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A Father's Influence Can Prevent Bullying - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Do your children think you work too much and don't spend enough time with them? New research from Vanderbilt University says that every minute that fathers spend with their children may actually be lowering their chances of becoming bullies.

How do you explain that the father’s time has more influence on bullying in kids?

This study has been a big surprise since most of us tend to think that the mother’s time with the kids would have the greatest effect. Not so, says this new study since the father is the key player here. But the crux of the matter is the child’s perception of the father’s interest and investment. If a neglected child feels valued and loved, they are much less likely to exhibit bullying behaviors. But if he felt neglected and marginalized by a busy dad, whether he was in fact really ignored or not, can determine whether he will show the following behaviors:

  • Cruelty to others at school
  • Disobedience at school
  • Hanging out with the wrong crowd
  • Having a bad temper
  • A lack of remorse for his misbehavior

Why would the mother’s schedule not have more of an impact?

While mothers are still centrally important to the child, they are often involved in the day-to-day maintenance of the child and his needs. Women still perform at least double the amount of childcare that men do although that number has dropped with the new economy that has centrally impacted men. But her tasks are often rote and non-inclusive—laundry, cooking, cleaning—that don’t include the child in dialogue or play. That’s where fathers come in.

Why are dads so important in preventing bullying?

Popular Through Humor: Often the father is the chief role model in resolving conflict without violence and in achieving social status without aggression. Bullying is essentially a strategy to gain social status through intimidation. We no longer think of the bully as the loner who lashes out. In fact, studies have found most bullies are among the most popular and socially connected children at school and torture others to raise their profile. Dads go a long way in helping kids socialize successfully through humor, repartee, and good-natured kidding with others.

Dads Teach Problem Solving: An attentive, competent father helps the child to reign in his aggression toward others and to play well with others by sharing, creating opportunities for group “wins”, etc. Dads can coach kids to solve problems, not create them.

Children Will Confide Through Activities: Dads are vital in just showing up and being present in their kid’s life. There is absolutely no substitute for putting in the face time with a young boy or girl. Dads are great at getting kids to talk through activities—throwing a ball around, building model cars or ships, and just hanging out watching the game.

Here are some specific suggestions for fathers who are worried about their kids:

If you plan to spend more time, make the interaction count. I always advise fathers to include planned, special activities with their son or daughter such as pancakes on Saturday morning or time at the gym together. Literally plan a “date” with your child.

It is also important that these interactions are one-on-one and you don’t try to cover all your bases by having one interaction with all of your children at once. Your absolute, undiluted attention on one child is an incredible influence and can really make the difference in their lives.


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