On Father’s Day, we honor our dads for the long hours of hard work they put in to raise us from newborns to adults—and for the many memorable moments in between: the shoulder rides and road trips, the pancake breakfasts and barbeque dinners, the goofy jokes and fatherly advice.
This year let’s also take time to thank our fathers for the things they give us that can’t be measured in minutes or marked on calendars. A good place to start is the gift they give of respect, both for ourselves and for others.
Respect, after all, is a key ingredient in healthy relationships, and its absence can lead to violence and abuse in the lives of children and teens. It’s a problem that’s much more common than we’d like to think. One in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Those girls often suffer long-term after they experience abuse: Victims of dating violence are more likely than their non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in unhealthy diet behaviors, engage in risky sexual behaviors, and attempt or consider suicide.
By teaching young people how to treat themselves and others with respect, we can reduce the appalling levels of dating, domestic and sexual violence in our society. Parents—and especially fathers—are key to that education. As men, fathers can model positive behaviors that can counter influences that too often equate manliness with being tough and in control.
It’s important to counter the dangerous messages that justify or even support violent behavior. As living, breathing role models, dads can do that by demonstrating respect in their relationships with the girls and women in their lives, and by