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Rich Batten
Colorado Department of Human Services
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Maggie Spain
The Bawmann Group
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August 25, 2008

Colorado Dads Take a Stand Against Bullying

While the start of a new school year means back to the books for children, it doesn’t have to mean back to bullying. Today, the fear of being bullied is a common experience for many children and adolescents across the nation. Colorado dads are taking the time to educate themselves on the realities of bullying in an effort to become part of the solution for their children.

School place bullying occurs when a child is repeatedly verbally or physically harassed and tormented by an individual or group. According to the National Institutes of Health, each day 160,000 students nationwide miss school because they fear being bullied. Bullying can have many detrimental affects on children, including lasting emotional consequences.

According to KidsHealth.org the following is a list of things kids can do to combat psychological and verbal bullying. Fathers should review these tips and remember that open and honest communication with their children is the first step to understanding and alleviating any problem.

• Ignore the bully and walk away. This is definitely not a coward's response — sometimes it can be harder than losing your temper. Bullies thrive on the reaction they get, and if you walk away, or ignore hurtful emails or instant messages, you're telling the bully that you just don't care. Sooner or later the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you.

• Hold the anger. Who doesn't get really upset when being bullied? But that's exactly the response the bully is looking for. Bullies want to know they have control over your emotions. If you're in a situation where you have to deal with a bully and you can't walk away with poise, use humor — it can throw the bully off guard. Work out your anger in another way such as through exercise or writing it down (make sure you tear up any letters or notes you write in anger).

• Don't get physical. However you choose to deal with a bully, don't use physical force (like kicking, hitting or pushing). Not only are you showing your anger, you can never be sure what the bully will do in response. You are more likely to be hurt and get into trouble if you use violence against a bully. You can stand up for yourself in other ways, such as gaining control of the situation by walking away or by being assertive in your actions. Some adults believe that bullying is a part of growing up (even that it is character building) and that hitting back is the only way to tackle the problem. But that's not the case. Aggressive responses tend to lead to more violence and more bullying for the victims.

• Practice confidence. Practice ways to respond to the bully verbally or through your behavior. Practice feeling good about yourself (even if you have to fake it at first).

• Take charge of your life. You can't control other people's actions, but you can stay true to yourself. Think about ways to feel your best — and you’re strongest — so that other kids may give up the teasing. Exercise is one way to feel strong and powerful. (It's a great mood lifter, too!) Another way to gain confidence is to hone your skills in something like chess, art, music, computers, or writing. Joining a class, club, or gym is a great way to make new friends and feel great about yourself. The confidence you gain will help you ignore the mean kids.

• Talk about it. It may help to talk to a guidance counselor, teacher, parent or friend — anyone who can give you the support you need. Talking can be a good outlet for the fears and frustrations that can build when you're being bullied.

• Find your (true) friends. If you've been bullied with rumors or gossip, all of the above tips (especially ignoring and not reacting) can apply. But take it one step further to help ease feelings of hurt and isolation. Find one or two true friends and confide how the gossip has hurt your feelings. Set the record straight by telling your friends what's true and not true about you. Hearing a friend say, "I know the rumor's not true. I didn't pay attention to it," can help you realize that most of the time people see gossip for what it is — petty, rude and immature.

“Many Colorado fatherhood programs offer resources to help fathers aid their children through different life stages and the difficulties that arise within them,” said Rich Batten, fatherhood specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services. “As fathers it’s crucial that our children are able to count on us in both the difficult and happy times.”

In October 2006, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Works Division was awarded a $10 million federal grant over five years to strengthen father/child relationships and improve parenting. Colorado is one of two locations nationwide, including Washington, D.C., to receive this federal community access grant. The Responsible Fatherhood Initiative distributes more than $1.1 million in community awards to state, community and faith based organizations to assist in providing direct services to fathers and families. Awards of up to $50,000 are distributed per program per fiscal year. For more information on a fatherhood program in your community, please visit www.coloradodads.com.