Teach Our Children Well

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By Greg Peaslee

If you ask any dad, he will probably admit that the day his child was born was the day he really knew he was a grown up.  Suddenly, you had the responsibility for this new life: to protect, to provide for, to teach.

And there was so much I wanted to teach my son and daughter — how to safely cross the street, why they should eat their vegetables, how to tie their shoes. Every day brought a teachable moment. And I embraced the opportunities.

I taught them to love baseball and football as much as I did so we could enjoy the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers together.  I gave them the foundation of strong faith to build their characters and cement good values.  I encouraged them not be afraid to stand up for what they believe is right. I taught them what real and true love between husband and wife could be, so I showed them by example by loving and respecting their mother.

But, children also learn from others, and parents cannot always control their exposure to incidents of violence in entertainment, news, and social media or among their friends and social networks. Maybe I didn’t teach them directly because domestic violence was never directly in our lives. My approach has been to teach by positive example, but the time has come to be more direct.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are serious issues, affecting as many as one in three women. Girls between the ages of 16 and 24 are at the highest risk, and that abuse is largely perpetrated by men and boys.  Most men are not abusers, but on this subject, most men are silent.  And silence is harmful because it lets our sons and daughters believe that the violence they see in the media is normal. Unless we speak up, others may believe that we support and agree with violent behaviors, or that we think that victims somehow deserve the abuse. It makes it harder for people we love to ask for help if they are in a bad relationship.

We need to have frank discussions with our kids about respect and healthy relationships. If we want them to stand up for what is right, then we need to give them tools to act. We need to teach them what to do if they’re with friends and see someone being mistreated. They should know their options if they feel like they can’t directly intervene: cause a distraction or call a trusted adult or the police.

As dads and role models, we can be silent no more. And that’s why I challenge all fathers and others to join me in signing the Father’s Day Pledge to End Gender Violence. Let’s man up together and put a stop to domestic violence and sexual assault.

Click here to sign the pledge.

Greg Peaslee is executive vice president and chief administrative officer at UPMC

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