by Archbishop Council Nedd II
I’ve had several unfortunate opportunities to observe the consequences of single mothers raising male children without the influence of positive male role models.
Many boys who are raised by single moms can acquire the skills and maturity to lead healthy, full and productive lives. But they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. There are too many boys these days who are either feminized or reliant on false bravado.
My criticism is not to find blame with single mothers. They often do the best they can with limited resources. But I do believe many single mothers need to rethink their parenting philosophy.
My first substantial exposure to significant numbers of boys from families without fathers was while teaching at a public charter high school in Washington, DC.
It was easy to see basic problems, such as when boys earnestly asked me to teach them the proper way to shave, tie a tie and help them pick out clothing for job interviews. More disturbing was a 17-year-old boy who asked me to help him put in his earrings. It’s funny that he needed another man to help him put on his jewelry. It’s difficult to be gangsta when you ask another man to help put in your earrings.
I now live in an small town in rural Pennsylvania, where the problem changes from black to white. I routinely see young men calling girls the “b-word,” without realizing such crude remarks are the hyperbole and satire of old television reruns. With households devoid of encouraging male role models, they seem to have no other choice but to mimic what they see on television and from their peers.
The absence of fathers in both places leads to an exponential increase in “momma’s boys.” This occurs because a mother’s instinct to overlook a child’s character flaws goes unchecked. She instinctively defends that child’s bad behavior, and seldom wants to take corrective action.
The pampered momma’s boy often has few or no responsibilities around the home. His mother buys his clothes, cooks his meals, does his laundry and financially underwrites and countenances bad habits. She comes to his rescue, fights his battles, speaks up for him and even speaks for him. She blames others and protects her boy from harm, despite the fact he is old enough to be responsible for his own behavior.
These mothers need to cut the umbilical cord, and — to paraphrase Scripture — they should be dining on meat and not milk because they leave their boys unprepared for real life.
From my own experience, these unchecked household problems can have deadly consequences. Of the approximately 150 boys I taught over a two-year period in D.C., I know of 17 who have already died by gun violence.
From personal conversations and Facebook postings, I see that few of my former students sought education past high school. Of those who did, many never finished college but are saddled with the tuition loans. They lack careers and rely on hourly wages and few (if any) benefits. Many are involved in the underground economy of the inner city.
In rural Pennsylvania, the situation is remarkably similar. Many boys who grow up without fathers aspire to work in the coal mine because their friends work there. Some are involved in a booming underground economy where the drugs of choice are crystal meth and heroin. Unmarried girls push baby strollers. Young men spend too much money on pick-up trucks.
The common ground between these two seemingly very different groups of young men is that they are still living with their mothers. They dare not venture too far from the person who has always provided for them.
Single mothers must ensure their boys have positive male role models in their lives. This may take some effort, but the reward is worth it.
Boys may lack fathers, but they require real men to learn from.
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Project 21 member Council Nedd II, the bishop of the Chesapeake and the Northeast for the Episcopal Missionary Church, is the honorary chairman of In God We Trust (http://www.ingodwetrustusa.org), a group formed to oppose anti-religious bigotry. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org .
Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.