Friday, April 20, 2012

Always Fight Back

A boy in Colorado has been suspended from school because he hit a bully back.
"One kid kicked me in the back, then punched me in the face. Then I punched him in the face and then I got in trouble,"
The young man's parents are supporting him and criticizing the school for punishing their son and not stopping the bullying.

I take the same approach with fights with my kids as I do with myself:  Avoid, de-escalate, fight.

  • Avoid - The best fight is one you don't get into.  Don't like getting into bar fights?  Don't go to bars with a reputation for fights.  Keep your head up and be aware of what's going on around you so that you're not surprised.  Avoidance is harder for kids in school than it is for adults on the street.   An adult who sees something strange can cross the street or turn the corner to avoid a possible threat.   A child in school usually only has one or two routes to get where they need to be, and bullies use this channelling to their advantage.  What I tell Girlie Bear is to not go to the parts of the school she doesn't need to be in and don't be afraid to pick up speed to get through a knot of kids that she knows want to mess with her.
  • De-escalation - If someone wants to be aggressive, but hasn't harmed you, let them be aggressive.  Don't fall for verbal bait.  There is no such thing as a "fighting word".  What I tell my daughter is to let the fool talk trash or act stupid.  Their inability to act right has nothing to do with her until they try to harm her.
  • Fight - Unless someone comes out of the blue at you, this should be your last response.  But if you have to fight, fight dirty.  If they want to grapple with you, gouge eyes, tear at ears, and bite.  Use whatever you have at your disposal to win, be it a gun, a knife, a brick, a chair, or whatever.  Fight until you can get away, and if that isn't going to be possible, fight until someone in authority pulls you off of them or they stop resisting.

The issue I ran into with Junior is pride.  He would square off with someone over what they said, and he wouldn't back down once challenged.  Avoidance and de-escalation pretty much didn't occur to him until after the fact when I was sitting with him and having a little chat about the conversation I'd had with the principal or someone's parent.  I had to keep telling him "Keeping it real will get you killed."  This may be more prevalent in boys than girls, because Girlie Bear has never come home to tell me that she got into a fight because someone else was stupid and she followed their example.
As for this young man, if he was my son, he'd be given extra sets of batteries for the Wii controllers, a gift card to the movies, and I'd wish him a good week.  I will never punish my children for standing up for themselves when they are attacked, no matter how much society would prefer that they take the beating in silence.

Update - Looks like David Codrea and DiveMedic have thoughts on this too, and do a better job than I did.


Julie said...

I'm with you.

And I tell my girls exactly the same!

It's not appropriate to get into a physical fight over words, however, if someone comes at you stand up for yourself. Do say "STOP" or "NO" first, if that doesn't work hit back and hit hard.

LabRat said...

I got suspended for "fighting" (back) when I was a kid too. I still remember it as my "authorities are useless" epiphany. I sometimes wonder if schools realizing they are actively teaching children that adults in positions of authority will not help them and may punish them arbitrarily instead.

The Suburban Ninja said...

"Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill 'em right back!" - Captain Mal, Firefly
I agree whole-heartedly with your approach. I've always held the belief that violence is the last resort, but if you need to stand up for yourself, do it.

GunDiva said...

I just came over from Country Tea's place and I'm glad she linked to you.

I always told my kids that I'd have their back if they got in a fight defending themselves or others, but they'd better not be the one who threw the first punch. Once the first punch is thrown, then it's game on.

Broken Andy said...

This is good advice.

And yeah, it sucks when teachers and school administrators punish the kid who was just fighting back. But they don't always know who was the real aggressor. The good bullies are the ones who know how to hide their bad acts.

RabidAlien said...

Not much of a country music fan, but for some reason I've got "Coward of the County" runnin through my head right about now. Whole-heartedly agree with all of the above...don't start it, but if someone else wants to start it, make sure you end it. As for the authorities/administrators "don't always know who the real aggressor was"...any good teacher (and most of the mediocre ones) can tell you who the trouble-kids are. Chances are really good that if there's two kids in the office for fighting, they'll know who started it. Bullying is a habit.

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