The acronym “POPS” stands for protector, order keeper, provider, and stabilizer. In last week’s Fathering Strong blog post, we shared some thoughts about being a protector. The main takeaway was that mature, responsible males are indispensable in making homes, neighborhoods, and schools safe places for children.

In this article, let’s turn to the second of four attributes of POPS: Order Keeper.

Keeping Order

As order keepers, our manly influence calms the unruly tendencies of younger males. The old saying, “Boys will be boys,” is used to excuse disorderly behavior and implies that it is just a natural part of being male and shouldn’t be taken seriously. The problem is that the unruly tendencies will likely worsen without an adult male present and engaged in correcting bad behavior.

Every boy needs a mature, responsible, and nurturing father or father figure to emulate.

The famous educator Geoffrey Canada said, “Boys want to grow up to be like their male role models. And boys who grow up in homes with absent fathers search the hardest to figure out what it means to be male.” Having no male role model or having one who is not a good role model tends to normalize boys’ bad behavior.  Perhaps you have heard a true story about elephants that illustrates a very important fact about human males.

The Story of the Rhino Killers

It was reported in February 2000 that aggressive young orphaned elephants are reported to have killed 36 rhinos, including rare black ones, in a game park in eastern South Africa. According to conservationists, the young elephants have been provoking confrontation with the rhinos since they were introduced at the game park. 

The elephants were orphaned when their parents were culled in the early 1990’s in an effort to control the elephant population in Kruger National Park. As the elephants matured, so they have become more aggressive. Attacks on rhinos have been growing over the past two years, with 13 killed, including two black rhino, in the last five months of 1999, South African newspapers report.

A park ranger said he had witnessed an elephant knocking a rhino over, trampling it and driving a tusk through its chest. Conservation vet Dave Cooper said, “There was a spate of killings, and it was if they were purposeful. The rhinos were ripped to pieces.” He said that elephants and rhino routinely clash in nature, “but this sort of behavior, when elephants actively go out and chase rhino, if totally abnormal.”

Fellow conservationist Tony Conway said similarly aggressive behavior had also been seen in Pilanesberg National Park in Northwest Province – another home for Kruger Park orphaned elephants. However, the killings at Pilanesberg stopped when six adult elephant bulls were introduced to the park. The young ones’ behavior patterns returned to normal under their influence.

Why would the young elephants kill rhinos? Well, like human juvenile delinquents, they had grown up without role models.

“I think everyone needs a role model, and these elephants that left the herd had no role model and no idea of what appropriate elephant behavior was,” stated Gus Van Dyk, Pilanesberg Park’s field ecologist.[i] 

Just as those young male elephants needed adult males to show them how to be elephants, boys need mature adult father figures to show them what it means to be men.

Order Keeping Starts at Home

The Creator’s original family plan was for every child to have both a mother and a father who would provide 24/7 guidance and nurturance as they grew up. Although much has changed societally, some studies suggest that, on average, children in married-parent households have advantages over children in other family structures. A primary benefit is family stability and the consistent presence of two loving parents to maintain order and structure.

Whatever the family makeup, research shows that some factors are important for a child’s well-being. These include:

  • Stable and nurturing relationships with caregivers: Children thrive with strong, positive bonds with the adults who raise them. This can be with biological parents, adoptive parents, same-sex parents, or other caregivers.
  • Economic security: Financial stress can affect children’s well-being. Having enough resources to meet basic needs is important for healthy development.
  • Positive parenting practices: Children do best with parents who are responsive to their needs, provide clear and consistent expectations, and use positive reinforcement.

We will have more on this subtopic in the upcoming episode: Fathers as Stabilizers.

The original family design provided for constant parental teaching. For example, when instructing parents to teach their children the commandments of God, they were told: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”[ii] That’s pretty much most of the time!

Interestingly, this passage’s Hebrew word for “teach” means “goad.”  Cattlemen used a goad (a sharp stick) to gently poke the cattle to get them to go in the direction they wanted them to go. The prodding didn’t hurt or damage the cows but provided constant guidance.  The goading’s point (pun intended) was to keep things orderly.  

Likewise, teaching children requires constant presence and consistent gentle correction, accompanied by modeling appropriate behavior.

Modeling Healthy Conflict Resolution

 Good discipline includes the ability to handle conflict nonviolently. As order keepers, dads can show their children how to do this through their peacemaking practice. 

Fathers and father figures can play a powerful role in teaching boys (and children of all genders) how to navigate conflict in a healthy way. Here are some strategies they can use:

Active Listening and Empathy:

  • Model good listening skills: Pay attention to the other person, make eye contact, and avoid interrupting.
  • Validate feelings: Acknowledge the other person’s emotions, even if you disagree.
  • Ask clarifying questions: Make sure you understand the other person’s perspective before responding.

Communication Skills:

  • Use “I” statements: Focus on your own feelings and needs instead of blaming the other person.
  • Be clear and assertive: Communicate your needs clearly and confidently, but without being aggressive.
  • Focus on the problem, not the person: Keep the conversation focused on the issue at hand, not personal attacks.

Problem-Solving and Compromise:

  • Brainstorm solutions together: Work with the other person to find a solution that works for everyone involved.
  • Be willing to compromise: Conflict resolution is rarely a win-lose situation. Be open to finding a middle ground.
  • Focus on win-win solutions: Aim for solutions that address everyone’s needs and concerns.

Modeling Emotional Regulation:

  • Stay calm and collected: Avoid yelling, name-calling, or other aggressive behavior.
  • Take time to cool down: If emotions are running high, take a break to calm down before continuing the conversation.
  • Use healthy coping mechanisms: Model healthy ways to deal with anger, frustration, and other difficult emotions.


  • Show that it’s okay to disagree: Disagreements are normal, but it’s important to handle them respectfully.
  • Apologize when necessary: Be willing to take responsibility for your mistakes.
  • Focus on the positive outcome: Celebrate reaching a solution and rebuilding the relationship.

By following these tips, father figures can set a positive example and teach valuable skills to help children navigate conflict.

Instruction from the Holy Scriptures

Train up a child in the way he should go,
[a]And when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 NKJV

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 helping to pastor New Hope Church in Springfield, Ohio. Reverend Williams authored Father Love—The Powerful Resource Every Child Needs in 2018.


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[ii] Duet. 6:7 NKJV