Warren Farrell: Absent Fathers Big Factor in Mass Shootings
“There have been six mass [school] shootings that have killed more than 10 people … All six of them have been done by boys who have been dad-deprived—from Sandy Hook right on through to the Texas shooting,” says Warren Farrell, author of “The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It.”
The recent horrific Uvalde, Texas school shooting has prompted heated debate about gun control, school safety, and mental illness. But few are zeroing in on the importance of a father presence, Farrell argues.
The absence of an involved father is “the single biggest predictor of suicide… [and] one of the biggest causes of mental illness in boys and drug addictions in boys,” Farrell says.
Jan Jekielek: Warren Ferrell, such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Warren Farrell: Oh, I’m so looking forward to our discussions, I always love them.
Mr. Jekielek: Well Warren, I’ve been thinking about you lately in the wake of this recent mass shooting. And one of the things that came to my attention, because this is such an important issue, was that this young man that did this horrific act was, as many of them that have done it over the years, dad deprived and dad deprived in a very serious way. You’ve been writing about this.
Mr. Farrell: Yes, indeed. And I see, every time we have a mass shooting, we hear… In the Buffalo one we heard this replacement theory-style hatred, and then the next time we hear, access to guns and the next time it’s access to toxic politics and poor family values, and violence in the media, and violence in video games and mental illness. Well how could you possibly have anybody do a mass shooting and not be mentally ill?
But the key thing is that our daughters live in the same families with the same family values. They’re exposed to the same replacement theory-style hatred and toxic politics. They’re exposed to the same guns, the same video games, the same media, they suffer similar mental illnesses, yet our daughters are not doing the killing, our sons are.
No one is looking at, I believe the two primary causes. One is what’s happening with our sons? Why our sons? This is not just our sons in the United States, but when there are high percentages of killings and mass shootings in other countries as well, it is our boys there.
We’re ignoring what I call ‘The Boy Crisis.’ Boy Crisis is in the 53 largest developed nations. In the United States there have been six mass shootings that have been mass school shootings that have killed more than 10 people. All six of those mass school shootings that have killed more than 10 people have been done A, by boys, and all six of them have been done by boys who have been dad deprived, from Sandy Hook, right on through to the Texas shooting.
And no one is looking at dad deprivation as an issue to even consider, no less discount or ask the question, “What can we do about it?” I said no one, but there’s two exceptions to that rule. In Florida, the speaker of the House of Florida did get a copy of “The Boy Crisis” because he had three sons, and then gave that to the Republican and Democratic leaders in the House in Florida.
Long story short, they drew up a bill to address the fatherlessness issue, and they called it the fatherhood crisis. And every single Republican and every single Democrat in the House of Representatives in Florida voted for that fatherhood crisis bill to devote $75 million to developing programs to inspire fathers to be more involved in the family. And then that also followed with Governor DeSantis signing that into law.
Also Kentucky has made the single most important thing that happens after divorce that deprives our families of fathers. Kentucky has, to the credit of Kentucky, passed an equal shared parenting law that says, short of there being some major problem with the mother or father, the initial presumption is that both parents will be equally involved with the children after divorce.
There are four things that lead to children doing well after divorce and the most important of those four are equal amounts of time with father and mother. There’s something being done, but by and large The Boy Crisis and fatherlessness is being avoided, even though it just is right here before us and it replaces so many other theories, because all the other theories are things that girls and women are exposed to, but they are not doing the mass shootings.
Mr. Jekielek: Warren, as we’ve discussed in the past, both privately and I think on camera as well, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, right? You’re saying, yes, that six out of six of these recent mass school shooters were dad deprived, but how does that actually work? How can you be so sure that that is a factor? That [that] is the most important factor?
Mr. Farrell: Yes. As you look at dad deprivation, we realize that this is also the single biggest predictor of suicide, and mass shootings are both a homicide and a suicide. Then we look more closely, we see it’s one of the biggest causes of mental illness in boys and drug addiction in boys, and also one of the biggest causes of video game addiction. I’ll give you a concrete example of this.
First of all, the bigger issue first about the correlation versus causation. Richard Warshak wondered about exactly this too, he’s a very famous psychologist, extremely academically oriented. He got together the leading researchers from all over the world, and also psychologists and said, “What is the connection to boys that are having significant problems, both as mass shooters, but also in generally mental health problems, physical health problems, death from overdose of drugs, dropping out of high school, being unemployed?” Looking at every different measure.
And they all came back, this is 100 percent of academics, and if you know anything about academics, they can’t agree on almost anything. But they all ended up agreeing that the children that had the biggest problems were ones that were, after divorce are children raised without a dad involved. And then if there was a divorce, there were major problems that happened with children that had less than 30 percent of their time with their father, significant problems that they had less than 40 percent.
The children that did the best after divorce were ones that had equal amounts of time with dads and moms. Now this was studied not… And then we looked at socioeconomic variables, because you could say, “Well, poor kids just don’t do as well, and maybe they don’t have as much time with their dads.” It’s actually the proportion of people who are involved with their fathers in poor areas is actually slightly higher.
But the more important thing is that when boys grow up in wealthy communities, going to good schools, they do worse in math, science, and most of their other subjects if they go to good schools and do not have fathers, as opposed to children going to poor schools and poor neighborhoods with a significant amount of father involvement. There’s so many ways that these 100 researchers and psychologists cut the data to show that this was not about correlation, but it was actually about causation. And as I said, this is 100 researchers and academics who rarely agree on anything.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and this is a little bit of an aside, but just in general it’s understood that the single best predictor of life success, right? Societal success or so forth, is coming out of a two-parent household, right?
Mr. Farrell: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: And this is left and right, all the sociologists agree on this basically, right?
Mr. Farrell: They do. And to be fair, the Democrats have paid no attention to this. I say this as somebody who’s, I was on the board of directors of the National Organization for Women in New York City, and I spoke all around the world on women’s issues. I tend to be very empathetic to democratic thinking and point of view. But when I went to Iowa to talk to the democratic candidates about this issue, there were some like John Hickenlooper and Andrew Yang that very much agreed with me.
But their campaign managers, when they started to see that their candidates were agreeing with me, both of their campaign managers came up to me and said, “Warren, we can’t afford to have our candidates speak out on the importance of boys having a lot of father involvement, because we’re afraid to alienate our feminist base.”
And I said, “Explain more.” And they said, “Well, in divorce cases, our feminist women want the option to be full-time with their children, or part-time, or to marry somebody new, start their life over again, move away.” And I said, “They would want this even if it wasn’t good for the children?” And I already knew the answer to that, because one of the things that had alienated me from the board of directors of NOW was discovering that fathers play an extremely important role in the health of children. And they wanted their feminist members to have options, and they didn’t want the father to have equal options, to be able to remain involved in their life in an important way.
And they also wanted the mothers to be able to be full time mothers if they wanted to. Today in the United States, 42 percent of mothers, women who have children, have those children without the father involved in the raising of the children. Sometimes they’re involved for a couple of years in a live together situation, but the average live together parents, they only last three years after a child is born. So the child almost invariably misses the father involvement after about three years on average.
Mr. Jekielek: You started mentioning some things that happened through this dad deprivation. I learned that term from you, actually. And why don’t you flesh that out for me a little bit more?
Mr. Farrell: Yes. When dads aren’t involved… Here’s the dynamic. The dads and moms have about eight, nine different styles of parenting, and the children that do the best are ones that have what I would call checks and balance parenting. Where the mother may say something like… The child says, “Mom, can I climb the tree?” And mom says, “Well, maybe sweetie in a few years, but right now you’re too young and you could fall, and that could be dangerous.” And dad, if asked separately, would say, “Well, that’s a bit high, but be careful, I trust you to be careful.” And then mom and dad find out that they’ve given the child different instructions. The dad very rarely says something like, “When children climb trees, they’re able to assess what risk is too much and what risk isn’t enough, and that actually gets their synapses firing that increases their IQs.”
Well, I’ve never seen a dad explain it that way to a mom and moms can’t hear what dads don’t say. So dads need to read up on the types of things that they tend to do, as dads, that lead to the children having an important balance, that leads to them having those risk taking skills, knowing what’s too much, what’s too little.
On the other hand, children need a life, they need to not have concussions, and they need the insights of mothers as to where that risk can be averted. So a dialogue between the mother and father, like the mother and father saying, “Okay, here’s what I agree to. We agree that our son or daughter can climb the tree, but not beyond a certain point, because that would have too great a risk of a concussion if she or he fell. And dad, you’ve got to be out there underneath that tree to make sure the child doesn’t fall and you can cushion the fall.”
That type of dialogue that leads to the child having the IQ advantages, the assessment of what’s too much, what’s too little risk taking of climbing the trees, and having the safety of not having a concussion, a spinal cord injury, or even being killed from falling out of the tree, that’s where the children benefit. And if they’re in a really outstanding situation and they can hear mom and dad talk to each other with respect, as opposed to yelling each other down, and the dad saying, “You’re just going to make my son a sissy,” and the mom saying, “You don’t care anything about the health of our son and you don’t care if they die. You’d rather have them not be a sissy than be killed.” And the child hears really each parent being blamed for disagreeing, as opposed to respected for their perspective; those are the children that do the best.
This is just one of a number of differences in dad-style versus mom-style parenting. Moms are far more likely to be very praiseworthy of a child that maybe sings well, plays basketball well, “You could be part of the NBA. You could be in the Olympics. You could be this way or that way.” And then when the child wants to go to a party instead of doing training in preparation for the Olympics, the mom says, “Oh, yes, you can go to the party.” Dad is more likely to say, “You know sweetie, if you have this ambition to be in the Olympics or son, being in the NBA, this requires discipline. And I’ll support you, we’ll hire somebody to tutor you if you want to put in these hours. But if you don’t want to put in these hours, then you’re just fooling around and wasting your time, you’d better be doing homework instead,” or something like that.
So the dads tend to do more boundary enforcement. What the data shows is, for example, that moms will set a bedtime at an earlier time, dads will set a bedtime at a later time, but children raised predominantly by dads get to bed earlier, even though the bedtime has been set for later, because dads, when the children fool around or don’t do their homework, are much more likely to say, “I’m sorry, the bedtime is nine o’clock. You didn’t do your homework, that’s your responsibility, you get a low grade, that’s your responsibility.” Whereas the child would be more likely to be able to manipulate mom to you know, “oh, it’s 8:30, I know that’s the bedtime you set, but I didn’t get my homework done. You don’t want me to go get in trouble with Mrs. Jones, she’s going to give me a low grade.” “Okay, sweetie, well you have more time to do your homework.”
So those tend to be examples of the differences between dad and mom-style parenting. Moms tend, on average, to be more likely to set boundaries, dads are more likely to enforce boundaries, and in their enforcement of the boundaries, they build the discipline for the child to accomplish the postponed gratification and the focus on the attention to detail. So children raised predominantly by dads are far less likely to have ADHD because they’re required to focus on the actual thing that they’re doing, as opposed to being able to manipulate a better deal from the mom.
Mr. Jekielek: Warren, you mentioned at the beginning that it’s predominantly boys and young men that are doing these shootings, right? It’s never women, or it’s unlikely to be women or girls. Now I can hear the response to that, the current societal response, they’ll just say, “Well, that’s just toxic masculinity for you.” Right? And I’m seeing a lot of people just saying that, “Look, once again toxic masculinity manifests.” How do you respond to that?
Mr. Farrell: Here is the challenge with toxic masculinity—the analysis of toxic masculinity. First of all, there’s no one in their right mind who would disagree with the fact that a mass shooter is expressing toxic masculinity. The question is, how do we solve toxic masculinity? What is it about? Where does it come from? Why are we hearing toxic masculinity from the same people who are also talking about male privilege?
And there is toxic masculinity, but it doesn’t come from male privilege, it comes from each generation having its war, for all of history, and are an Uncle Sam or some equivalent thereof in the society and the parents making it mandatory that the boys be prepared to be what we call heroes. And calling a boy a hero when he goes to war is the social bribe we gave boys to be willing to be disposable, to be willing to die so the rest of the society could live.
The good news is we’re protected, the bad news is that in order to become a soldier, you have to get rid of all of your sensitivities. You learn the lesson that your feelings don’t count. Your feelings don’t count because a war machine does not work most efficiently when everyone’s feelings are being considered. Therefore you have to keep your feelings to yourself, you have to keep your fears to yourself and that creates toxicities. And all of those things do create inside of us, the inability to be fully human.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, so that makes sense to me, right? But these young men, they’re not necessarily all part of some war machine. In fact, quite the contrary, right, in a number of cases, from what I’m aware of at least?
Mr. Farrell: Yes, boys who are fatherless, very frequently they are not likely to have that postponed gratification, that emanates from the boundary enforcement, therefore they start not doing as well in school. They start feeling badly about themselves. The teachers aren’t praising them as much. When they become teenagers and it’s female, male time, if they drop out of high school or they drop out of college. Women are not interested in dating losers, they want to date winners.
The boy feels both he’s a failure in high school, which is exactly what Ramos felt. He dropped out of high school. He couldn’t connect with any girls and women. He tried to use his guns to show, “See how much of a man I am,” to compensate for his vulnerability. These types of things are happening so frequently with boys who do not have fathers to teach them that postponed gratification, but that’s not where it stops with the inability to accomplish things.
When a boy doesn’t accomplish things, girls aren’t interested in him, he’s not praised by his parents, he’s not praised by his teachers, he starts cutting down on himself. He often withdraws into video games. Video games are actually very healthy at a non-addictive level, but at the addictive level, when these boys feel that…
Well let me stop actually here, and I’ll interrupt myself and share a real life experience I had with this. I got an email about six months ago from a young man. He said that he was fatherless, and he lived with only his mother and then lived with his grandmother who had no men in her life, and then lived with his two aunts that had no men in their life.
He said he didn’t even know who he was as a man, so he started withdrawing into video games. He became so enmeshed in video games that he didn’t even think of himself as a human being, he thought of himself as something in that video game that interacted with the other people on the video games. And his only “friends” were the people who were playing the video games with him and against him, and so on. And he protected himself from ever going outside of his home and getting out of that video game circle. And he said, “I felt so ashamed of myself, I felt I had no structure, I had no purpose. And I was so angry at my mom for not helping me get away from those video games.” He said, “Therefore, I joined H&M,” which is a fascist group that have produced two of the major mass shooters in the world.
And he said, “I then wrote a 52 page manifesto to do my own mass shooting, so I could prove myself really to have an impact in the world after all.” He said, “I stumbled across your Boy Crisis book, and in your Boy Crisis book it wasn’t the data that persuaded me so much, but it was like you had outlined to such a tee what happened to me growing up without a dad, that for the first time in my life, I felt I was being seen and that somebody got me.” He said, “That had this enormous impact of dissipating my anger enough… I knew I was still screwed up, but it dissipated my anger enough to get over the desire to do the mass shootings.” And he said, “Thank you for saving my life and the life of, I don’t know how many others.”
I arranged to call him and talk with him and we had many Skype or Zoom calls. And in the process of doing that, he talked to me about that he still had these enormous violent feelings toward his mother for letting him do this and for not bringing a father into his life. And I said, “What do you think the…” So I had him role play his mother, and as his mother, role playing his mother, I said, “Well, mom, what did you want to do? Why were you doing this?” And he was able to say, role playing his mother, “I saw that this was the only way he was happy. Carlos was happy, so I wanted him to be happy, I wanted to support his happiness. This is the only way I knew how to support his happiness.”
And I asked him as his mother, “Is this because you loved Carlos?” And she said, “Oh my God…” He said that, playing her. “Oh my God, I loved him so much, I would do anything for him.” “Would you make sacrifices for him?” “Of course, I would make sacrifices for him.” And in that process, he began to see that his mother was not the problem, that his mother loved him deeply, but his mother thought that letting him do what he wanted to do was a solution, as opposed to part of the problem.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s an incredible message to get, and then an interaction to get into. There’s this phenomenon right now, and it’s very interesting, and you’re making me think about it now because you’re giving me the sense that a lot of the young men today just have… Let’s just say their self-esteem is being hammered. And I don’t know if this is cause or effect or how it works, but basically, yeah, you alluded to this earlier, young men’s IQs are lower than girls. Girls are graduating from university where there’s all these different statistics, as I understand, that show that men are basically doing a lot more poorly than they should be, than you might expect they would be doing.
Mr. Farrell: Absolutely. We have to look not at just the surface data. For example, boys are dropping out of high school at a much greater level than girls are. But that dropping out of high school means a 20 percent unemployment rate among those boys in their 20s. A boy with an unemployment rate that’s very high, who’s also 66 percent more likely to live with his parents, often in his parents’ basement. Can you imagine a boy being at a party, maybe he’s attractive, a girl or a woman is attracted to him. They start talking and she says, “Yeah well, tell me about what you do?” “Well, I’ve dropped out of high school.” “Oh well, I’m still really attracted to you.” Maybe he’s tall, handsome, good looking, whatever. “Oh, well, can we maybe leave this party?” “Oh sure, you can come back, I live in my parents’ basement.”
Could you imagine the reaction of 90 plus percent of women, even, to a good looking, tall guy, saying that? And maybe especially if the girl or woman is looking for father material. Most girls and women looking for father material are not searching the parents’ basements and unemployment lines for future father material. So these boys feel both rejected in terms of relationships and also rejected in terms of sexuality. The dropping out of high school has more impact than just dropping out of high school. [It] had impact on his pride, his self-esteem, his ability to be attractive, both relationship-wise and sexuality-wise to women, so that often leads a boy into depression, into video game addiction, into drug addiction and into becoming overweight.
If he’s a smaller boy, he’ll sometimes get into something called bigorexia, which is taking hormones to make himself look strong and doing weightlifting and so on, all of which is to cover up a really low self-esteem. And we are reinforcing this in school all the time. I talk to boys in high school, and they say that what they hear about in school, when it comes to male, female issues, is toxic masculinity. Without any understanding of the sacrifices that males made that led to that toxicity. They hear about the patriarchy, the world is dominated by a patriarchy, in which men made rules to benefit men at the expense of women.
Well, let’s dissect that. The world was not dominated by a patriarchy, it was dominated by the need to survive. And in order to survive, both males and females were restricted in their roles. We told women, “Your job is to raise children.” We told men, “Your job is to raise money.” If a woman couldn’t raise children, she felt like she wasn’t a woman. If a man couldn’t raise money, he didn’t feel he had the right to even ask for love. So we’re constantly giving boys a negative image of themselves that is leading to a low self-esteem, that is leading to their needing compensations, like, “I have a rifle, therefore I’m strong.” As opposed to, “Maybe I have a rifle because I don’t feel strong enough in myself, so let me look at what the reasons for that rifle are.”
And the fact that the patriarch was mothers and fathers, both making rules to help their children survive, and dividing roles. And those roles that men had and that women had restricted men to feeling that when children were born, they had to give up their dreams of being a musician, a writer, an artist, an elementary school teacher. I’ve started 300 men’s groups, and there are thousands of men that I’ve seen, saying, “I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, or I wanted to be a musician, but when we had our children, I knew that I couldn’t support myself being that musician or that elementary school teacher, so I gave that up and I went into administration.
“I became a principal or superintendent of schools. And then the feminist movement told me I dominate education, even though there are more women in education, as opposed to understanding that I gave up my dream of loving to teach and be with children, to do something I didn’t like, administration and all the conflicts between parents and teachers, and students, and so on, and all the paperwork. I did something I hated because I wanted to give more income to my family so they could live in a better school.” None of that is being appreciated about boys in school today. They’re being criticized for their sacrifices as opposed to honored for their sacrifices, but also given options to have more options than they had in the past.
Mr. Jekielek: I guess the big question, Warren is, how did this happen, right? Where did this come from? You’re describing, and this is certainly in “The Boy Crisis,” which is a book that I recommend to everybody. it’s like a entire war on masculinity, if you will, in society, right?
Mr. Farrell: Yeah, and it’s not just recently. The war on masculinity, the attacks of males, as if they are living by their self-interest, that has really emanated deeply from something that I have to credit myself and blame myself for being a part of. As you know, I was on the board of directors of the National Organization for Women in New York City for three years, and spoke all around the world on women’s issues. But I trusted that part of the woman’s movement that appeared to be saying at that time, some version of Helen Reddy, “I am woman, I am strong.” And the more recent version of feminism has been, “I am woman, I’ve been wronged.”
And the feminism always had a propensity to blaming men, but that blaming of men for all the problems has been honing victimhood as a fine art that feminists have been doing recently, and creating these enormous protective spaces for women. If you’re in a college and you say something that might offend a woman, a woman will say, “Oh, you didn’t give me a trigger warning.” Or if a man puts his arm around a woman without asking permission first, he is literally subject to the possibility of being called a sexual harasser. But nobody is training our daughters to share responsibility for that sexual rejection, and nobody is blaming the women that do take an initiative, are calling them sexual harassers.
So we’re leaving boys caught between a rock and a hard place, told that if they take initiatives too quickly, they’re sexual harassers, if they don’t take them quickly enough, they’re wimps. But no one is telling our daughters, “It is your responsibility to risk sexual rejection as often as men are.” And the current version of feminism and the current version of education and school teachers is not teaching us to respect women by having them take equal responsibilities, it is much more prone to blaming men than it is to having a shared responsibilities for the risks of rejection.
Mr. Jekielek: Coming back to this most recent shooting and others, this is obviously the prime example where the man will be blamed, and as I said earlier, toxic masculinity will be cited. And some of these other reasons that you outlined earlier are called, but it probably won’t be obvious to many people that the sorts of things we’ve just been talking about are actually a central issue here.
Mr. Farrell: Absolutely. Let me really be very practical and talk to maybe the moms that are at home. I think of single moms as being probably among the hardest working people in the country, and yet I’m also saying that it’s so important to have a dad in their life.
The most important single thing, if you’re a single mom listening to this, is to discover the differences between dad-style parenting and mom-style parenting. Because dad-style parenting is prone to doing a lot of things that you might think is not honoring the child. Dads are much more likely, for example, to tease the child, to do rough housing with the child, and so on. So understand how rough housing leads to empathy. That’s counterintuitive, but spend time reading about that, because I know you want your child to be empathetic.
But what dads do to lead to that empathy with a combination of rough housing and boundary enforcement, is very important to understand. Dads are more likely to tease. When a dad teases a child, the child is more likely to cry. Understand why that teasing, up to a point, is extremely helpful for a child to be able to pick up nuances of language, to be able to laugh at him or herself, to be able to have a much more sophisticated emotional intelligence.
When you do understand all that, and you let father, the biological father that may not be connected with that child very much now, when the biological dad knows that you need him, not just for the son’s best development, but also for your daughter’s best development in more than 50 different areas of psychological growth and physical health growth, when you let a dad know he’s needed, he will be much more likely to respond.
Remember that every generation had its war. When we told men that they were needed, they were willing to die, to respond to their being told that Uncle Sam needs you. When you say, “I see now what the positive value of your rough housing, your teasing, you’re allowing our son or daughter to take a risk of walking to a lake and maybe getting lost, and what that does,” then the dad will say, “All right, if I can be appreciated now, I’ll be back.”
But if the biological father is not able to be involved for some reason that is beyond control, then I really encourage you to get your son involved in Cub Scouts. Cub Scouts, if your son is attending consistently for two years or longer, the data is very strong that it increases your child’s character development, and I don’t know a single mom who doesn’t want her children, both boys and girls, to have optimal character. Girl Scouts are obviously the female equivalent.
Boy Scouts have deconstructed masculinity to give boys who accomplish things, merit badges, and help them feel good about themselves by focusing attention on themselves. Get them involved in not just sports, but what I call the liberal arts of sports, by which I mean, pick up team sports, organized team sports and sports like tennis and gymnastics that requires focus on the individual discipline, and indirectly as part of a team.
Find out what the value of each of those types of sports are in developing your children to be optimal. Make sure your children get involved in things like the ManKind Project. If you have any interest in any faith at all, get your children involved in a faith-based community. Make sure that the priest, the rabbi, the minister or the Imam gets your son involved with other boys his own age, and has them talk confidentially about the things that are bothering them.
Boys keep their fears to themselves, and when they hear that other boys, their same age, have those same fears, it helps them feel much more secure that they don’t have to prove themselves by making believe they’re strong or deepening their voice, or getting tattoos, or doing all these things that are superficial compensations for their insecurities. Those are just a few of the things you’ll see in “The Boy Crisis” book, to get the kids involved. And pay most attention to family dinner nights, and know how to make sure that family dinner nights don’t become family dinner nightmares. The one word that is most important is learning the skills of listening to your children, combined with the skills of training your children to listen to you.
Empathetic parents do not create empathetic children. Empathetic parents who are only empathetic, create children who are self-centered, thinking that only their needs are being paid attention to. You have to both be empathetic and require of your children that they also listen to your perspective, don’t interrupt your perspective. Let you know what they’ve heard from you until you don’t feel distorted, and you do the same for them. But that’s very crucial to “The Boy Crisis” book, is the importance of family dinner nights done in the right way.
Mr. Jekielek: In terms of broader policy, say at the state level, for example, as you described, there’s been some policy that’s related to this enacted in Florida, to basically increase dad involvement. But in this realm of challenging, as you describe it, the dad deprivation, what kind of legislation or policy or something in that realm can be helpful? I’m sure you’ve thought about this.
Mr. Farrell: Absolutely. Number one in Florida, one of the most important things that they’re doing, is spending money to actually create father involvement programs, and to encourage the groups in Florida that are already involved in father involvement programs, to giving them money for the staff to be able to do that more effectively. That’s one example. What I said a minute ago about when men are told they’re needed, we’ve told men throughout all of history that, “You’re needed to be willing to die, to kill and be killed.” We haven’t told young men that, “You’re needed now mostly to love and be loved. We value your ability to love, we value your ability to parent.” And very few fathers want to be away from their children when their children are born. Most fathers experience the fathers’ Catch-22, they learn to love their children by being away from the love of their children.
They used to be a local sales representative for company X, Y, or Z, and now the children are born, they are required to be a national sales representative in order to buy a better home in a better neighborhood and a better school district. They end up, in order to be a better father, being a father that’s away from the children.
Understand the data that I talk about in “The Boy Crisis” book, as to why a dad’s time is worth more than a dad’s dime. The moment that your family gets to be somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000 of family income per year, once it goes past that amount, depending on where in the United States you live, different standards of living obviously, once it goes past that amount, the children that do the best do not benefit from an increased amount of money, or increased amount of dime. They benefit more from an increased amount of time on the part of the fathers.
Once fathers begin to promote themselves, they begin oftentimes to develop what I call male makeup. They’re making up the gap between the power they have and the power they want to have because they get caught up in the power machine, and they forget that, “Wait a minute, I started out doing this.” It’s like a woman who puts on a little bit of makeup to make herself look better, and then she’s overdoing the makeup. Earning money is good, earning so much money that you don’t have time for your children, bad.
Mr. Jekielek: So essentially you’re saying that the best thing, legislation-wise, to tackle dad deprivation is to just basically push and encourage and educate around the value and the importance of father involvement?
Mr. Farrell: That’s one of a few things. Probably the second other absolutely crucial thing is when divorce happens, and the only state in the United States who’s addressed that in a way that’s very productive, is Kentucky. Kentucky has been the first state, and the only state at this point, to pass legislation that says, “If there is a divorce, the children do best with an equal amount of parenting.” The starting assumption, short of the father or the mother being proven to be an alcoholic that abuses the child or that type of thing, short of those types of extreme circumstances, we will start out with the assumption that both father and mother need to be equally involved.
In “The Boy Crisis” book I talk about three other things that are very important, that legislation can or cannot get involved with. Every parent needs to know it’s really also important that the second must-do after divorce, in order for children to do almost as well as they’d do in an intact family, is for the father and mother to be living within 20 minutes’ drive time from each other. Because when they don’t, oftentimes the children start resenting going over to the other parent’s home and missing their best friend’s birthday party, or their soccer practice and learning the skills that team play can contribute to them. You don’t want that resentment to be created by living too far away.
Number three, it’s so important that the children not hear bad mouthing from dad to mom or mom to dad, because when you’re bad mouthing the other parent, you are bad mouthing that half of the child that is the parent that you are bad mouthing. You are not just badmouthing the other parent, you are abusing the child. When a child looks in the mirror and hears, let’s say that his father is a narcissist and a liar, and irresponsible, and then he sees that his nose or his eyes, or his hair, his body language, is a lot like his dad, he begins to fear that maybe he’s a narcissist. “Well, I am looking in the mirror, maybe I am a liar. Well, I did lie about this, maybe I am all these negative things,” he’s heard his mom say about his dad.
But he can’t say to mom, “Mom, I’m beginning to fear these things about myself, based on what you said about dad. Will I become the same way?” Because he’s afraid that mom might talk to dad about that and then they get into a big fight. And that he’s already feeling by not having an equal amount of contact with mom and dad, the opposite is true, a dad bad mouthing the mom. Even if you’re a boy and you look in the mirror, you see aspects of yourself that are like your mom. And when a dad bad mouths his mom, the same type of feeling occurs.
The fourth must-do is very important. We now know as of recent research, that children who do best after divorce, their parents go to consistent relationship counseling or couples communication counseling. And the word consistent I emphasize, because parents, when they only go to emergency counseling, usually in an emergency parents argue they’re part of the argument, and they’re not listening to each other. When you’re going to consistent counseling, a reasonably good counselor can help you both hear each other more fully. And what you’re able to hear more fully when you’re going to consistent counseling, is your partner’s best intent.
Nobody intends to harm their children. The important thing in counseling is to understand, how does your partner look at that, what she or he is doing with the children, that is leading them to behave with the children in this way? And what things need to change and what things can remain the same? What things can you appreciate and what things can you say that might lead to certain modifications?
Mr. Jekielek: No, absolutely fascinating. Any final thoughts, Warren?
Mr. Farrell: Yes. I think that the single biggest thing, as you know I’ve been doing couples communication workshops in the last 30 years, and the most important thing to me that I’ve seen is that what we really need to do is to learn how to hear perspectives that we are not initially inclined to hear. And to know how to be criticized by the people we love without becoming defensive.
That’s biologically unnatural, but it was biologically unnatural because historically we saw the people criticizing us as an enemy, so in order to survive we had to get up our defenses. That was biologically natural and functional for survival, but it’s dysfunctional for love. That’s the next evolutionary shift in our experiences of being human beings, that we are able to do, hopefully both for the people we love and also for people that have different political beliefs than we do.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Warren Farrell, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Mr. Farrell: Thank you, it’s always a pleasure to talk with you. You ask, as I’ve said before, such good questions, and then you listen so attentively and caringly. And it really, I think brings out the best.
Mr. Jekielek: Thank you all for joining Warren Farrell and me, for this episode of American Thought Leaders. I’m your host, Jan Jekielek. The Epoch Times is growing quickly and we’re currently hiring an associate producer to join the Epoch TV team, to work on both American Thought Leaders and Kash’s Corner. It’s a time of rampant misinformation and propaganda, and you’ll be part of the solution as we bring back honest journalism. If you’re interested or you know someone who might be a good fit, head over to ept.ms/associateproducer, that’s ept.ms/associateproducer, all one word. We look forward to hearing from you.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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