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When someone picks on my child, should I tell him to fight back or turn the other cheek?

Baseball helmet, baseball glove and ball. Photo copyrighted. SYBIL [a parent]: Our seven-year-old is on a Little League team, and the other night at practice a nine-year-old, who is quite a bit bigger and stronger, picked on him. Grant didn't try to protect himself, and he ended up getting choked and punched. When my husband heard about it, he told Grant,

When some kid picks on you, you've got to be aggressive. Punch him in the face and don't let him take advantage of you.

My reaction was,

Grant, you should turn the other cheek. You need to tell him what the Bible says. If you're going to have friends, you have to be friendly.

RANDY [Randy Carlson]: So now your son doesn't know whether he should pray for the kid or punch his lights out.

SYBIL: That's right. I don't want my boy getting beaten up, but I don't want him beating up other people, either.

RANDY: This happens a lot with kids at school or on teams. My wife and I have told our children that if they are being swung at or thrown at, or attacked in some way, they have to protect themselves in a defensive mode. They have to hold the child away, or get out of the way of the punch…

KEVIN [Dr. Kevin Leman]: …or bleed all over them!

RANDY: I don't think it is very good advice to punch back. I know what you're husband is thinking. You have to teach a child to defend himself, and I think that is important, but punching back is not the first line of defense.

KEVIN: What I heard your husband saying was a lot more than “defend yourself.” He was saying to get in the other kids face and punch him out. I have this picture of your seven-year-old going up against a big, husky nine-year-old. He's probably a good head shorter, and he is going to lose. He's going to look like a goalie, and chances are you don't even have a hockey team in your town.

RANDY: I think your husband would do better to teach your son how to defend himself and get out of the situation. There's always someone bigger, stronger, and meaner who is going to punch his lights out, so the best offense is a good defense. We have told our kids to go get help when this happens to them. They should find the teacher or coach or playground supervisor and say,

I'm being hit and punched and I don't like it. Will you take care of this?

KEVIN: I’d always tell Kevey to play dead. Just fall to the earth and play dead. Make them think they really hurt you bad.

RANDY: This is a difficult area, Sybil, because kids are always getting into scuffles. But I think the basic principles are, one, teach your son not to punch back, two, have Dad teach him how to fend off the blows and get out of the situation…

KEVIN: …is he a fast runner? Running is a great way to get out of the situation.

RANDY: Three, go report what's happening to a teacher or coach or supervisor. If your boy does punch the other kid back, hell only wind up in the school office to be disciplined for fighting, along with the kid who is really the bully.

KEVIN: As Randy says, this is a tough area. Even today I can remember the fear in my heart as I’d walk around the corner, hoping that the big kid from down the block wasn't going to be there—but he was there, and heed beat me up but good. I went to his house and told his father what happened, and all his father said was, "What do you want me to do about it?"

I only tell that story because I want to add this advice for kids: If a guy is a lot bigger than you are… and he looks as if he's going to kill you… RUN!


Author: excerpt from Parent Talk by Dr. Kevin Leman and Randy Carlson of Family Life Communications

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