[1]Every child needs the love of a “pops.” That is what my son, Elijah, and many children call their fathers or father figures today. If you have a child, you must know about your important, God-given role in that child’s life. To communicate this, I’ve created the acronym “POPS,” which stands for protectors, order keepers, providers, and stabilizers. What follows are my definitions of those terms as they are related to fatherhood.

PROTECTORS

Mature, responsible males are indispensable in making homes, neighborhoods, and schools safe places for children.

ORDER KEEPERS

Their manly influence calms the unruly tendencies of younger males.

PROVIDERS

Responsible fathers contribute as many resources as they can for their children, including financial, emotional, spiritual, educational, and other valuable resources.

STABILIZERS

As mature, responsible men are present, empowered, and engaged in homes and neighborhoods, they bring stability.

In the next few blog posts, we will explore these aspects of effective fatherhood, beginning with protector.

Being a Protector

Mothers are known as protectors of their children. The Creator has also placed the instinct to be his child’s guardian within fathers. Every child needs the secure feeling that comes from knowing their father loves them and is there to watch over and protect them.

Neither is the urge to protect offspring exclusive to moms in the animal kingdom. Dads of many species play a vital role in keeping their young safe. Animals like silverback gorillas and lion prides have strong males who act as guardians. Silverbacks will use their impressive size and strength to deter threats from their family group, including young ones. While the females do most of the hunting, lions rely on the males to defend their pride from outside dangers. The drive to ensure the survival of their offspring is a powerful instinct in many male animals.

In 2019, a man named Dustin Elick from Colorado risked his own life to save his young son from a mountain lion attack. While hiking with his wife and two children, a mountain lion lunged at Elick’s 6-year-old son. Elick threw himself between the predator and his son, yelling and swatting at the animal. The mountain lion attacked Elick, leaving him with severe injuries on his arms and legs. However, his bravery gave his wife time to grab their other child and call for help. Elick underwent surgery and extensive therapy but eventually recovered. This story gained national attention, highlighting the incredible lengths a father will go to protect his child.[2] Hopefully, most of us dads will never have to battle a mountain lion to protect our families! But there are many things we can do to ensure our children’s safety. It begins at home.

In the Home

Having a mature, responsible, and present dad is best for the safety of children. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, kids with live-at-home fathers are less likely to be abused.[i]

It is a father’s responsibility to work with his child’s mother to ensure their child’s physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual safety.

Even live-away dads have this duty. The dedicated father is most likely to fulfill this obligation when he is encouraged and enabled to be consistently present in his child’s life. Just being around makes a difference in the level of protection he can give his child. No child should live in fear in their own home. Yet, too often, boys and girls witness family violence or become victims of abuse at the hands of someone in their own home. Often, the perpetrator is the boyfriend of the mother, the mother herself, or shamefully, sometimes even the biological father.

Family violence (also named domestic abuse or domestic violence) is a pattern of behavior that involves violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting, such as in marriage or cohabitation.

10 million children are exposed to family violence every year!

If you have violent tendencies, please seek help right away for the safety of your family.

Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Contact a crisis hotline: Resources are available 24/7 to talk confidentially with a trained professional. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/) is a good option in the US, or you can find resources specific to your area by searching online for “crisis hotline” + your location.
  2. Contact a therapist or counselor: A therapist can provide treatment to explore the root causes of violent tendencies and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Psychologists can also assess underlying conditions that might be contributing to anger or aggression. You can find a therapist through your insurance provider or by searching online for therapists in your area.
  3. Join an anger management program: These programs teach skills to identify triggers, manage anger healthily, and communicate effectively. Many options are available online and in person.
  4. Talk to your doctor: Sometimes, violent tendencies can be linked to underlying medical conditions. Your doctor can do a physical exam and recommend treatment if necessary.
  5. Consider a men’s support group: Connecting with other men who are working on managing anger or violence can be a source of support and encouragement. You can find men’s support groups online or through local mental health organizations.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Be honest: The more open you are with a therapist or counselor, the better they can help you.
  • Be patient: Change takes time and effort. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results immediately.
  • Stay committed: Recovery is a journey, not a destination. There will be setbacks, but it’s important to keep working towards your goals.

Remember, there is no shame in seeking help. It’s a sign of strength and a commitment to living a safer and healthier life for yourself, your family, and others around you.

Other Threats in the Home

Protective dads are on the lookout for threats to their families’ well-being from hazards like chemical, fire, electrical, and other dangers. Plus, online predators.

In the Neighborhood

Neighborhoods are safer for children when fathers are present. It is believed by some that the chief predictor of crime in a neighborhood is the percentage of homes without fathers.[ii]

The popular African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” assumes that the village includes fathers who fulfill their roles in the lives of the children. Masai warriors, for example, greet each other every day with the question, “How are the children?” They answer each other, “All the children are well.” Those mighty warriors understand that the truest measure of the health and security of their community is indicated by the well-being of the children. They know that their mission as protectors of the tribe is to defend the village from internal and external threats to the welfare of the children.

High-crime neighborhoods are characterized by a high concentration of families abandoned by fathers. Fathers who want their neighborhoods to be safe places for children must commit to being present, involved, and vigilant.

Protecting Your Child from Traffickers

Child trafficking is a horrific crime, and it’s understandable to want to do everything you can to keep your kids safe. Here are some steps parents can take:

Open Communication:

  • Build Trust: Create a safe space where your children feel comfortable talking to you about anything, including uncomfortable situations or people who make them feel weird.
  • Start Early & Often: Talk to your children about personal safety early and have regular conversations as they grow older. Age-appropriate discussions are key.
  • Body Safety & Boundaries: Teach your children about their bodies, privacy, and the importance of saying “no” to anything that makes them uncomfortable, even from adults they know.

Education & Awareness:

  • “Stranger Danger” Revisited: While the term “stranger danger” can be limiting, emphasize that not everyone they meet will be safe, even if they seem nice.
  • “Good Touch” vs. “Bad Touch”: Teach children about appropriate and inappropriate touching and empower them to tell you if someone touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • The “Buddy System” & Safe Places: Encourage children to be with a trusted adult or friend in public places and designate safe places to go for help if they feel lost or scared.

Supervision & Monitoring:

  • Know Their Activities: Know your children’s whereabouts, who they are with, and what they’re doing online.
  • Monitor Online Activity: Talk to your children about online safety and monitor their internet use. Social media platforms can be breeding grounds for traffickers.
  • Watch for Warning Signs: Be aware of potential signs that a child might be at risk, such as withdrawal, unexplained absences, or new possessions they can’t explain.

Community & Support:

  • Talk to Other Parents: Discuss safety concerns with other parents and consider creating a network of trusted adults to watch over children in your community.
  • Get Involved in Prevention: Support organizations working to combat child trafficking and educate yourself about local resources.

Remember:

  • Empower your children with knowledge and confidence.
  • Practice safety skills regularly.
  • Stay informed and involved in your children’s lives.

By following these steps, you can help create a strong foundation of safety and awareness for your children.

Inspiration from the Holy Scriptures

God highly values children and will avenge their abuse.

6 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. – Matthew 18:6

About the Author

Eli Williams is a father, grandfather, and father figure to many. He and his wife Judy have served in community outreach ministry since the late 1980s and founded Urban Light Ministries in 1995. Eli has been a professional fatherhood practitioner since 2008 and is an ordained Christian minister. Reverend Williams authored Father Love—The Powerful Resource Every Child Needs in 2018.

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[1] Portions of this blog post series were adapted from POPS 101, a training series published by Urban Light Ministries in the early 2000s. The POPS 101 online course is available in English and Spanish at https://www.fatheringstrong.com/spaces/7467745/content

[2] [Source: News articles about “Dustin Elick mountain lion attack” can be found with a web search].


[i] Promoting Responsible Fatherhood http://fatherhood.hhs.gov/Parenting/index.shtml

[ii] Fatherhood Facts http://www.dhr.state.al.us/page.asp?pageid=408