Unprovoked Punch: To Fight Back or Not?

Unprovoked Punch: To Fight Back or Not?The entry below is from my brother Ryan. He's interested in your advice.

Here it is. Let me know if it should be tweaked. I don't mind putting it on the line.

Today I struggle. Today I wonder. Today the past has come to haunt me. I received the call that I have been waiting for subconsciously for a few years. My son is turning 10 in July and is in grade 4. On his way to a field trip this morning some kid in his class punched him in the face. It was not provoked from what I have been told. My son, Zander, turned the other cheek and did what I did in Grade 4, told the teacher and his mom (who was also on this trip) and the child's parents were called. 

When I was in grade school and high school I got picked on a fair amount. I was hit, I was ridiculed and I am definitely very sensitive to bullying - especially in grade school. Today I went through many emotions in a short period. I was angry at this kid and his parents.  I was angry at the school. I was sad for my son who is so gentle and would not hurt a soul. And I found the memories of my past come flowing back into my head....

My question is as follows (Feedback from anyone with advice or a parent who has gone through this would be amazing). I want to tell him to fight back. I want to alter him and make him less gentle because it makes you a target for bullying, which is much worse than when I was a kid.  And the impact it had on me was large, so I need to avoid him feeling the same way if I can. Is it completely wrong if I get him to learn to fight and punch, for defending himself only? 

Bottom line.  I was never told to hit someone back.  I wish I could go back in time and fight back instead of turning the other cheek but I can't. But not too late for my son. Is it wrong  of me to say "next time someone hits you, you hit them back twice as hard"? Otherwise, with the kids out there today, he is going to be bullied more and more each  year.  I'm told by most he did the correct thing by not fighting back. But I don't like it, I don't like  it one bit.

Any advice on how to handle this and bullying in general?

Mike's loyal brother, 

Ryan

Personally, I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all for this scenario. Sometimes you should fight back, other times you should walk away. It depends on a number of factors, but always, survival is key.

On a side note, neither of my kids have ever heard of a kid getting punched in grade 4 (or 5 or 6) for no reason, so this is thankfully pretty rare.


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Comments (28 - click here to join in!)

Keith

I've passed on to my young son what I was always taught as a kid; never, ever start a fight, but if someone hits you unprovoked, you hit them back twice as hard. and no matter how much shit you get in by the school or anyone else for hitting back, we'll never be mad at you for standing up for yourself. ever.

February 21, 2014 @ 3:32 PM

Argie

Ryan,

Teach your kid to fight. Even if he never has to use that skill, it will give him confidence. Without that skill, your son will live in fear that some a-hole kid might pick on him for no reason.

I hope everything works out for your little guy.

February 21, 2014 @ 3:32 PM

Ryan

I'm slowly teaching him but he is gentle by nature. Zander was bigger than this kid. He certainly could have done something. It is more of a personality trait in which he doesn't want conflict and is afraid that people will not like him. It is that innocence that I both love so very much and want to destroy at the same time. Thanks guys, so far this aligns with what I'm thinking.

It's a jungle out there.

February 21, 2014 @ 3:45 PM

Ryan

@Mike, your kids are lucky. But in this case It was not completely random. They were playing a game and this kid didn't like something Zander did (cheating or something). Just to clarify, it's not like some kid just walked up to him and started to wail away.

February 21, 2014 @ 3:48 PM

Derrick

I think Zander has to be true to himself. If he's not comfortable or has the desire to hit back, then he shouldn't feel pressured to do so.

I agree but disagree with Argie. Learning some physical skills will provide self-confidence and make Zander less likely to be bullied, but I believe he can gain that self-confidence through hockey, basketball, soccer, karate, baseball, etc. He doesn't necessarily need to learn to "fight".

February 21, 2014 @ 3:53 PM

Keith

Unless you're a natural fighter, it's a scary situation to wrap your head around and how to approach it as it unfolds. Even enrolling him in karate, kickboxing, etc., it not only teaches you self defence, but also instills self confidence where you can actually give off an aura that you can clearly take care of yourself which can be intimidating in itself.
Sorry you're going thru this, it really does break your heart. Sometimes you just wanna go smash the kid's face in yourself.

February 21, 2014 @ 3:55 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Ryan

My point is, it's still very rare in primary school. I asked James if there had ever been a punch thrown at his school (to his knowledge) and was told once a grade 8 kid punched a grade 8 kid, but that's it.

I honestly don't think there's a one-size-fits-all solution here. Sometimes you should fight back, other times you shouldn't. It depends on factors like:

1. How many of them are there?
2. How much bigger / stronger is he?
3. Is it a fair fight without weapons?

Zander has to live to fight again! And we both know he's 60lbs soaking wet. I think he should sic his monster cousin James on the asshat who punched him.

February 21, 2014 @ 3:56 PM

Ryan

I want to let Zander be Zander. But I also know that it set me back by never fighting back. I learned how to blend into background and lost confidence. Everyone will react differently but I think I am biased big time. Maybe this is no big deal. But Mike, as much as I know James and Michelle are being honest and truthful, the issue of bullying is a big deal for a reason. There is no doubt that it exists and often in spades depending on the school, kids and oh yeah, the fucking parents!!

I am way more upset about this than he is!! LOL

February 21, 2014 @ 4:34 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Ryan

I don't deny there's bullying, I'm just saying punches to the face during school time at that age is very rare.

February 21, 2014 @ 4:38 PM

Il Duce

@ Ryan

Tough situation for a father. In my day if anyone threw a punch there would have been a fight even in Grade 4, that's just the way things were back then. Today’s society is much different yet the same issue of bullying remains.

The fight back approach can't work today without some precursors. My son is 15 now and from the young age of 5 I taught him the following 3 simple rules.

* If someone is 'bothering you' ask the person to stop only once but make sure they have understood you.
* If that person continues to bother you, tell a teacher EXACTLY what is happening.
* If you have told him to stop and told a teacher but that person continues to bother you, take care of it anyway you think you need to make that person stop.

Now, my son has been taking boxing from a young age so I know he can make the person stop. However, in our politically correct society I want to make sure he does his due diligence before he knocks the kid out. I told my son if he follows the first two rules he will have my backing no matter what.

I gave my son the tools necessary to handle any situation, even bullying. I didn't teach my child to be aggressive, I taught him to be diplomatic first and when that doesn’t work be ready for the assholes because there will always be assholes.

February 21, 2014 @ 4:57 PM

Corey

Tough situation. I'm not a parent, so I don't know what to say, but a couple thoughts come to mind to consider:

1) Remember the "fight or flight" response? I think how you respond to a threat is part of a deep emotional component that we don't control. I was small for my age when I was in public school, and not prone to violence, but if I got physically attacked by a bully, i'd go into a blind rage and strike back, but it wasn't a controlled, measured reaction - it was almost instinctual. If your son is naturally gentle and avoids conflicts, teaching him to hit back may not even work - his inherent nature could prevent it. I'd also be afraid that if he's not a natural fighter he might get hurt even worse than if he just walked away.

2) All of that being said, if he's interested in taking martial arts, there's no drawback is there? It's good exercise, and will boost his confidence even if he never uses it.

February 21, 2014 @ 6:57 PM

Liz

I have access to one of the most amazing teachers - EVER - I'll forward this to this person for feedback - one of the few teachers soundly authentic - in all regards.

February 21, 2014 @ 11:14 PM

Chev al low

Make sure your kids are buddies with the toughest kids and then there is never any problems.

February 22, 2014 @ 8:00 AM

Philly-Bob

as someone who was bullied too, I feel for your pain Ryan. Like a lot of the other guys here I'm teaching my son you don't throw the first punch but make sure you throw the last. I told my son that if he's a bully he will be punished but that if you standing up to bullies I will be very proud of him

February 22, 2014 @ 8:06 AM

Rick C in Oakville

Ryan: Having gone through similar circumstances around the same age,with my now 24 year old son,this is what I have to offer.

This situation didn't look like a bullying situation, just some kid lashing out, and maybe a one time incident. I think your son did the right thing, but the advice given of telling him to not start a fight, but to stand up for himself is key. My advice would be different if this was an ongoing bullying situation, this is when he needs to know that if bullying of Zander ever happens that he can come to you and you will reign hell fire on the parents etc. in his defence. My son was bullied by a bigger kid for most of grade 7/8 and fighting back didn't help, just intensified the bullying as the bigger kid always got the upper hand. My son didn't tell us anything until he came home with a bleeding nose and fat lip, which at this time we then approached the school who contacted the parents and fortunately it ended. How the other parents react is important, as there are some A-hole parents who think their little angel could never do such a thing.
Good Luck.

February 22, 2014 @ 10:04 AM

Ryan

Amazing advice from all of you. I am going to digest it for a day or two and make a decision. But Rick may be correct that this is not your typical bullying - but it seems like a segeuway to me that leads to worse, true bullying in grade 6, 7 and 8 when it gets rougher.

Thanks to all of you. Especially the empathy goes a long way as i realize I am far from alone in what I am feeling.

You guys rock!!

February 22, 2014 @ 10:21 AM

CQ

If 'mommy' was on hand during this field trip, that doesn't leave the boy much of a chance to stand up on his own two feet.
A young man doesn't have to be either a full grunting ignorant caveman nor an awaiting gentle victim. As a non-parent - I don't think anyone needs to 'learn' how to fight, just to be able to walk tall, upon their own.
Take him fishing or let him chop up some firewood for a camp fire next summer, have him sit in while you're changing the snow tires or going to the local garage for it etc. Let him ride a crappy bicycle around on his own and without a sissy safety outfit. Include him with sundry little chores around the yard.

February 22, 2014 @ 6:45 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@CQ

I'm dying to know. What exactly is a "sissy safety outfit"?

February 22, 2014 @ 6:57 PM

CQ

Any boy will know - that stuff he'd rather toss into a ditch as soon he starts off from home.
I often will notice boys lugging around an unused helmet on a 'spare' hand when they're only riding along quiet streets, a paved trail, or at a plaza.

February 22, 2014 @ 7:14 PM

Philly-Bob

@Mike- while I wouldn't use the term siisy saftey outfit, anything more than a helmet is excssive outside of learning to ride a 2 wheeler, or if you're planning on off roading it.

In my opinion

February 22, 2014 @ 9:40 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Sounds like CQ thinks a bike helmet is a sissy safety outfit.

February 22, 2014 @ 9:53 PM

CQ

Remember Jackie Earle Haley's character from the Bad News Bear movies? No helmet with a motorized dirt bike, and (under aged) driving a van of team mates across a state line to play baseball.

February 22, 2014 @ 11:02 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@CQ

Who bikes without a helmet these days?

There's nothing sissy about it.

February 23, 2014 @ 6:48 AM

Elba

Ryan, I also have a son in Grade 4 and I'm interested to read these responses. I do think it's a case-by-case but I think it mainly depends on who the aggressor is: repeat offender or one-time only? I posed a similar question last year here and had varying opinions. Forward to now: the boy who was bothering my son is a chronic trouble-maker and makes regular visits to the principal. My son knows to stay away from him. Hopefully this is a one-off and your son will not have to face any such situation in future. Good luck with this.

February 23, 2014 @ 2:11 PM

Rick C in Oakville

@Elba: I bet this problem child's parents are a piece of work also. No doubt something is happening in this kids home life to condone what he has been doing.

February 23, 2014 @ 9:25 PM

Rick C in Oakville

I think this may be what CQ is suggesting:

February 23, 2014 @ 10:03 PM

Wayner

In grade 4 my son was a "gentle giant" and strong as a horse. He was bullied as the smaller kids knew that if he did something he would be the one in trouble not they. Consequently, my son spent many days in the school yard alone which I’m sure effects him today (currently in Grade 10). Luckily the school officials and his teachers recognized his nature and knew that if something did happen he was not the cause. Unfortunately, with the school's zero tolerance policy he got into trouble too.

My advice is to get your son into the Martial Arts (not the MMA stuff) it teaches discipline and self-confidence. So if something does happen he knows how to protect himself.

February 24, 2014 @ 9:31 AM

Geoff

Sounds like this is more about you and your past then it is about your son. I didn't read anywhere how it affected your son but I did read a lot about how you felt in grade 4. Why don't you ask your son how he feels and find out how much it bothered him?

I was always the smallest kid in school, especially in high school. If anyone picked on me I'd just smile and they gave up pretty quickly as they weren't getting a response out of me. Besides, it never bothered me.

February 24, 2014 @ 11:17 AM

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