Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: What do you do when another kid hits your kid? Do you teach them to tell an adult, or do you teach them it’s OK to defend themselves? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
Two weeks into the school year (my son’s first, he’s in kindergarten), and he tells me another child has been hitting him “in the head” repeatedly while they wait for the bus. It’s my understanding that it was totally unprompted and that a teacher did eventually see and tell the other boy to keep his hands to himself. My question is, is it OK to teach my son that if someone hits him, he can hit them back? I say there’s nothing wrong with that. I want to teach him that we don’t ever initiate the hitting, but if someone does it to him I think he can do it right back. My husband disagrees. He thinks we should teach him to tell the teacher. What do we do?
My answer here may not be a popular one, but I think you’re right. I really do. It’s never OK to hit another child for no reason, but if someone lays their hands on your son in the way you described, I think it’s not just OK to reciprocate but it’s the better solution out of all the solutions.
I’m approaching this response as someone who was bullied fairly often for being what my parents described as an “easy target.” While I’m not sure how helpful it was to label me that way (i.e. not helpful at all), they weren’t necessarily wrong with what they meant by it. And it’s because I didn’t hit back. I either told on my bullies or did nothing. Do you know what happens when you tell? You’re a narc, and every kid knows it, and that only gives them more incentive to hurt you. When you play the pacifist role and do nothing or walk away, that makes bullies zero in on you even harder, because they assume you’re weak or scared. There’s nothing wrong with being timid when it comes to confrontation, of course. It’s natural! But not having the confidence to defend myself as a kid made things so much worse for me. For years.
I don’t think your son needs to learn tae kwon do or learn how to give a kid a shiner, but a simple hard shove and a strong, “Don’t EVER put your hands on me again!” (from the chest) would likely go a long way. Is this easy to do? No. Does it come naturally? No. Just keep reiterating it to him. Roleplay to build his confidence—you be the bully and he can practice the shove and how to be firm with his voice. It’s his body and no one has the right to violate it in any way. This is one case where I think giving someone a dose of their own medicine is just the ticket.
This is what I’m teaching my own child and it’s what I wish someone would have taught me and practiced with me. Coach him up now so he can develop the confidence he needs throughout his childhood. If he gets in trouble, show his teachers my advice. I’ll take the blame. I may have been a timid child, but I’m a loudmouth bitch now and damn proud of it. It gets better, trust me. Good luck, and give your son a squeeze from me.