Most moms teach their children not to throw punches, even when they are angry. But are there instances in which it’s okay for your child to hit another child — such as when your child is being bullied?
That’s the question Victoria C. is posing on Circle of Moms. Her son was suspended from school for retaliating, with fists, against a classmate who'd been picking on him. “I don’t want my son known for fighting, but I also don’t want him [to be] known as the kid who gets pushed around,” she says, unsure whether she should condone or criticize her son’s behavior.
For most of our members, it goes without saying that children should be taught non-violent dispute resolution techniques. As Jennifer B. asserts, "If your child hits back, they are no better than the person bullying them."
Kelly F. and Tracie D. agree, arguing that you can't know what additional damage may be done if your child hits back. Kelly teaches her children that “violence is not an acceptable solution,” especially because children often do not realize their own strength and can really harm each other. And Tracie feels there's victory on not responding to violence with violence: “There's no telling how far an out of control person will go in their craziness. Best to just leave them empty-handed, looking like the violent/fool/aggressor they are,” she says.
As for what kids should do instead of fighting back, Ashley A. suggests teaching them "to use their words or walk away," explaining that, "This also helps them in all situations ... bullies, friends, siblings, even [with] their parents and other adults. It's just a good life skill to know how to deal with confrontational situations.” And Carianne W., whose son has been bullied, suggests advocating for your child with other adults: “Talk to the teacher (if you can't go in person, send a note). If she isn't receptive, go to the principle. If there is still no satisfaction, go to the board. Let your son know that you will not let the matter drop [when he is being bullied], that you will fight for him.”
Danyell C. tells her daughters to follow the “three strikes rule.” She explains: The first time they are bullied, her daughters should tell the bully to stop. The second time they should tell the bully loudly to stop so everyone can hear and an adult can be made aware of the situation. On the third time, if no one has stopped the situation, then Danyell tells her daughters to “do what they need to” to halt the bullying.
Tammy R.’s lesson to her son, who was bullied at school for a couple of years, is simple: “Retaliate with the same attitude … [if] you get hit in tummy, you hit back in tummy.” Of if that doesn’t work, or if you are unwilling to fight back, then she advises “put your hands up and yell at [the bully] like a crazy boy and tell him you will get him and make him see you are not afraid of him.” She said the latter works, as her son came home proud one day boasting that a bigger boy tried to fight, and he acted crazy and the boy left him alone.
When It's Important for Kids to Hit Back
Still, for moms like Victoria C., whose children are being bullied on a regular basis, many of our members are on board with resorting to an “eye for an eye.” They offer the following guidelines on when it's okay to teach your child to hit back.
1. In Self Defense
Brenda T. says she and her husband follow the reasoning behind the second amendment in that you have a right to defend yourself in a way that is appropriate to the situation. They teach their kids that they may not start a fight, but if someone is picking on them, they can finish it, if adult supervision is not attainable.
Alana agrees with the self-defense argument. Her daughter has been bullied, and at times, no one helped her. Consequently Alana has told her daughter — and the school — that if she is continuously abused physically, she has been instructed to fight back.
“I don’t think turning the other cheek is sufficient. How many bruises/battered things will happen before someone steps in?” Alana says. “If a kid hits you and it’s a punch, you hit back. You don’t just stand there and take it. As an adult, would you allow it to happen to yourself? Why should a kid be treated any other way?”
2. To Heal Broken Self Esteem
Tamara K. and Corena U. both believe that it's acceptable to teach children to defend themselves physically, to "be strong and protect themselves,” as Tamara puts it, because prolonged bullying will stunt a child's self-esteem. Corena's now 17-year-old daughter was bullied constantly all through elementary school. Even when her daughter walked away or went to the teachers, she was still bullied. But the day she fought back, “her self-esteem went through the roof simply from standing up for herself.”
“In general, we teach our children to walk away. We teach them that violence is not the answer. But the reality is that sometimes, some kids just need to have someone stand up to them physically to get them to stop picking on people … My daughter’s life completely changed,” Corena recalls.
Circle of Moms members Firebird B. and Erin S., who both were bullied when they were children, agree that sticking up for yourself when you are being bullied can help stop the attacks, while walking away can make bullying worse.
“As a kid who was bullied, you are told by teachers and now parents to just ‘take it,’ which makes you a punching bag for bullies,” explains Erin S. “Bullies enjoy feeling superior to the one they are taunting and they do so until the victim stands up for themselves, which usually just takes once.”
Ashley K. knows first-hand that sometimes a child needs to stand up for himself to get bullies to stop. A former bully herself, she says bullies are often are troubled kids who are neglected, lonely or mistreated at home. “They have a lot less going for them than your good-hearted, bullied child probably does,” she says. “However, bullied kids usually just sit there and take the abuse; that is the absolute worst thing your child can do. I know it’s against school rules to fight, but if you want it to stop, you need to encourage your child to stand up to the bullying by dishing it right back out.”
In fact, having someone make her feel as dumb as she was trying to make them feel was the only thing that made her stop bullying them, Ashley adds. “I know that’s not ideal, because you don’t want your nice kid to act nasty. But sometimes you have to combat nastiness with nastiness. Standing up for his or herself is the only way to stop it."
Furthermore, Ashley says your child needs to stand up for himself because there are going to be times in which no adult is going to be able to help. For example, if an incident occurs on the school bus, the bus driver will be concentrating on driving, so parents should not expect much intervention unless they want the driver to stop watching the road and potentially get in an accident
Several other moms point out that allowing your child to hit back in retaliation just once might be the necessary release a child needs to prevent frustration from building up to something dangerous. For example, as a Circle of Moms member who calls herself Sneaky Spider says, she would rather her daughters fight back against a bully than come home every day and be miserable and afraid to go to school, to the point were they think that suicide or carrying a weapon to school are better options than being bullied.
Tammy F. was bullied throughout school, so she understands the risk. “When we tell our kids they can't defend themselves and they fear reprisal for defending themselves, it builds up until some just snap. If kids were allowed to defend themselves more often, we'd have fewer bullies and less snapping.”
3. When Your Child Understands the Consequences
Of course, children who hit a bully back in retaliation should be aware of the consequences, reminds Chantal H.
Children who get into fights in schools where there is a no-tolerance policy will likely face suspension. And there could be legal repercussions if there is serious injury. “I tell my pupils that if they choose to take matters into their own hands that they should accept the consequences,” she says. So while she tells her son that if he is pushed that he should push back so that he isn’t a target for bullies, Chantal nevertheless says “The message we send to them should reflect [the fact that there are consequences for their actions].
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.