On June 18, Americans celebrate Fathers’ Day. All dads who can and do provide for their families and establish peace in their homes should be applauded, because the institution of fatherhood in America is in crisis.
Children rely on their fathers emotionally, spiritually and financially. Research shows infants in the womb are aware of their father’s presence. By early childhood, eighty-five percent of all children who demonstrate behavior disorders come from fatherless homes, as do 90 percent of homeless and runaway children.
According to a 2012 report by the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research, “Individuals from father-absent homes are 279 percent more likely to carry guns and deal drugs than peers living with their fathers.” Drugs, guns, and disadvantaged youths: Co-occurring behavior dictated by the code of the street.
In 2014, 43 percent of US children were living without their fathers. When unloved and misguided children whose fathers (and sometimes mothers) have failed them turn to gang leaders to replace their biological fathers, they are taught to emulate the violence they see in movies, television and on their cell phones. In addition, most gang members come from fatherless or father-absent homes: a distinction that 80 percent of all youth in prison share.
Violence, the new glorified icon, has replaced respect for all life and is so perversely pervasive that it creeps into the lives of innocent families in which fathers are present.
I interviewed three fathers who are responsible men who teach the values of peaceful living to their children, and I asked them if personal and world peace is valuable in their lives. Each said yes.
My second question: Do you think it is a father’s responsibility to teach his children to value peace?
Said Senior Pastor Luscious W. Smith of Friendship Baptist Church in Pasadena: “It is a father’s responsibility to teach life lessons to his children and to actively instill values of peace and morality in them. We should be at peace with God first and then with others. Shaping the next generation should be reflected in everything we do. We should be reflections of God on Earth. After God, comes family.”
Patrick Erlander, an English as a second language (ESL) instructor from Alhambra, stated, “A father should model peaceful behavior on a personal and global level. One cannot place one above the other. When my wife went to help orphaned and diseased Tuaregs in North Africa who were sick and orphaned by war, I showed our three children a map of where she was and told them that she loved those children, too. This assured our children that she was coming back home.”
I asked Sam Oserno, a construction contractor from La Puente, to identify one thing he had taught his child about peace.
“To believe in God,” he said. “If you do, you will be a better person. This is important because children are the people of the future. I also think that peace is valuable in this world because without peace we don’t have a life.”
His 17-year-old son Frank was with him. He will attend Cal State Long Beach in August. I asked him if he thinks a child should contribute to a more peaceful world.
“My father taught me to have self-respect and to respect others,” Frank said. “He told me to follow my dreams, and that I can make the world a more peaceful place by being a role model to help others.”
Responsible fathers do not abandon their children or wives and are not examples of violence, but of respect and peace. They teach their children by example. They usually remain connected to them throughout their lives, and as a result their children are more successful in school and in life. Married fathers and mothers in harmonious relationships have greater opportunities to provide their children with peaceful and stable lives than fatherless children.
On this Father’s Day, remember, you have one biological father, and you cannot, nor may you want to change that. If you are a father now, be an influence that fosters peace in your personal life, in your home and in the world. If you are a teen, the remainder of your life is in front of you. Whatever or whoever you father is or was, be at peace about it and share your peace with others.
Alicia Dhanifu is a former college professor and a Recovery Channel producer, writer and reporter who has authored “Workshops for Better Living” and “Over 50 Fit and Fabulous.” She also wrote and produced the documentary “Belly Dance: A History and an Art,” and co-produced the feature film “Penitentiary” (1979). Visit fitandfundvds.com.