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Web Editorial--June 2006

Teaching Peace to Our Children

Celebrating More Than Dad This Father's Day

By Rob Okun

Amid the barbecues and neckties that will mark Father's Day on June 18, some dads are offering a gift of their own to their families--teaching peace.

A growing number of fathers, father figures, and other male mentors are joining a national campaign aimed at increasing awareness, transforming attitudes, and encouraging men to teach the next generation that violence is wrong.

One effort is being championed through a collaboration between the Men's Resource Center for Change and the Northwestern (Massachusetts) District Attorney's office, a public education campaign called "Coaching Boys into Men." The brainchild of the Family Violence Prevention Fund of San Francisco, Coaching Boys into Men calls on fathers and other male mentors to contradict men's heretofore mostly minimal involvement in challenging violence against women, children and other men. Since men play such a pivotal role in shaping the attitudes and social norms that other men conform to, a goal of the campaign is to invite men to take an active stand in opposing violence against women.

The centerpiece of the Coaching Boys into Men campaign is a series of public service announcements (PSAs) aimed at encouraging men to carefully consider their attitudes about family violence and women's safety. The Family Violence Prevention Fund produced the PSAs with the Ad Council. They are being widely disseminated in radio, print and television formats, all organized around a single concept: vignettes of fathers and sons playing a variety of sports. As they play, the narrator says: "You've taught him to hit the strike zone, a nine-iron, the net, the open man. But how much time have you spent teaching him what not to hit?" The tagline that follows ends with: "All violence against women is wrong. Teach Early" and has contact information for reaching the Men's Resource Center for Change and the District Attorney's office. The PSA is being read, seen or heard throughout June.

For many men, becoming a father is the pivotal moment in developing a consciousness about women living free from violence. For others, it is becoming a husband, coach or mentor. Whatever the entry point, what is most important is men considering how to transform themselves from silent bystanders to vocal proponents (if not outright activists) promoting peace in the home.

Most men want to do the right thing. Indeed, in a survey the Family Violence Prevention Fund conducted prior to launching the Coaching Boys into Men campaign, researchers discovered that a fifth of the men interviewed (21%) admitted "they didn't actively support community efforts to stop domestic violence because no one asked me to get involved." A majority of those surveyed also said "they were willing to talk to children about the importance of healthy, violence-free relationships."

These are encouraging signs, but there is still more to be done to engage men. Along with campaigns like Coaching Boys into Men, supporting organizations like the Men's Resource Center for Change and developing similar and allied groups is a critical part of efforts to encourage men to move from passive bystander to active participant in transforming a longing for harmony in the home into reality.

One way to engage fathers, father figures and male mentors all at the same time is to hold celebrations, and the Men's Resource Center for Change is doing just that. The Men's Resource Center has set Saturday, June 17, the day before Father's Day, as a time to acknowledge the positive role fathers and father figures can and do play in children's lives. "Fathers and Families Field Day" (to be held from noon to 3 p.m. at Groff Park in Amherst, Mass.) was conceived of as a time for all families--moms and mentors, grandparents and single parents, same sex headed households, everyone--to come together for an afternoon of games, music and connection. (Click here for more information about the event.)

The good news is that there are men in many communities already involved in working to promote peace in the home. But there are still not enough. As we celebrate Father's Day this year, let's do more than fire up the grill and hand out presents. Let's celebrate a new--or renewed--commitment from more and more dads and other men who are ready to say out loud that they will teach peace to the children in their lives.

Rob Okun is the MRC's executive director. He can be reached at [email protected].

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