- - Thursday, October 19, 2017


Country music star Chris Young’s 2011 #1 hit song, “Voices,” is still popular on country station play lists. From his album, “The Man I Want To Be,” the lyrics resonate with those who grew up learning from family, unconsciously absorbing the words of numerous adults who—though we didn’t realize it at the time—were influencing our lives.

Mr. Young sings about all the “whispers runnin’ ‘round here in my brain.” Mr. Young’s dad reminds him to “work that job but don’t work your life away.” His mama tells him to “drop some cash in the offerin’ plate on Sunday.” His granddad says, “You can have a few but don’t ever cross that line.” Mr. Young figures he is “pretty dang lucky for all that good advice,” for all “those hard-to-find words of wisdom” that are “holed up here in my mind.” When he’s “lost his way” or “has too many choices,” he hears “voices all the time,” voices that influence the choices he makes.

Hearing that song, I think that many people today don’t receive direction from those voices of wisdom to help them negotiate the turbulent times of life especially during the teen and young adult years. They don’t have dads to remind them that if they “quit that team, you’ll be a quitter for the rest of your life.” They don’t have grandma’s telling them, “If you find the one, you better treat her right.” When they’ve “lost their way” or when they have “too many choices,” there is no “received wisdom” from family history to point them in the right direction. There are no inherited resources to provide the strength to resist, no strength of character to “just say no.”

Without a solid foundation in life, it’s far too easy to just give in and give up. There’s nothing to restrain the bad impulses or help to resist the temptation. Without those “voices” Mr. Young sings about, there’s no one and nothing to remind youth that long-term goals are more important than gratifying momentary impulses, nothing to give them a glimpse of what could be in the future if they choose the narrow, hard pathway now instead of the broad, easy road the crowd prefers.

Numerous research studies show that children in a single-parent home just do not fare as well as those in a secure married mom-and-dad family. I contend that these children don’t have the variety of “voices” influencing their decision-making that they need.

Father-absence is shown in many studies as a major factor in delinquency, behavioral problems in school, being suspended from school, low self-esteem, risk of depression, and even risk of mental illness and suicide. This is especially true in black America, where “72 percent of the children are missing fathers” and where more than “5 million black boys need a father.” How are these boys to learn how to navigate life as a man without a respected male role model? How many have single mothers overwhelmed with the responsibilities and pressures of her life and more involved in drugs and boyfriends than in shaping her children for a successful future?

In June, the 2017 “State of the World’s Fathers report was released with its summary of more than 100 research studies and reports from nearly every country in the world. A foremost finding is that men want to be more involved in the lives of their children, with 45 percent indicating that they’d like to spend more time with their children. Sadly, too many children will have few responsible, caring male voices to shape their perceptions and character and to influence their decisions.

In this era of radical individualism, emotional detachment and isolation, all parents need to rise to the challenge to connect with our children and be a “voice” for good in their lives. One way to enhance our own voice is to use it to inspire our children and model for them using the power of their “voice” for good rather than evil and to encourage others by speaking up and advocating for the rights of people who are vulnerable and have no voice.

Above all, instead of “helicopter parenting” (controlling and managing your child’s world), instill sound values and principles into your children so that they can manage their own world successfully. Be a parent who prepares your children for adulthood by making sure that truth is so solidly embedded in their hearts that they can “hear” those truths loudly and clearly at the decision points in their lives.

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