“Permission To Defend Yourself”

Hmmm, ignoring these kids doesn't seem to be working.....

Anyone who has children (or who has been a child) knows that  kids tease eachother, kids push, kids hit, kids wrestle around.  All perfectly normal, all perfectly natural.  Ordinary  conflicts, including hurt feelings and bruises from rough housing are a vital part of childhood, and present opportunities to learn a range of social skills.  Bullying, on the other hand, is normal, but not healthy.  Behaviors intended  to harm, belittle, ostracize, intimidate, or cause injury need special consideration.

A parent who’s done their best to raise a well mannered, peaceful child often encounters situations where their kid’s kindness is mistaken for weakness.  At that point, a peaceful, polite child becomes the target of his (or her) more aggressive, predatory peers.

Many times, I’ve heard parents confronted by this situation finally say “I give you permission to defend yourself”.  And they think that somehow, this magic green light is going to solve a the problem.  Let me be clear.  It wont.

Can you imagine a parent being proud of telling their child, “if you fall into the ocean, I give you permission to swim.”  Ridiculous, right?  No one should need permission to assert an inherent right. And besides, the time to learn to swim is well before you find yourself in deep water.  The good news is that a parent doesn’t need to be Michael Phelps to teach their kid to tread water.

When it comes to parenting, almost everything is a balancing act and this is no different.   When your kid has the training and the go-ahead  to use force when appropriate, you want to be sure they don’t become the new  uber-bully. The when, why and how of using physical force needs to be discussed before hand, so that when a kid is on the firing line, they aren’t paralyzed by indecision.

“Defending Yourself” does NOT mean waiting till the other guy hits you – no one is going to be very effective after they’ve been pummeled.  If circumstances call for it, and a child does  need to fight, you need to stand behind your child 100%. In today’s environment, the kid who defends himself always gets in as much or more trouble than the kid who started it. “Zero Tolerance” (which equate to zero thinking, zero judgment, zero discretion) policies are becoming the norm.  So if a physical altercation happens on school grounds and your child is suspended, give them 100% support, and encourage them to accept their punishment proudly.  There’s no honor in becoming a willing victim.

Real fights are ugly, messy and dangerous.  They can result in serious injury.  Fighting is a very serious option of last resort- but it needs to be an option.

“Permission to defend yourself”  is a good place to start- when it’s followed by, “here’s how”

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