Dear Straight Talk: I separated from my wife last year after much unhappiness. Our youngest, "Jon", age 16, is living with his mother because she allows a no-rules environment — plus, he blames me for the divorce. Last year his grades sank, he got a minor-in-possession ticket for pot, this summer he was involved in petty theft, and without asking, "borrowed" a family friend's car for the night. I am worried sick. My ex obstructs me at every turn in providing him guidance and I'm the bad guy for being upset. What do you and your panelists suggest? — "Richard," Sacramento, Calif.
Editor's Note: The two-parent family works so well because women tend to be more sensitive and sheltering in their parenting and men tend to be more stern and brave. It's a great combination because kids need both impulses. Teenagers, especially, need what fathers have to give — that is, fathers who haven't been neutered into thinking that they can't be stern and demand right action from their kid. I'm not talking about corporal punishment — that worsens things — but teens really crave fair, faithful, male sternness. For girls it feels protective and helps them not lose confidence as they develop a woman's body; for boys it wakes them up and gives them a leader to follow, which is step one in becoming a leader themselves.
In the past, teen boys were spirited away by male elders for initiations into manhood. These same men were there in daily life as well, as constant allies and mentors. Today, fathers with a group of male friends who consciously support each other and each other's children, benefit everyone greatly. Our sons, especially, are suffering from lack of engaged male role models.
For fathers reading this, if you're not already in one, consider joining or forming a men's group. In many households, women have all but taken over parenting. I rejoice in the rise of feminine power — and what we really need is collaborative honoring of the masculine and feminine equally. It's time, Dads, to take back your very needed role. —Lauren
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