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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!

The Father-Son Project, Universal Human Rights and a New Resource at CUA

Tags: , , , adolescent sexuality, fathers, men, sexuality, Uncategorized No comments

In my estimation the strategic project of the next century (100 years)  is the movement of  fathers  taking unto themselves alone[1], the sexual formation of their sons, resulting in sons capable of being great husbands and fathers. However, I predict that those interested in a totalitarian state (the socialist state) as well as radical-core feminists (and there is a significant overlap) will oppose this movement with merciless pursuit, for, if it spreads, it takes away from them their most powerful tool — “sex gone wild”.

In the forthcoming square-off fathers, who do have the inherent right to direct the education of their children, we will need the back-stop of law. Luckily this right is recognized in the United Nations Human Rights Treaties and Declarations of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The world’s reflection on what had gone wrong during and leading up to World War I and World War II led to the founding of the United Nations and with its hope that such horrors would not happen again, and to that end issued the Human Rights documents.

But with rampant individualism coupled with ignorance of the nature of good government, “Human Rights” discourse, today, is a double-edged sword even among — especially among —  educated Westerners, most of whom cannot articulate the nature of human rights and as a result are increasing easy prey for “false rights.”

When properly formulated, “human rights” give expression to the universal instinct for justice and fairness that resides in the heart of every person, let he or she be rich or poor, white, yellow, bronze or black, educated or not, religious or not, of every religion. The defining characteristic of every true human right is that it is universal: It never deprives another of the same right. Universal human rights do not contradict each other, neither between individuals or within the individual himself.

Human rights are the same for all, else they are not basic human rights, no matter how good they may seem to be. Abortion is the clearest example of this. Totalitarian imposition (government forcing one to act in a bad way) almost happened when the Obama Administration attempted to impose  “a right to contraception” on the Little Sisters of the Poor. Even graver false rights have already won “government privilege”:  Abortion, embryo research, no-fault divorce.

The debasement of human rights language leads to a “wish list of personal desires” that some think deserving enough to gain the title of “a human right.” In the name of these false rights basic human rights are denied to others.

Other instances of the violation of human rights are frequently found in the realm of labor law which emerged — with much help from Catholic Social Teaching — to protect the powerless (workers) from the powerful (owners of big companies).  Such violations continue today in some practices of multinational corporations, and now even by major labor unions.

Other  violations occur in the education of children: In Germany homeschooling is outlawed. Totalitarianism is not totally dead in Germany by any means. United Nations basic documents on human rights articulate the rights of parents to direct the moral and religious education of their children. Germany very deliberately and openly violates them — with impunity in the international community.

“Sex ed” in this country, is another major area of violation of the rights of parents to direct the education of their children. Education boards and teachers unions claim “false rights” when they enforce such curricula.  It is in this area the clash with fathers will occur.

A false rights debasement of human rights leads to cynicism, and to a loss of faith in government.  Should a populace learn to accept them, the ground is prepared for acceptance of increasing government control. The honoring of universal human rights is at the core of human political freedom.  The Founding Fathers articulated this.  Though they succeeded in so much and gave the world the wonder that is the Bill of Rights and The American Constitution, they failed in one glaring area: African Americans were not treated with equal dignity.  And the nation paid a heavy price for this failure.

Thus, the dignity and equality before the law of every single individual on earth is the principle measure of human rights. If it is not universal, it is not a human right. This simple criterion applies to every issue, in every dimension, from genocide to bioethics. 

There are many professions and organizations that need clarity of thought on human rights so that sound decisions can be made: Virtually every job in the United States Congress, in state legislatures and even at county government level. Many civil service jobs need this training to a high degree: In the Department of Health and Human Services for such things as human trafficking, the abuse of children, care of the poor, the homeless, the dying, in the treatment and care of addicts. Civil servants in the State Department particularly need this, but also in the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and in the Department of Homeland Security. All need clear thinking on this issue.

Further afield: Those who work for international agencies, such as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the World Health Organization, as well as for international NGOs, all need the same clear intellectual formation.

Doctors and nurses and hospital administrators need this. The need in healthcare is growing rapidly as advances are made in medicine but at costs so high some are tempted to think of euthanasia (murder).

Every high school teacher ought to be familiar with the distinction between false and true rights. Every high school principal needs to be expert on it and ought to ensure all pupils become competent in making the difference clear, because every voter needs to never let false rights trump human rights.

Over and above all those mentioned above there  are many who should consider getting this training: Those finishing their bachelor degree but not yet decided on a career path; mothers returning in midcareer to the workplace as their children become less dependent on them; retiring baby boomers who have the leisure of good health, many remaining years and the financial flexibility to become involved in NGOs where they can make a difference.

Given the vast need for tens of thousands of people trained in this way of thinking many ought to think of conquering the subject matter. 

The Catholic Church, being universal (catholic) organization, is well-placed and has much experience and the longest historical track record  in the issues of human rights claims: Ethnic people versus their conquerors, business owners versus workers, and workers versus business owners, parents versus schools, and schools versus parents. The Church’s history in articulating the principles involved are well-known and the Catholic viewpoint did much to shape the founding human rights treaties of the United Nations. The Church’s latest contribution in this field is led the coauthor of the article on the fundamental right (human right) of every child to the marriage of his parentsWilliam Saunders J.D. (Harvard Law) is director of a new MA program in Human Rights at The Catholic University of America. He and Professor Robbie George of Princeton University conduct a wonderful exploration of the issues here: beginning at minute 2.30.

For particulars of The Master of Arts in Human Rights program click here.

Do have a look at it and pass on the information to those – young and old — who might be interested. Their contribution to society could be greatly enhanced with this degree.

For the good of the child,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.


[1] That does not mean they will draw on the help of others — but it will be at their request.