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Phase 2 of the Father-Child Relationship (years three to nine or ten): Consolidation of Affection and Solidarity with an Eye to the Future

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From age three onwards the infant gradually becomes a boy.  And this is most noticeable in his play.  

All children love to play. Most boys like ball games: Kicking and throwing. They love horseplay (as long as it does not get too overpowering… a judgement call by the father, child by child). The goal is confidence in Dad as source of fun and protection. The horseplay is for the enjoyment of the child– not the father. It really helps consolidate the boy’s sexual identity as male when done with common sense.

The observant father now will begin to spot the different inclinations of his children (and draw on his wife’s observations as well). Their inclinations and strengths become occasions for father to affirm his son in these (be they quarterback-football or tiddlywinks or drawing).  To be affirmed in his strengths by his father is one of life’s great experiences for a boy. And it lasts a life time.

Gradually, over the next years the father tells his children about his own inclinations and gifts: What he enjoys doing, what he is good at, what he likes in his hobbies, his friends, his fellow workers (learning about persons and life). What he loves about his life: His wife– their mother, about his children, and his friends. He does this not to boast but to illustrate to them that it is good to revel in the gifts life has granted him so that they too will revel in the gifts life has granted them. He follows this with his own reveling in their gifts. Thus, he grows confidence deep inside his children. This capacity for confidence and appreciation is the foundation of a great sexual relationship with his spouse later on—twenty years or more from this phase.

Children love to be read to, and the books the father chooses will have quite an impact on them.  If he knows books, he can direct their reading. His wife also plays a big part here. If they don’t know books they can use my wife’s “A Mother’s List of Books”[1] which contains decades of experience in choosing books that are interesting (they have to be enjoyable for the child) yet model good character (or at least not undermine it as most modern children’s books do, especially on the role of the father).  If you do not believe me: Go and check out the books in the children’s section of your local public library.  The tentacles of NOW reach deep into all crannies of child formation including this one… and have for a long time.

If ever in doubt classic fairytales are a good bet. Young children love them— that is why they have survived.

Though they love having stories read to them they are absolutely taken with stories their father creates for them— no matter how corny, no matter what his level of skill in creating or telling them. What they love is the love he is showing them. They will ask for more and more. And father can compose the outlines as he travels and works.

During this phase another great theme and attitude is laid down by the wise father: Modesty. 

Father will lightly form their attitude towards the bodies of others: Privacy of all in the bathroom, especially those of opposite sex. Boys do not enter their sisters’ bedroom, nor girls their brothers’. None enter their parent’s bedroom. Even with parents present, they knock and wait to be invited. 

A boy learns from his father that nobody else ever touches the private parts of his body… except Mother or Father when ill or the doctor in his office. No one else! And he is trained that he should tell his parents if anybody tries . Anywhere! Anyone! Father or Mother or both will deal with that person. And if an adult is the one who touched them his parents will ensure that person goes to  jail. And they will make sure their child knows that they are never at fault or guilty in such a situation. It is always the adult, never the child.  It is a pity, but in this day of sexual license and sexual abuse parents have to both protect children more and teach their children how best to protect themselves.

The boy is taught by his father to treat his own body well: Not touch his penis except at toilet and washing. He learns to keep it private: Hence these parts of the body are called “private parts.”  (This is laying the groundwork for teaching him about masturbation when he is comes into puberty.  Self-control during puberty, in turn, is remote preparation for the male being a great lover of his spouse later on. This is not neurotic anxiety but quite the opposite: It is preparing his son to be great in bed — without talking about it at this too early stage).

It is a pity but during this phase fathers now have to begin preparing their sons to handle pornography — by shunning it the first time they see it and coming to him with any question the experience provokes (and there will be all sorts of questions).  Father gets across that the body is sacred —-  always sacred, but that some wicked people exploit this.  He lets his son know his confidence in him that he will know when a picture is not right, and to always feel free to come to  him – or his mother – for they are the experts on the body. Again, with the breakdown in sexual mores and taboos this initial education in pornography is now needed as early as eight years of age… maybe even sooner!  It is a judgement call best arrived at by discussion between both parents.

Somewhere along the way… listening to his questions about babies and where they come from— father or mother give enough information to satisfy the questions asked, but do not go overboard. A light touch builds confidence in the son— confidence in approaching his parents on these issues— that father (or mother) will be his guide on this and he can always come to his father with any questions.

With an eye to the coming teenage adolescent years:  Making friends with other families you really like. 

When children are young they make friends with ease. Put them together and they play easily. Wise parents avail of this phase so that their children have good friends BEFORE they reach their teenage years.  Then when puberty hits, they have the friends of early childhood as their peer group in adolescents – all from good families, families who help each other through their children’s adolescent years. These early friendships will transfer easily to the teenage years and from these will grow many of the deeper friendships that emerge in adolescence, and among whom mixed groups will be natural  among the brothers and sisters of those they played with in single sex groups during this phase two.

Parents who neglect to do this will realize their mistake when it is too late to do much about it and their children have made friends the parents are not happy with, but at time when it is too late to do what could have been done with ease five years earlier: Shepherding them towards good friendships with children whose parents know how to cultivate character.  This has nothing to do with family income or status, but with the character of parents who know what character is and how to form it in their children.

The next phase covered will be early adolescence.


[1] I know it is a plug, but her  booklet is a classic — owned and used for decades by thousands of mothers across the country.  Email her at tafagan@juno.com for more details.  It is a plug.  But if there were a better one to plug I would do so.  There is not!

Health and Race

child well-being, children, family, generations, MARRI, marriage No comments


The National Center for Family and Marriage Research  at Bowling Green State University has just issued a research report on the rates of “first marriage” across different racial/ethnic groups. Interestingly, the ranking of those rates closely parallels the cross-racial/ethnic ranking of the Index of Family Belonging (the fraction of 15- to 17-year-olds who have grown up in an intact married family, which has not changed measurably in the last 3 years) published by The Marriage and Religion Research Institute.


Remarkably, Asians (whose Index of Family Belonging MARRI shows to be 65 percent) enter marriage at a rate of 6.2 percent (62 per thousand adults) each year. Whites have an Index of 54 percent, while they have a (first) marriage-entry rate of 51 per thousand adults. Hispanics have an Index of Family Belonging of 41 percent and an entry rate into first marriage of 40 per thousand native-born Hispanic adults (though the entry into first marriage among immigrant Hispanics is 60 per thousand immigrant adult Hispanics, illustrating that immigrant Hispanics are stronger on marriage and family than acculturated Hispanics). Black Americans have an Index of Family Belonging of 17 percent and an entry rate into first marriage of 20 per thousand adult Black Americans.

Overall, the United States presently has an Index of Family Belonging of 46 percent and an entry rate into first marriage of 45 per thousand adult Americans.

Thus, the proportion of children who grow up in an intact married family parallels the rate of entry into first marriage. That the ranking of the cross-racial/ethnic (childhood) family intactness and marriage entry rates resemble one another makes sense. It is interesting that the rate of entry into first marriage is markedly higher amongst immigrant Hispanics than among native-born Hispanics. This pattern of greater marital and family strength repeats itself across a number of measures on Hispanic Americans, indicating that America’s cultural influence is not always a blessing for immigrants, though clearly its material blessings are.

Because the marriage relationship is foundational to the future strength of the child when he or she becomes an adult, these data indicate that the next generation of Asian Americans may be our strongest racial/ethnic group and that they may continue to outpace other racial/ethnic groups. Sadly, it is likely that African American children (and, later, adults) will continue to fall further and further behind those from all other racial/ethnic groups.

Marriage has a massive and permanent effect on children. No other institution has a comparable influence on the life and wellbeing of a child. The implications of the decline of marriage in America have been clear for some time, as a different Bowling Green reportillustrates, and this means America may weaken into the future, as well, across myriad critical outcomes that spending alone cannot change. Such compensatory hopes are the basis of the welfare state. But the first human welfare is a married mother and father who stay so to raise their children in strength.

The Basic Tasks of Society

chastity, economy, education, family, generations, religion No comments

By: Pat Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
      Joshua Kelsey, MARRI Intern

As is shown in the diagram above, it is helpful to understand society as a relationship between five basic institutions or the five fundamental tasks: Family, Church, School, Marketplace, and Government.  Each institution is really a gathering of people to perform a core task that is essential and irreplaceable.  If all five tasks are well-performed, society is doing well. If one of them is not engaging properly with its given task, society begins to limp. If two institutions don’t perform well, society’s limping gets more pronounced, and so on.
At the base of society lies the family—the begetting and raising of children, the next generation.   Without this task society will disappear.  Because the family is focused on producing the next generation, it harnesses sexuality for its ultimate end.  Because children need the love and care of both their father and their mother (and thrive better when such is the case), marriage is the solid foundation.  Though the child comes naturally from sexual union (very little work), marriage comes only with a lot of work and effort.   Since everything else in the society relies on the strength of the family, marriage is key to the success of society as a whole.  A society is as vibrant as its fathers and mothers are solidly married.  The object of it all is the next generation.
The church (shorthand for all religions—church, synagogue, mosque) is where man can orient himself to the big questions of existence:  Is there right and wrong, life after death, a creator God?  Should I keep my word, love those in my family, forgive those who hurt me, give to the needy?  This is important work and like everything else in life, the more one works at something the better he does it.  Worshiping God in community normally involves all these aspects of this task of religion.  As this blog will illustrate repeatedly, the more people worship the better they do—on every outcome.  This little known finding is so universal and so powerful that it ought to be commonplace in our national thinking and discussion.  Its object is the good person. 
School (education) is the task of passing on critical knowledge to the next generation so that they can build upon the knowledge already gained from previous generations.  Education almost always has two actors: the pupil and the teacher, the player and the coach.  Education is not confined to the classroom: it goes on, first, foremost and most powerfully, in the home; it goes on at work; in the cinema; in the library; in the newspaper.   Its objective is passing on sound knowledge and insights.
These three institutions—family, church and school— are all “people forming” institutions; they “grow” the person.  Their object is the “goodness of each individual”.
The marketplace is where we meet our physical needs of shelter, food, and clothing—a most fundamental task, without which we would die.  We gain these physical goods through an exchange of our labor for the goods we need.  Savings are stored labor of the past (our labor or others’).  The more productive labor a nation has, the more goods it has.  Working, and learning to work productively, is a key task of the family: both for its own continued existence and for the capacity of the next generation to feed, clothe and shelter itself.  When people refuse to work, they become dependent on others for their needs—this weakens society and, ipso facto, reduces the economy.
The government has the task of using force for the good of society, mainly protecting our freedoms from “bad people”:  external enemies of the intruding armies of attacking nations, or internal enemies who would rob, injure or kill us or our family or friends.  Because both threats exist, it is the primary job of the government to protect its citizens from both these evils.  Laws lay out what government considers right and wrong, and it backs this up with the policeman, the judge, the jail, or even the execution… all manifestations of force, even the ultimate force of death.  For this reason, our police need to be above reproach, for they alone have the power to execute on the spot.  No other person in society has this power.  The object of government is to protect its citizenry’s right to do good.
These two institutions, though they have some influence on the person, are not primarily “people forming institutions”.  They are there on behalf of the instruments needed to live:  physical needs and safety. They are instrumental institutions.
All of these fundamental tasks of society are not only important—they are irreplaceable.  And at the foundation of them all is the first, the family.  Thence comes the next generation and every actor in every institution.  There also are all these basic tasks executed… family, religion, education, marketplace and government.  Thus it is there that the education of the future citizen in all five tasks begins and is most shaped.
Thus the most important of all tasks is the bringing of the next generation (the baby) into existence.   Therefore the most important relationship in society is that of the relationship between father and mother.  The stronger that relationship, the stronger the children (as all the data continuously illustrate). 
The way marriage is structured and carried out determines the functioning of the rest of society. 
The presence or absence of marriage structures the family, and as family is structured so is society structured—strongly or weakly, in every institution: the family itself, the church, the school, the marketplace and the government.
These relationships are as powerful as the laws of physics: they cannot be denied, overlooked, evaded or cast aside without society crumbling.  Many societies today seem intent on that pathway, but that is for future blogs and for the data to illustrate. 

This paradigm of the five basic institutions is the framework within which we will blog on the research MARRI does and that others of note do.   Tune in for continued education, and join in for continued discourse!