I am the father of two teenage boys. Over the course of their lives, we’ve had to address the issue of bullying several times. After many conversations about how to handle bullies, my sons and I came up with the Crews family principals of conduct.
2. If you witness another child being bullied, you have a duty to intervene.
3. Words are never a reason for a physical confrontation.
We take these principals seriously and, by all accounts, they’ve helped my sons become confident in their abilities to handle difficult situations. It’s obvious that bullying has multiple levels of influence and confusion.
By this I mean society has a set of rules, the law has a set of rules, the school district has a set of rules and the schoolyard has a set of rules. All of these rules can be very confusing to a child, which is why it’s imperative for parents—especially fathers—to keep those lines of communication open.
In raising my own sons, I’ve developed my own way of talking with them about difficult subjects. There’s a notion that dads struggle with this very simple, yet very important, aspect of child-rearing.
This isn’t necessarily true—it’s simply about geography.
It’s been my observation that fathers tend to communicate easily around activities. From throwing a ball around to doing chores around the house. Based on how men interact, I believe this is simply an evolutionary process that’s part of our DNA.
Like most kids their age, my sons have gone through their share of growing pains. As challenging—and oftentimes sensitive—as these moments were, I was able to connect with them while we were engaged in an activity together. The bullying talks came up during racquetball games, playing ball at the park and on the golf course.
On a ski trip, I explained to my oldest son that I’m not his biological father. We had the “sex” talk during a day of wakeboarding. And, as we shared a burger at a local restaurant, my son and I discussed the heartbreak of losing your first love.
No matter where you decide to broach those important conversations, to be effective, the process has to start early and it has to be based on trust. You can’t be emotionally absent during your children’s early development. Expect positive outcomes during difficult conversations as they become teenagers. A child will give unconditional love, but in order to reach your kids as they grow and mature, you have to have a trust established before these conversations even begin.
I have spent 17 years building a level of trust through honesty and involvement in my sons’ lives. They’ve asked me some difficult questions about my own past and I’ve always been honest with them. Which, according to them, has helped them understand that people make mistakes. It’s how you handle your failures that dictate the kind of man you will be.