Dads sometimes have to be bullies for their sons
by Archie Wortham
Would any of you fathers allow your sons to drive your car without a good list of do’s and don’ts? Would any of you dads allow your sons to venture into a new experience without providing instructions? If you answered the first one honestly, then I can hear the groans as you remind yourself how important it is to you that your sons (or daughters) understand safety and the value of life. Sometimes the value of our children’s lives depends on the condition the car is in when it is returned. First, we want to make sure the child is alive before we kill them for something stupid they may have done regarding something we told them to do or not do. The secondquestion however, is a mystery to many of us. Many times, what we expect as parents is not clear, particularly from our sons. We expect our sons to learn things through observation, not realizing we may not have given them the pattern we want them to follow. Dads, we are the role models.
I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t a bully when I grew up. I was a geek, a nerd. Guys picked on me because I was a bookworm. I wore black-rimmed glasses and high-watered pants. My voice changed late. As a member of the glee club, I sang alto until I refused to sing anymore. I wanted to find Mother Nature so I could choke her into understanding her joke was no longer funny. It was humiliating. I had to bear the brunt and ill wills of the local goon, with no help from my dad. “My dad,” I thought, “he’d surely help if he was around.” How did I survive? I sort of had a ‘bodyguard,’ my best friend.
My best friend had older brothers who taught him the route, and Floyd (that was his name) helped me make it. There were also a few male teachers in high school that looked out for me. And I survived. Survived to the point I’m now a dad who understands that sometimes I need to play the bully for my son.
By being the bully, you have to understand how I see that role. Granted I want my sons to stand up on their own feet, but sometimes society expects men to grow up too quick. There are certain rites of passage that boys learn from their dads, and in an effort to make sure they are ready for these rites, we dads sometimes have to protect our sons, as well as prepare them. We protect them by seeking out dads of bullies, and encouraging these dads to teach similar virtues to their children. We must teach virtues like “Do you know that your son is picking on kids younger than he is?” We must teach virtues like “Would you mind talking to your son about how he’s taking advantage of some of the kids?”
Sometimes these fathers aren’t even aware. Somehow their sons have learned who’s an easy mark, and make the best of it. By easy mark, I mean someone they can bully into doing something just because some kid wants to be included. An easy mark, because for some reason unknown to many of us, some kids are popular, and others are not, and it seems the bullies bully those who aren’t on the local social register.
Father involvement can make up for the lack of self-esteem their sons may feel, but only if the father realizes how important their involvement in their son’s life is. And dads, no man will have the effect you will have on your son’s life, and whether he wants you to or not–get involved. Now some will say that they will learn to swim only if you throw them in the pool, and add, “that’s how I learned!” Well that may be good for you, but think about how you felt? Cold? Humiliated? Hurt? If you didn’t like it, why do you think your son would? Be real! Use common sense. Be fair with your kids. Teaching them how to take care of themselves doesn’t mean you have to abandon them. If a kid is treating them unfairly, help them resolve the issue by giving them the tools to handle the situation. If the situation is beyond them, then elevate to a father-to-father level, and in the process the bully will realize that if he messes with so-in-so’s son, his dad will find out what he’s doing. Now some dads might encourage bullying behavior, but then that’s when a little nurturing comes in. That’s when you tell your son, ‘grin and bear it, or find another friend.’
That’s what it’s all about. When I was in school, it took me some time to realize I didn’t have to put up with the bully. It took me some time to realize I could stand on my own feet. It took me some time to realize that any friend who tried to take advantage of me was not a friend. I try to teach my sons the same thing. Think about it, the next time your son needs you to run interference before he asks for the keys to the car.