Dads need to help boys understand and shape masculinity.

In years past, fathers were often “there, but not there,” according to Craig Wilkinson, a dad of two and founder of Father a Nation, a South African nonprofit that addresses gender-based violence, crime and fatherlessness by restoring and equipping  men to be nation-builders, fathers and role models. Dads focused on providing for their families, as that’s what they were taught. They didn’t engage emotionally because their parents didn’t emotionally engage with them — and because few people recognized fathers’ role in the emotional development of children.

Now we know that fathers are critically important to their children’s well-being — to the world’s well-being.

“Boys look to older men to model for them how to be a man,” Craig says. The question boys are often asking (whether they verbalize it or not) is Am I man enough? Do I have what it takes? When boys aren’t taught to harness their strength and drives, they may behave in ways that harm themselves and others. But “if a boy is seen and validated…and taught to use his drives and his strengths for good, there’s no need for him to hurt himself or misuse his strength in any way,” Craig says.

Consistently “being there” for our boys is key.

“If they consistently know you are there and the door’s open, they will come,” Craig says. “They will come.” Parents, he says, need to “Be there. Be present, be engaged, be there.”

In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Craig discuss:

Topics we cover on the show:
  • The changing role of fathers

  • Finding male mentors

  • What boys and girls need from dads

  • Counteracting mixed messages about masculinity

  • Supporting boys through puberty

  • How moms can facilitate father/son relationships

  • Signaling your availability to your son (even if you don’t live with him)

  • Making micro-connections

  • A human-first approach