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Dan Welch
Colorado Department of Human Services
303.866.3808
Maggie Spain
The Bawmann Group
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September 29, 2010

Raising Respectful Sons: How Colorado Dads Can Teach Their Boys About Healthy Relationships With Women

According to a Focus Report from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, approximately one in three adolescent girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. This figure greatly exceeds victimization rates for other types of teen violence. As October marks National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Colorado Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Initiative, Colorado Men Against Domestic Violence (CMADV) campaign and Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence are encouraging fathers to do their part to help eliminate this horrible statistic. By teaching their sons to take a stand against domestic violence as they begin their own relationships, fathers will have a positive impact for years to come.

“It is estimated that more than five million American women are victimized by an intimate partner each year,” said Dan Welch, fatherhood and family specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services. “Men can play an important role in the fight to end domestic violence, starting by proactively educating their sons on the dangers of violent relationships.”

The Family Violence Prevention Fund lists the following coaching tips for fathers to use to help their sons become good boyfriends, husbands and fathers:

Teach Early. It’s never too soon to talk to a child about violence. Let him know how you think he should express his anger and frustration – and what is out of bounds. Talk with him about what it means to be fair and treat others with respect.

Be There. If it comes down to one thing you can do, this is it. Just being with boys is crucial. The time doesn’t have to be spent on activities. Boys will probably not say this directly, but they want a male presence around them, even if few words are exchanged.
Listen. Hear what he has to say. Listen to how he and his friends talk about girls. Ask him if he’s ever seen abusive behavior from his friends. Is he worried about any of his friends who are being hurt in their relationships?

Tell Him How. Teach him ways to express his anger without using violence. When he gets mad, tell him he can walk it out, talk it out or take a time out. Let him know he can always come to you if he feels like things are getting out of hand. Try to give him examples of what you might say or do in situations that could turn violent.

Bring it Up. A kid will never approach you and ask for guidance on how to treat women. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need it. Try watching TV with him or listening to his music. If you see or hear things that depict violence against women, tell him what you think about it. Never hesitate to let him know you don’t approve of sports figures that demean women or jokes, video games and song lyrics that do the same. And when it comes time for dating, be sure he knows that treating girls with respect is important.

Be a Role Model. Fathers, coaches and any man who spends time with boys or teens will have the greatest impact when they “walk the walk.” Boys will learn what respect means by observing how you treat other people. So make respect a permanent way of dealing with people – when you’re driving in traffic, talking with others and with your family around the dinner table. He’s watching what you say and do and takes his cues from you, both good and bad. Be aware of how you express your anger. Let him know how you define a healthy relationship and always treat women and girls in a way that your son can admire.

Teach Often. Your job isn't done once you get the first talk out of the way. Help him work through problems in relationships as they arise. Let him know he can come back and talk to you again anytime. Use every opportunity to reinforce the message that violence has no place in a relationship.

Participating in the CMADV campaign is another way for fathers to positively impact the future of their sons and women in abusive relationships. Launched in 2008, this campaign encourages men to join others across Colorado and sign a pledge of commitment to take a visible stand against domestic violence. The CMADV pledge is a promise to speak out about domestic violence and intervene in any violent circumstances that men see happening around them. Visit www.coloradomenagainstdv.com to learn more and sign the online pledge.

If you believe someone you know is in a domestic violence situation and needs immediate assistance, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).