthy relationship that borders on friendship between father and son. I guess that is the best we can hope for. The idea that we can only be friends and impose no discipline is a pipe dream of those who overdid it and now feel sorry.


Chris said (June 19, 2011):

I too had a father that was raised to believe that you couldn't be a friend to your child, otherwise they would not respect you. That is pure hogwash.

I do not demand respect from my children, I strive through my actions to earn it. The way I look at it, unless the wise men showed up at the hospital to herald your entrance into this world, respect is not your birth right.

I try to treat my children the way I would have liked to have been treated at their ages. They are not spoiled, even if I could afford to spoil them, I would not because the real world will not bend over backwards for them when they are eventually out on their own. I am constantly told that my children are well behaved and adorable, and I give thanks to God that he hand-selected the best available angels to send here on their respective birthdays.

By the way, when my older brother was going through a 3 year painful divorce, who was the last family member to find out? My father, of course.

If your child does not think of you as a friend because you never acted like one, you only have yourself to blame if they don't confide in you when the chips are down.


Christine said (June 19, 2011):

With regard to the question of whether a father should be a friend or not: your friends did not help create you. You don't owe your existence to your friends, you owe it to your father and mother. In that sense, we all owe our parents a debt we can never repay, and at a minimum, we owe them our love and respect.

Of course, a father should be friendly towards his children. However, they can never be friends as they are with their peers because their father is not their peer. His role should be as a superior because he helped give them only what God and the child's mother gave: the gift of life. Children want and desperately need parents to be their moral guides, and to be a source of moral strength to them.

With regard to purity: St. Alphonsus teaches us that children are a trust, not a gift, from God, and something that parents will have to give a strict accounting for when they die. Parents should safeguard the purity of their children so that they do not harm themselves and others by leading a bad life.

Nurturing a child's purity is like a mother bird protecting her little one until it can fly. Children don't understand the difference between right and wrong, and it sounds like your father was confused on this subject as well. Perhaps his parents didn't teach him properly, either.

It is the role of the father and mother to help form their child's character properly, and this cannot be done by reading filth. We have done a great wrong to ourselves and society by decriminalizing filth. Legalizing it makes it seem okay because the law is a teacher. It is not okay! The Church Fathers taught that more souls go to Hell for sins of the flesh than for any other reason. It is therefore better to read spiritual books that help us to be good than read filth that teaches us to be bad and go to Hell.


Joshua said (June 19, 2011):

I think the question should not be “friend or father,” but “should fathers be friendly?”

Absolutely. A father should love his children in an externally measurable and visible way, not just some secret emotion hidden away in his heart that rarely finds expression.

Friendship never means abdicating responsibility; it’s a father’s responsibility to raise up his children in good character, and good character includes love for yourself and those around you. Even Jesus said, “Love your neighbor while you love yourself, and to the same degree.” The two are not separable.


My vote is to toss the Hegelian dialectic hogwash of “father or friend” in the trash and be friendly fathers.


Alan said (June 19, 2011):

From one Dad to another, Happy Fathers Day!

Thanks for sharing your story about your relationship with your son,dad and x wife, while you admitted your short comings and disappointments; your repentance has allowed you to teach men allover the world to stand up and be real men. Like you, I take a stand and get along with my wife, two girls and three boys because family is more important than self and my boys especially, need me to be there for them. My middle son is 17 today and I remember the doctor letting me deliver him from my wife and so today is a double blessing for me.

Have a GREAT Fathers Day,


MS said (June 19, 2011):

Hello, and happy fathers day , Mr. Makow... I would first like to start off with a kind wink and a nod,, in the Christian sense... I too had a messed up relation with my father.. He also did not believe in me , although he was on the fence between friend and father, he was more father than friend,. he would often whip me, when I just needed kindness and guidance . although, he taught me never to snitch on a friend, and would slap me if I tried to tell on a friend to get MYSELF out of a situation we we're BOTH guilty of. , He also taught me that Patience is a Virtue while I was fishing. I know that he wanted to be a friend, more than a father,,, but the old way of thinking did not allow him... he had to be Father more than friend (a pillar in the community- though now i know this is Freemason lingo- though at the time he did not).. ,, in fact , one time I was on a job with him , and things weren't going right for him so he took it out on me, and I remember thinking, ?do I even know this person? it was very weird. All I know now, is that my suun-Izaiah, (named in memory of the prophet) will be the BEST FRIEND i have ever had,, and I will try to be the best TEACHER OF TRUTH I can be..


Victoria said (June 19, 2011):

My answer would be 'no, no, no - a thousand times, no', at least, not until a son has matured enough to break free of his father and become his own man.

My family has been destroyed, mostly by a man who refused to accept his responsibilities as a father and as a husband (and yes, I am far from guiltless in the situation since my efforts to save the marriage were directed towards trying to change him rather than removing myself from the situation; but then, it is often much more difficult for a woman to leave her family than for a man). Even now, with his children in their 20's he refuses to play the role he chose in becoming a father, preferring to be his children's (a daughter and two sons) 'buddy' and 'cool' in the knowledge of insignificant things than to be a moral compass for his family.

A few months ago, my younger son said to me, "I have a father who wants to be my friend and I hate it". It seems to me that your father got it 'right' in following the guidelines of the time and being your father and not your friend. Friends can be 'a dime a dozen' but you only have one father. As with most things these days, and unlike in the past when family and society reinforced the expected performance of our roles, we now have to make our own conscious choices about how we choose to live our lives. We forget that, 'with great power comes great responsibility'.

In keeping with this theme of the modern father's tendency to play the part of a friend, rather than a father, attached is an article from 'The Times' of London from sometime last year that my son sent to me:


Mujisa said (June 19, 2011):

as a Christian we are taught in Romans 8:28 that 'we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [His] purpose.' That emphasis is mine but how important is that emphasis! Looking back at your life and your search for meaning would you ever have reached the powerful conclusion that 'life has inherent meaning' if you had not at first begun your search? And the start of your search begins with the parents God gave you, remember, 'all things work together for good'.

You may feel that you are not using your degree but I believe this is a lie of the devil, he is the greatest trickster and liar. The sheer number of people such as myself that you have directed away from the traps and illusions of our current society by your articles and analysis of theologies, discourse and philosophies is a testament to your father, your decisions and 'mistakes'. They led you here, to where you are now, reading my email and I pray receiving the peace of Jesus that the world cannot give. Our God is good, rest on His promise that 'all things work together for good to them that love God'.


Dan said (June 19, 2011):

Father's didn't know any better than to let sons have Playboy back then. They seemed to think it would make boys mature faster. Who knew the insidious psychological effect of giving pubescent boys "visual crack"photos of unattainable young adult females? HEFNER, that's who. I remember everybody thought Playboy made you more mature, when it did the opposite for reasons I won't detail here. Suffice it to say we know now that 'mature' (sex) material shouldn't be given to boys or girls.

It's my understanding that before the world wars boys anywhere were self sufficient men by age 18. Families were large; fathers had little free time for all of them. When father came home the mother usually presented him with a list of sons' errors to be addressed before dad could relax for dinner. No wonder men were stern.

Happy Father's Day!


Henry Makow received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto in 1982. He welcomes your comments at