Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Tale of an Alpha Male Father

One of Dr. Laura's favorite go-to stories about "alpha male" fathers dealing with boys who disrespect their mother is from a letter she got from a guy who recalls mouthing off to his mother until his father came into the room, grabbed him by the collar and/or pinned him up against the wall or some such maneuver, got into his face, and said "You will never talk to MY WOMAN that way!" And the letter writer claimed it worked.

Dr. Laura is very clear that the wording is "my woman" rather than "your mother", because the woman being disrespected is the father/husband's territory. That's her wording. This is one of the very few specific examples I've heard anyone, not just Dr. Laura, describe when they tell husbands and fathers to "man up" or "be a real man" or "be alpha" or "get control of your family". Apparently guys are usually supposed to magically know an effective tactic that follows from such admonitions. Like this:
Teen: Screw you!
Outside Observer: You can't let your son behave that way! Be alpha!
Father: [does the unexplained alpha tactics... because someone else told him to be alpha]
Teen: I love you, dad! I'll never be disrespectful again.
But here we have one of the very rare times a specific tactic is described. A few of observations about this anecdote:

1) There are many, many people out there, many of them wives and mothers, who'd say what the husband/father said was demeaning, degrading, disrespectful, patriarchal, sexist, etc. and therefore wrong; the wife/mother is not property, is not owned, is not territory and what her husband did was imply she is. Many would also say it is wrong because it should have nothing to do with her marital status or who her husband is; rather, nobody should treat anyone else the way that the son was. Either Dr. Laura and people who agree with her on this are wrong or those who disagree with Dr. Laura on this are.

2) There are also many people out there, including some who'd say that the words were fine, but that the physical aspects were abusive and assault. There are probably women who'd kick their husbands out if he did that, and if it happened in front of others, especially ladies with very wrinkly skin or hairy legs and armpits, the police would be called to investigate the "assault" and "child abuse" and then the father/husband would have to endure interrogation if not worse. Again, someone is right here and someone is wrong.

3) What if the teen responded with "Or what?" Apparently this specific one didn't, but people aren't all the same. There are going to be at least some mouthy teenaged sons who are going to basically ask, "Or what?" If parents are following Dr. Laura's teachings, the teen doesn't have a smart phone or other personal, networked electronics, doesn't have an automobile, doesn't have unobserved dates, has no or little access to a video game system - so those things can't be taken away. The parents can't physically force the child to do anything such as physical labor as punishment. They can't withhold  shelter, food, or clothing. Grounding might be effective as punishment and to encourage behavior modification, but that only stands a chance if the kid is actually the type who attends parties or goes to hang out with friends. Frankly, I could have been happy staying in my room all of the time. In fact, I did that a lot and don't think I was ever in trouble at that age. The parents could say they're not going to pay for college, but again, that depends on them actually having that ability and the announced intention in the first place, but since, according to Dr. Laura, guys "don't value what they don't have to work for" and people are better off being completely self-sufficient as soon after turning 18 as possible, well, the guy's going to be better off in the long run anyway, right?

I'm glad the letter writer looks back on the experience as ultimately positive, but these are the observations I have about that anecdote.

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