Author Joe Battaglia has a passion for lifting up dads, telling Faithwire that his new book, “Fathers Say…: Give the Gift of Blessing to Your Children,” was birthed out of his concern over the “effects of the fatherlessness in our country.”
And with Father’s Day approaching, we decided to do a Q&A with Battaglia to learn more about his views on the state of parenthood in America, ask what the Bible says about fatherhood, and also dive deeper into contemporary cultural patterns. Here’s that exchange:
What made you write “Fathers Say?”
The results of abusive and absentee fathers are evident and are seemingly the one common denominator of many of society’s ills—pornography, human trafficking, abortion, rape, murder, alcoholism, teen suicide, and incarceration. All these can be traced to abusive and absentee fathers. The stats are startling:
– Sixty-three percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes—5 times the average (US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Bureau of the Census)
– Ninety percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes—32 times the average (The Garbage Generation by Daniel Amneus).
– Eighty-five percent of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes—20 times the average (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
– Eighty percent of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes—14 times the average (Justice & Behavior 14:403–26).
– Seventy-one percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes—9 times the average (National Principals Association Report).
Men who have abdicated their roles as fathers are the single greatest problem in society today! So, we hope to illustrate in the book through stories of well-known people the importance of what a fathers says and how it sticks with a child through the years. And then add personal stories and Biblical principles to follow so that we illustrate how to be a good dad.
What makes a good dad?
In Deuteronomy 11:18–19, Moses says this to fathers whom he addresses as the teachers of their households: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
God gives the responsibility to men to father their children and take opportunities as they arise to teach. If a father is absent, he misses those opportunities. It’s not enough to bring children into the world and care for their physical and emotional needs. There is a spiritual need that all children have which must be addressed, and God asks us as fathers to meet that need.
All fathers are teachers. Some are absent. Some are reluctant. But children will learn something from us. The question is, what do we want them to learn and from whom? A father will be the teacher by his actions, his love, and his verbal opportunities to communicate character and truth in everyday experiences. Every experience is an opportunity to teach.
What a father says will truly reverberate endlessly in the heart of the child who receives it. So, dad, watch what you say. It can determine your child’s way!
When you look at society today, what concerns, if any, do you have about the state of fatherhood?
I am particularly concerned about the social engineers who dismiss the need for a father completely from the equation of a family and the importance to the development of children. Let me give you an example.
My wife has MS. And she has limitations as to what she can do at times. Living with those limitations is a challenge many times. Now, that’s a hard enough lesson for an adult to embrace. It’s even harder for a child to figure out. This came to a head one day when my daughter was around nine years old, and beginning to understand the frustrations of what mom could not do because of her limitations.
In a world of soccer moms who seemed to be at the beck and call of their kids, my daughter did not have that same experience many of her friends enjoyed. What seemed normal for everyone else was not the norm in our house. One day, when another opportunity to do something with her friends was not realized because of mom’s physical limitation, the frustration was just too much for a child’s mind and heart to comprehend. I heard her burst into tears and run downstairs into the basement, where I found her crumpled into a corner, repeatedly saying, “It’s not fair.”
As a father, how do you respond to that? All I could do is be there, hold her, and do my best to assure her that despite how “unfair” life may seem, I would be there to love her. My role was simply to let my presence somehow absorb her fear and anxiety, which are the real emotions behind what she was feeling. This is why absent fathers leave a gaping hole in how children process what is happening all around them today. When a father is absent, it can mean no absorption of the feelings children cannot process. Being there is half the battle. So, a father helps to absorb pain, and to process feelings. You can’t do that when you’re absent.
Children can run from situations they cannot deal with, but they cannot run away emotionally. As fathers, we want to be there for when they ultimately collapse under the weight of anxiety and fear. We yearn to “take” the pain from them, well aware that we cannot. So the next best thing is to share the pain with them. And the only way to do that is to be there. The presence of the father at a time like that is unlike anything else in the universe. That’s because it mimics what the heavenly Father feels for us, his children, when we need similar comfort.
So, if our culture continues to dismiss and disregard the role of fathers, we will continue to have more broken kids, who turn into broken adults. We must reverse this mindset in our country.
What are the best Bible verses for dads who are looking for some scriptural inspiration on how to parent?
In the book of Ephesians, there’s an admonition for fathers not to exasperate their children. A modern translation states: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NLT). Notice that discipline and instruction are not associated with getting your kids angry. Just the opposite. God’s ways of instruction and discipline are kind and gentle, achieving positive results in the hearts of children as they mature into well-balanced adults
The Proverbs verse that says “to train up your child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it” is also important. (Proverbs 22:6 KJV). That verse is often misinterpreted to mean that parents direct or forge their version of their child’s future for him, complete with getting him to adopt their morality. Rather, when translated correctly, it really means that parents should know what their child has a bent toward, and guide him toward that direction. In that way, the child fulfills what God has wired him to be and thereby fulfills his destiny, hopefully as a contributor to the kingdom of God and as a citizen of society.
After reading “Father’s Say,” what’s the key take-away you want to leave people with?
Simply this: What fathers say WILL determine their child’s way. The power of a father’s words will make a difference not only in families, but in society, as well.