Bullying: How Fathers Can Recognize It and Act

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Publication Date
March 23, 2015

“Being bullied is not a rite of passage,” said David Miller, NRFC Social Media Manager and Urban Leadership Institute Co-Founder. “We, as fathers, need to regularly demonstrate to our children that all people are to be treated with respect.” The December 2014 NRFC Webinar, How can fathers address bullying issues with their children?, provided concrete ways to recognize if a child is being bullied and how fathers can help prevent or end bullying.

Children who are bullied may experience a range of outcomes including isolation, humiliation, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, or even in rare cases suicide. And, while we acknowledge that bullying behavior is unacceptable it’s important to note that some children play different roles at different times. For example, a child may be a bully or serve as a bystander who assists, reinforces, or defends a bully’s actions. At another time, the same child may be the victim of bullying. We need to work with all children to change behaviors—not just the one currently acting as a bully or the one being victimized.

How can fatherhood programs help? By having fathers share their own childhood experiences, they can then reflect on their children’s current behaviors. For example, has a child started to be unhappy about going to school or possibly spending a lot of time alone? And, whereas most bullying in the recent past ended with the school day, cyberbullies can now follow children home. “If your child has access to a computer or smart phone, it is critical that you establish expectations for online behavior and set consequences for bad behavior,” says Callahan Walsh, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “Bystanders also need to know how to report bullying behaviors to either a specific website or school administrator.”

A bullied child may feel at fault or worry about possible repercussions of telling an adult. Fathers can help by explaining to the child that it is not their fault. In addition, fathers can talk about ways to avoid the bully and engage a teacher or principal on the child’s behalf.

As a general rule, fathers should visit their children’s schools on a regular basis to show the community that you are an active parent and gain first-hand knowledge of the school administration. “Creating a positive school environment requires a strong partnership between families and schools,” said Michael Knowles, Chair, National PTA Male Engagement Committee. PTA membership now includes 22 percent male members and is growing.

Remember, children learn from what they see and hear at home, so fathers should set a positive, respectful example and talk with their children regularly about what is going on at their schools.

View material from the webinar here.

For more information, visit:

National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse