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Toxic fathers


Today, many fathers are not just the families’ breadwinners but also their children’s mentors.

Several of my best-performing students say their fathers tutored them in mathematics and science in grade school.  The students also prefer to be taught by their fathers rather than their mothers.

“If my mother teaches me, she shouts after a few seconds. I end up crying or shouting back,” many students say.  It seems mothers need to be more patient.

Of course, not all fathers are patient. Some 20 years ago, a student told me his father would hit him with a stick or a belt if he was not on the honor roll.

I felt anxious every time I checked this student’s answer sheet and hoped he would get a high mark to avoid another beating.

What I should have done was talk to the father and ask him not to abuse his child. But I was a young and inexperienced teacher then. The only thing I did was listen to the student as he poured out his pain.

The student is married now. He is a very loving and patient father to his own son, who is enjoying school.

While in the past, fathers were generally viewed as breadwinners but distant disciplinarians, many fathers today seem to be closer to their children.


The bad news is that many fathers now boast about being their children’s barkada, unable to provide guidance.  Look at the following situations:

A female friend asked for my help with her 8-year-old son, who is so addicted to computer games he plays for 6-8 hours on weekdays, longer on weekends.  His grades have plummeted.

Limiting game time was impossible, said the mom, because her husband also spent hours playing computer games with the boy.

“My husband introduced gaming to our son,” she said.  “Now, both of them cannot stop.”

Another time, when one of my students consistently got failing marks, I told him it could jeopardize his chances of getting a good job.  He replied: “I don’t need to apply for jobs.  My father said… he would make me vice president of our corporation.”

I could only tell him their corporation faced a dire future with him holding a top position.

In a psychology class, when we were discussing human sexuality, a male student said: “I had my first sexual experience at 16 because, as a birthday gift, my father paid a prostitute to  ‘initiate’ me.  My father said it would be better for me to be guided by him and the women he chose, rather than get a girl pregnant.”

I asked him: “What did your mother say?”  His immediate reply was, “She doesn’t know.”

These fathers see themselves as their children’s peers, with grotesque results.


Many fathers now act like bullies in their misguided attempts to find an excuse for their children’s misbehavior or poor performance.

A grade school guidance counselor said: “In recent years, we have seen more cases of fathers getting belligerent when their sons are found to have violated school rules.  It is our policy to meet with parents on disciplinary cases, but we are dismayed that, instead of telling their kids to shape up, fathers berate us and claim their kids are not at fault. Some fathers even threaten to sue the school.  We want parents to partner with us in ensuring their children grow up to be responsible adults, but it is not easy working with them.”

A high school varsity coach said: “During a tournament, the father of one of our players… yelled at me.  He disagreed with the referee’s call and he wanted me to confront the man. I saw nothing wrong with the call and [even] the players did not [protest].

“To my shock, [the father] confronted the referee and shouted in his face.  It was extremely embarrassing for all of us. This is not an isolated incident [so] we [set a] rule barring parents from [the] court.”

A college professor said: “When a student got a low mark, his father stormed into the faculty room and demanded his grade be changed. Told there was no basis for this, the father berated the hapless teacher, the department chair and other professors.”

Ninoy and Noy

Contrast the behavior of toxic fathers with Ninoy Aquino’s.  In August 1973, from his cell at Fort Bonifacio, Ninoy wrote his only son, Noynoy, and explained why he “decided not to participate in the proceedings of the Military Commission assigned to try charges filed against [me].”

The letter was touching and fascinating. I was also struck by Ninoy’s emphasis on the values great fathers pass on to their children.

Instead of material wealth and power, Ninoy emphasized honor.  “You are my only son,” Ninoy wrote.  “You carry my name and the name of my father.  I have no material wealth to leave you… The only valuable asset I can bequeath to you now is the name you carry. I have tried my best during my years of public service to keep that name untarnished and respected, unmarked by sorry compromises for expediency.  I now pass it on to you, as good, I pray, as when my father, your grandfather, passed it on to me.”

Ninoy stressed service to others. “Live with honor and follow your conscience. There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength.”

Instead of shielding his son from challenges, Ninoy expected the future President to overcome them. He ended his letter with: “Son, the ball is now in your hands.”

Ninoy’s letter can be found in several sites, such as www.


E-mail the author at bless


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