Sunday is Father’s Day and time to acknowledge the role that fathers play in our boys’ lives.

Our family is spread far and wide with a daughter and two grandchildren in Pretoria; a son in the UK; a son in Melbourne and a son plus two grandchildren in New Zealand. Keeping in touch is essential and fortunately with today’s technology we can do so easily be it through viber/whatsapp/facetime etc. We are truly blessed with the children and grandchildren that we have in our lives.

College plays a key role in educating boys and we are aware of the significant role that men play as role models in the lives of our boys at Maritzburg College.
Author of ‘He’ll be ok: Growing gorgeous boys into good men’, social commentator and co-ordinator of the well-known ‘Good Man Project’ Celia Lashlie says, “If adolescent boys could tell their mothers one thing, what would it be? Chill out and stop asking so many questions”.

Boys want their mothers to understand they know she’s there, that they know she cares and that they will talk to her if something big happens in their lives, but they also need some space from her on their journey to manhood.

That’s not to say our young men should be left to their own devices. Quite the contrary, says Ms Lashlie. What they do need is a lot less mollycoddling from mum and significantly more time spent with the good men in their lives. A former prison guard in male prisons, Celia is no stranger to the devastating consequences facing too many young men, for whom prison is a rite of passage, a place where they go to prove they are men.

The validity of being male appears to have been undermined. This is seen in male suicide rates, imprisonment rates and the road toll. “A theme that emerged very quickly during my visits to the schools was that a great many mothers are over-involved in their sons’ lives, while many students said they lack a real relationship with their father. We witnessed the importance of mothers stepping back and fathers becoming more involved at this critical stage in their sons’ development.”

She says mothers should never interfere in the relationship a boy has with his father, no matter what she thinks of him. “Regardless of who their dad is, there is a tremendous urge in boys to want to know him, no matter how bad the news is”. The mother has to take a deep breath, step back and let them have that relationship. “If a boy doesn’t find out who dad is at age 15, warts and all, he will still be looking at 55, with a string of broken relationships behind him.”

What is the reality these days? There is no question that fathers do play an important part in their children's lives; that the majority of studies affirm that an involved father can play a crucial role particularly in the cognitive, behavioural and general health and well-being areas of a child's life; that having a positive male role model helps an adolescent boy develop positive gender-role characteristics; that adolescent girls are more likely to form positive opinions of men and are better able to relate to them when fathered by an involved father; that it is generally accepted, under most circumstances, a father's presence and involvement can be as crucial to a child's healthy development as is the mother's; and that experiencing validation of their importance in the general parenting literature has made fathers much more conscious of their value and, in turn, leads to their greater desire to be involved.

But there is still a wide gap between research results and the true acceptance of the value of fathers, with many fathers expressing the feeling that they continue to be second-class citizens in the world of their children. Books, magazines and morning television shows are filled with information about and for mothers and mothering. How many comparable ones have you seen about fathers? It's only recently that domestic courts, recognizing the research on parenting and fathers, have moved to greater equal child custody decrees.

Fathers who want to become more actively involved in their children's lives often hit barriers from employers, the media and even their wives who may feel threatened by a child calling for "daddy" instead of "mommy". “

At College we also deal with families with issues relating to the absent father, the alienated father and the divorced father.
There is no doubt as far as our boys are concerned that the role of their father is significant.

I wish to thank all the fathers out there for making a difference in their son’s lives on a daily basis and to those who are not fathers, but significant male role models such as male teachers, coaches, step-fathers and guardians.
Research also indicates that boys want you to be the hero in their lives even if you aren’t and also to have a sense of humour – to laugh more often. Please try and do so.

Your sons/boys do appreciate what you do for them even if they don’t always show it.
For the sons out there – if you haven’t thanked your dad for what he does for you, please do.

I would strongly recommend that all parents watch the following video on Youtube where Celia is interviewed on TV about her book “He’ll be ok” and her “Good Man Project”.

Enjoy Father’s Day on Sunday and please ensure that you spend time together if not on Sunday during the July holidays.


Chris Luman