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Alphas and betas

Alphas and betas
Alphas and betas
Dr. Wayne Willis

“The place of the father in the modern suburban family is a very small one, particularly if he plays golf.” —Bertrand Russell

Unfortunately, Bertrand Russell died in 1970. Had he lived a few more years, Russell would have seen fathers stepping up to the plate more and assuming a larger share of parenting responsibilities.

One of my greatest joys has been to see all three of our sons become hands-on fathers, in the midst, instead of on the periphery, of child-rearing.

It has become common in our time to divide men into two groups: the alphas and the betas. Alpha males are the leaders of the pack, charismatic, dominating and intimidating. Think a cartoon gorilla pounding on his chest, yelling, “I’m the king of the jungle” or a tall, dark and handsome man declaring, like Leonardo DiCaprio shouting from the bow of the Titanic, “I’m the king of the world!”

Beta males are generally thought of as the polar opposite of alphas. They tend to be loyal and compliant. They work hard at proving themselves to others, earning their approval.

Rick McIntyre spent 20 years studying wolves in Yellowstone, for the National Park Service. By February 2019, he had made more than 100,000 wolf sightings and compiled 12,000-plus pages of detailed notes. “The main characteristic of an alpha wolf,” he concluded, “is a quiet confidence. You know what’s best for your pack. You lead by example. You have a calming effect.” One wolf, No. 21, deemed by McIntyre a “super wolf,” never lost a fight with a rival pack. Within his own pack, however, his favorite thing was to wrestle with the little pups.

Real men, like super wolf No. 21, can be more than command and control. They can also be warm and fuzzy.

Happy Father’s Day. Wolf on!