Dear Nancy: I am a single mother with four children, all boys, ages 14, 12, eight, and six. I need counsel on how to raise them properly without a father. They are all good-looking boys, popular at school, and obey me quite well. I want to head off trouble if I can. Do you have any advice for me?
Dear Single Mother: When God instituted the family, He meant it to have two parents—a mother and a father. Today we live in a society that reaps the results of sin. When a family breaks up, the children suffer. Research confirms that boys experience extreme stresses when fathers are absent. Let’s take a brief look at some of the findings.
Researchers in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth tracked 6,403 boys for 20 years. They found that sons of single mothers are at greater risk for violence. Whether or not the mother received child support made no difference to the child’s outcome. The key factor was the absence of the father. Surprisingly, boys who lived with their single fathers were no more likely to commit crimes than were boys from intact families. The reason is probably that fathers who don’t marry but who commit themselves to raise their children are uniquely devoted.
The research also says that a new husband/stepfather won’t solve the problem. In fact, it confirms that this often makes things worse for boys. According to this study, males living in step-parent families were almost three times more likely to face prison than those from intact families. Blending families produces some unique stresses. It is typical for a child to see the new parent as a usurper. Their loyalty to the absent parent can be intense. Such children rarely welcome a new parent.
There is no way you as a woman can model for your boys an endless number of male tasks—things like shaving, or thinking, or talking like a man. Therefore, it is your task as a single mother to direct your boys to a father substitute. It might be a youth group with a male leader, a prayer group, a Bible Study class, or a soccer team. Check the library for biographies on great men. Rent videos that focus on the accomplishments of males with integrity. Read Bringing Up Boys and subscribe to Focus on the Family’s magazine for single parents.
As a single mom, you can provide a successful environment for your boys. Doing so will take time, energy, and creativity, but so does everything else worth pursuing in this life. You can do it. Whether you do so depends on your priorities. Success in relating to your boys positively is directly correlated with positive feelings you have about yourself and finding support from others outside the home. It may seem difficult and almost unfair that you have to take the initiative and shoulder all this responsibility, but this is crucial.
Nancy Van Pelt wrote from Bakersfield, California.
This article is excerpted from Dear Nancy…A trusted adviser gives straight answers to questions about marriage, sex and parenting, Nancy L. Van Pelt with Madlyn Lewis Hamblin, Pacific Press, Nampa, Idaho, 2005. Available from HeartnHome.com
* Dobson, James. Bringing Up Boys. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 2001. Focus on the Family
Van Pelt, Nancy. Train Up A Child: A guide to successful parenting. Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing, 1984. Available from HeartnHome.com.