Telling Your Kid to Fight the Bullies Is a Terrible Idea

girls boxingWhat's the first thing that pops into your mind when you find out another kid is bullying your child? I know what I think -- I want to show my son how to fight back. That's what Canadian comedian Scott Thompson recently said parents should do for their kids. "Fathers should start teaching the boys how to punch. He does that to you, here’s what you do: You f****** punch him in the face."

Scott's talking specifically about the bullying gay kids receive, and I get it, I really do. You want your kid to be able to stand up for himself, no matter what the reason for the bullying. But I don't see this as the solution. I think there's more than one way for a kid to "grow some balls," as Scott puts is.

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First of all, I think it's a bad idea to respond to violence (or the threat of it) with more violence. That's called "fighting fire with fire," and when you fight fire with fire, you just get a bigger fire. I know I've been relieved when I've seen my son -- as a preschooler -- hit back when another kid attacked him. But it's a short-lived victory because kids don't know when to stop and eventually we have to pull the kids apart. This is no way to teach kids how to become an adult. Letting kids just fight it out is not a good long-term solution.

Secondly, there are many different kinds of bullying. We're all familiar with boys picking on boys, but girls pick on girls, and girls even pick on boys sometimes in less physical, more socially damaging ways. Your kid needs to be ready to handle those situations in ways that don't escalate the conflict.

So what's better? I still want my son, now a second-grader, to know how to stand up for himself. I like educator Michelle Bora's approach to "assertiveness training." She focuses on tactics like confident body language and staying calm when someone talks trash to you. And that sounds like great advice for adults, too. After all, bullying doesn't end once you grow up -- and real life is not the Jerry Springer Show.

What do you think? Should parents teach their kids to "fight back" against bullies?

 

Image via D.Boyarrin/Flickr

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