Did you teach your kid how to fight?

So, the other night, I asked Dillon if he wanted to learn how to fight.

Now, before I tell you have he answered, let me say a few things. 

He has no experience with fighting. 

Well, that’s not totally true.

There was this one time when he was five. 

He and I were playing in the front yard with this bouncy ball.  

The kid next door (with more than a little bit of crazy in his eyes) jumped the fence to join in. He and Dillon started playing. It was not long before the kid just took Dillon’s ball. Dillon asked for it back. The kid said “No!” and pushed Dillon away. Dillon grabbed for it back. They struggled over it. Fell to the ground.  And, started rolling back and forth in the grass.

The 21st-century-overprotective-helicopter-parent in me screamed “Stop them before someone gets hurt!”

You now like the Dad in the Gillette commercial

So, I stepped forward.  

But, then this other voice spoke up.

“Hold on” it surprisingly said “Let’s see what he’s got.”

So, I stopped and watched.

Ultimately, Dillon got the ball back.

And, when he did, I stepped forward, laughed, and told them to get back to playing.

They did, like nothing happened. 

So, did I do the right thing?

I don’t know. 

I mean.

No one got hurt.

And, I think it gave both of them an opportunity to learn something.

Dillon learned that he could handle himself. He could get back what was unrightfully taken. And, the kid next door learned not to take what’s not yours without asking.

Now, here’s the thing.

I appreciate that kid next door.

He brought a bit of reality into Dillon’s fanciful post-physical-conflict existence. 

At the time and even now he attends a small school.

There’s only about 15 or so kids in his grade level. And, interpersonal physical conflict is unheard of. 

Well, over the years, there have been rumors of one or two physical tussles. But, they are only rumors. Rumors, I might add, that elicit shock-induced gasps by most of the parents that hear them.

In our neighborhood, Dillon has never come home with a black eye from fighting. He and his friends wrestle each other; but, its playful testing.

In our home, no one is allowed to put their hands on another in anger. He and I rough-house. And, if I’m ever working outside and catch him leaving the house, I’ll drop my spade, yell “Defend yourself!” and chase him through and out of the yard. I picked this up from Worf, when he was raising his son Alexander alone on the Enterprise.

That’s the extent of his experience with physical violence.

He’s in 8th grade now and more than likely he’ll be enrolling in our local public high school. It’s going to be a bit of a transition for him.

His current school is so small that administrators, teachers, parents, and students can create, monitor and enforce a post-physical-conflict culture. Our local public high school has 1800 students, which more than likely frustrates their ability to do the same. 

So, how do I prepare him for interpersonal conflict that can turn physically violent?

If someone hits one of his friends, what should he do?

If someone hits him, how should he respond? 

If someone is bullying him or a friend?

I can tell him to “walk away” or “turn the other cheek”.

Both are reasonable and valuable.

But, how much can a human be expected to cede, retreat and give way to another?

At some point, there’s a limit.

And, beyond that limit, I think further retreat turns into a dangerous erosion of one’s self-worth.

So, when does “turning the other cheek” turn into “this far no further”?

And, once it does, how is he to proceed?

Do I tell him “never start a fight but always finish”?

These are just some of the questions I’m grappling with. 

So, when I asked him the other night “Do you want to learn how to fight?” 

He paused, grunted something and shrugged his shoulders a bit. 

Kyra and I looked at each other in complete surprise.

Because, in our house, a slight bit of shoulder shrug from Dillon in response to a question is a “yes” and maybe even a “yes” with an explanation point.

So, did you teach your kid how to fight? 

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Questions or comments? Just fill out the CONTACT form on my ABOUT page and I will get back with you right away. Thanks. – shawn

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Photo by Quinn Buffing on Unsplash

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