From Fatherless to Fatherhood: What Makes A Man A Father?

by July 22, 2013

Washington, DC — On Sunday, July 7, viewers tuned in to the follow up to Oprah’s LifeClass presentation of Fatherless Sons and Daddyless Daughters, an OWN network series tackling the epidemic of fatherlessness in America. The series, which had its first installments earlier this year and will continue for the rest of July, addresses the trend that has affected all communities, but has taken the black community by storm. Fatherless children become at risk in higher numbers for everything from incarceration to chemical abuse to suicide. With more than 72% of African American children being born out of wedlock, the impact of fatherless homes in the black community isn’t just a trend, it’s an epidemic.

It is an epidemic that Dr. Dwayne Buckingham, psychotherapist and author, knows all too well. In his work with African American males as a therapist and the product of a fatherless home himself, Dr. Buckingham has seen first-hand the psychological damage that absentee fathers help create.

“My mother did her best to educate me about the challenges that I would face as a man, but she could not educate me about the role of a father. As I ventured through childhood I found it difficult to respect and connect with men,” Dr. Buckingham says. “My brothers and uncles served as role models, but they could not give me the attention that I needed as a young boy because they had sons of their own.”

Fatherless Sons and Daddyless Daughters has focused on the aftermath and healing for the children of fatherless homes. Dr. Dwayne advocates for not simply to drawing attention to the fatherless, but to begin re-building families by building fathers. His six observations learned from his practice of what makes a man a father are designed to provide the basic foundation for transitioning fatherless men into fatherhood:

1. A man becomes a Father when he takes responsibility for raising his children.Any man can create a child, but a Father will not forsake his child. A man becomes a Father when he not only clams his child, but also takes care of his child. Any man can donate sperm, but fathers nurture and raise their seed.

2. A man becomes a Father when he connects with his children.Children, especially young boys need male role models with whom they can share their feelings with and learn from. Feeling connected is a basic human need. It is difficult to show affection when one does not feel connected. Fathers enjoy the time they spend with their children. They eat together, play together, and pray together.

3. A man becomes a Father when he learns to feed his children before he eats.This fundamental lesson is critical to help young boys and girls understand the importance of engaging in selfless behavior. Young boys will also come to understand that they will be expected to provide as they journey into manhood. Young girls will come to understand the importance of giving their hearts to men who are family oriented.

4. A man becomes a Father when he leads by word and example.A father understands that he must command wisely in order to be obeyed cheerfully. He realizes that he sets the tempo for his children. He strives to be optimistic, empathic, resilient and inspirational. A man will demand respect, but a Father will demonstrate respect. A man will tell you how to live, but a Father will show you. A man will tell you what to do, but a Father will guide you.

5. A man becomes a Father when he demonstrates affection toward his children.A father looks for the good in his children and openly acknowledges it when it is found. He celebrates their successes and communicates in a positive and nurturing manner. Hugs and kisses are given in addition to words of encouragement.

6. A man becomes a Father when he respects the mother of his children.A father is committed to helping the mother of his children succeed and there is an attitude of “one for all, and all for one.” In short there is allegiance to the children and family life is a priority. •
Dr. Dwayne Buckingham is a psychotherapist, mentor and author of five books including “A Black Man’s Worth: Conqueror and Head of Household”. Visit his website at for more information. •

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