In this article: "Call it the Dad Effect.", the author offers what he suggests is a simple solution to bullying in schools: get dads more involved.
James Watts is the founder and principle of Education Plus High School, an alternative private high school in the municipality of St. Laurent, just north of Montreal. He is also chair of the governing board of a local high school.
In short, he is far more qualified to give an opinion on school bullying than I.
With my lack of experience in the field of education, I am in no position to debate whether his solution is viable. But as a father, I take issue with his arguments and wonder whether a similar article could have been written about mothers, without a severe backlash.
To illustrate my point, I will quote some passages in the article, but will reverse the sexes: fathers will become mothers; men will become women, etc. Imagine a working mother reading the following:
- "The few mothers who darken the doors of their child's elementary school miraculously disappear just when they are needed most: when the child gets to high school."
- "Many mothers leave school and all things academic (with the exception of math and science projects) to their children's father. Maybe they see it as a logical division of labour; or it could be for strategic reasons; or because of availability or lack of it; or just plain laziness."
- "Attend a school's bake sale, Parent Participation Organization event, or home-and-school meeting, and you will think you have stepped into a man-only zone. (Thank god for these amazing hardworking dads who offer many billable hours of service to cash-strapped schools.)"
- "For a would-be bully knowing there is a mom and that she is often seen in the school is a strong deterrent."
- "Finally, a mother who is involved in his child's school sends an unmistakable message that she cares enough to take the time to know what's happening in her child's life...It is this mother who will model to her daughter how to be a woman."
- "So, moms, if you really want to bully-proof your child get involved in his or her school. Go into the school's office tomorrow and ask how you can help out. Join the home-and-school organization. Stand for election for the governing board. Attend sports events. In doing so, you will be protecting your child, and other children, from the potentially damaging effect of either side of bullying."
OK. If you were, or are, a working mother how do you feel?
I'm a working father who is as involved as possible in my children’s lives from the moment I leave the office, until I return. In between, I'm often following up on e-mails, completing forms, and calling home.
The truth of today's society is: as much as roles may be reversing, they remain largely assigned in the same fashion as twenty years ago. More mothers stay home than do fathers; and, as a couple, more parents decide mothers will dedicate their time to child-rearing than to being in an office. I have no opinion as to whether this is wrong, or right. It just is.
In our house, it works well - for us.
In this article, if the argument is "a father's participation is school reduces the risk of bullying", can the opposite argument not also be inferred: "a father's absence from school increases the risk of bullying"?
Thanks, I needed that. Especially the part about laziness.
We have had a minor brush with bullying since my children began going to school. The solution was intervention by my wife and me in the way of talking to our child, informing the school, and remaining in constant contact with teachers and the principle who were stellar in their handling of the situation. An involved administration proved as vital as a hands-on parent.
This may be something Mr. Watts would like to examine more closely, especially considering:
"Fair or unfair, as a principle I grant more time to the complaint of a parent who has been involved in my school than I do the parent I have never met."
Warning to the bullied child of two working parents.
In his article's opening paragraph, the author refers to the research done on bullying: "A plethora of 'solutions' have been offered. And yet the problem persists." Why? because the problem is a complex one, dealing with human nature which, at it's heart, is fickle and jumbled.
While there are dads (and moms) who could be more involved in their children's lives, let's not insinuate to the majority of parents that "lazy" working dads may be the cause of their child being bullied.
And, by the way, when I am at school, I do not darken the door - I'd like to think I brighten it up a little.
Well, I do consider myself an expert on bullying, as I am a school counselor to adolescents and run anti bullying programs within my school, and have extensive experience in working with students who have bullied and have been bullied, and one topic that has NEVER come up, has been how involved a father or mother is within the school. The only proven way to combat bullying effectively is create a culture of respect within the school community and an intolerance for bullying behaviors and gestures. Plain and simple. And that cultural shift is only effective if EVERYONE is educated and engaged, teachers, students, parents, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, administrators...everyone. Education needs to start young in teaching our children how our actions and words created a reaction in others, both positive and negative, which is by far, the best thing parents can do to protect their kids from bullying and from being the bully.
I'm happy for that principal that his perceived anti bullying tactics of involvement work for him, but the public stereotyping and judgement is what gets us into trouble in the first place. I will gladly be sharing this on my FB page. Your response is so well done and true. Love the psychology of it!
Posted by: Lynn Reilly | Feb 15, 2012 at 09:06 AM
I think Mr. Watts is unrealistic and unfair towards fathers. Like you said, the typical family has a father who works and the mom at home with the kids, or maybe the mom works too now. I could see his point if we had mostly stay at home dads out there, but we don't. Fathers have a huge influence as parents. It doesn't matter if it's just when they come home from work, or whenever they can be present in any way. Kids know that dad has to work, and if mom had to work, they would know that too. It seems like Mr. Watts just wants more volunteers, and is trying to make fathers feel guilty.
Posted by: Courtney~Mommy LaDy Club | Feb 15, 2012 at 06:44 PM
I'll have to agree with the commenter above- that there has to be a culture of mutual respect, in order to prevent bullying. The absent father or mother isn't the sole cause of bullying. I'm a single mom, so that's what I'd like to believe :)
Posted by: The Pepperrific Life | Feb 20, 2012 at 02:14 AM