Friday, November 20, 2009

Punching Protocol

My son was punched on the playground today. I suppose if you are a boy and you spend enough time on a playground, you are going to get punched sooner or later. I suppose.

I have to admit I'm not really in-the-know about boys and playgrounds. Growing up I had no brothers, no male cousins nearby, no little boy neighbors. My only Grandpa was very old and sickly and my uncles lived far away. Although my dad was very present and influential during my childhood, he grew up with a single mom and two sisters. Which made him very, very good at going with the flow around a bunch of headstrong women. And so I'm clueless regarding punching protocol.

At home, I've handled it different ways. Sometimes I have actually told one kid that they could hit the other kid back--just as hard, but not harder. (And of course they follow this rule fairly!) This is usually after one child has gone through a hitting phase and I think repayment-in-kind is called for. Most of the time, however, I tell the kids not to retaliate because the second sinner is usually caught first.

So what do I tell a 10 year old boy who is equally fearful of getting in trouble for fighting at school and looking like a wimp in front of the guys? I told him he needed to learn to punch so that next time he could hit back. I immediately regretted saying that. I had just given my son permission to be the "second sinner." Contradicting yourself as a parent is really, really close to being hypocritical and if my son were just a couple years older, he would've called me on it.

I'm lucky enough to have a Manly Man Dad friend who willingly shares his guy wisdom with me. I learned I was half right. The trick, Manly Man Dad explained, is knowing when hitting back is the right thing to do. Good advice. Now, how do you know when is the right time? School, he agreed, probably isn't the right time or place to hit back. If it's one punch, walk away and tell someone. On the other hand, if you think it's gonna be a brawl, by all means, defend yourself.

What do you know, sometimes Man-speak actually makes sense. Guess I'll have to add that rule to my How to Raise a Boy Manual, which is quickly getting filled with pretty common sense stuff. Stuff that is much easier to explain, understand and practice than the How to Help Your Daughter Through Caddy, Petty, Snooty, Gossip and other Mean Girl Behavior Manual. I guess this is understandable considering that by now, my son has already all but forgotten the incident. His sister, however, is still fuming and plotting revenge.

That playground bully better watch it. My daughter may just decide a repayment-in-kind is called for.



  1. Years later the little boy that had suffered the first attack of bullying, had been taught to take the higher road, and still holds a tough chin, should have hit back young. It is almost like a chip in the armor of men when they are beaten down young. We all have to face our fears, not get in trouble, and stand our ground. When someone attacks your child, it's personal, we all know this. As a parent this can quickly tear you up inside. I say “May those who love us, love us; and those who don't love us, may God turn their hearts; and if He doesn't turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles so we'll know them by their limping.”

  2. I was taught never to start a fight, but with four brothers I learned the important thing isn't who started it, but who finishes it. If someone throws a punch, you throw a harder one.

    I know it wasn't susposed to apply to girls, but I confess I beat up Billy Roots in the seventh grade. He was a bully and deserved it. I got in trouble. My mother was appalled. My dad was as proud as could be.

    I've never heard the term second sinner before.

    Bullying behavior can lead to more serious problems. The boy who started it and his family need to be counciled.


  3. Thanks for the comments. When it comes to rasing a boy I use all the advice as I can get. To clarify, the punching happened druing recess football. The "bully's" team wasn't doing so well and he was frustrated. It doesn't excuse his behavior, but I do think it is a little different than a typical bullying situation. Several students, not just my son, informed the teachers and the correct action was taken.

    I guess it is more difficult than I first thought to know when is the right time to hit back.

    Again, thank you for your comments and I hope to see you here again.

  4. I don't believe it is right to teach children that fighting is never acceptable. Fact is there are times when fighting is the only suitable alternative. I believe that defensive violence is not only acceptable but it is to be encouraged. Strongly encouraged.

    I had an instructor in the military once tell me that if he ever received a call from his son's school saying that he had to pick up the boy from school because of a fight his first question for his son would be "did you win?" If the answer was yes he made it known that he would take him for ice cream. This would be quickly followed by 'what happened/why was there a fight'. This wouldn't prevent a possible punishment if he didn't think the fight was for a good reason but the reward for winning would still be there.

    We don't want to fight and in the service we have to overcome some strong resistance to killing our fellow man. We do it because the cost of not doing so is far worse. Our children need to know that there are times to fight and to stand up for what we believe in, even if we are the only ones standing.

    I was told to never start a fight but to do your best to end it. If you fight well or even if you just develop a reputation for not quitting you will soon find that you have a lot less people willing to fight.


  5. Thank you for this insight! It's just the kind of male perspective I need. I'm gong to make sure to read this to my son.

    Please share your opinion with us again on future posts.