Victims become bullies: Teaching children to fight back


By Margaret Allen
Editor of Heygrrrl, Pssst!
My son came home from summer day camp the other afternoon and told me he’d helped alert counselors to a fight that had broken out between two other campers, both about age 11.

Here’s how my son described the fight: Without any prior provocation, one boy brutally hit another boy in the head with his key chain and keys, then walked away. The assaulted boy responded by walking over to the assailant and asking him why he did it. He then proceeded to counterattack with a choke hold and a very successful floor slam.

When I saw the assaulted boy’s parents today, they were discussing the fight with other parents. Their reaction to the situation was quite surprising to me, particularly since one of them is in law enforcement. They were proud of their son for fighting back, and said they told him afterward that he always has a right to defend himself.

This reaction startled me for three reasons:

1) What if their son had seriously harmed the other boy, to the extent the police were brought in? Nowadays, it’s not unheard of to hear about children being prosecuted for counter-attacking a child who has bullied them. The parent who is in law enforcement actually nodded with pride at her son’s aggressive assault of his attacker.

2) If their son had done serious harm, say put the other child in the hospital, or even caused his death, how would they feel? Would they want their son to have to deal with the emotional trauma of knowing he’d seriously hurt or killed someone, even if it was in self-defense? Such an incident, in my opinion, could lead to a lifetime of emotional problems.

3) Do I want my children playing with a child whose parents advocate an aggressive attack in response to any unprovoked aggression of a milder variety? Let’s face it, kids will hit one another or rough each other up, sometimes as “play” that they wrongly thought was teasing. Do I want my child choke-slammed and possibly seriously injured if they use bad judgment and do such a thing while playing with this boy?

From what I could tell, reporting the initial assault to a counselor to have the adults handle the situation, didn’t even seem to be an option. I find this stunning. That would have been my advice to my child. In fact, that has been my advice to my son. I don’t expect him to handle it himself, when it comes to someone obviously willing to be physically violent.

Have we become a society that EXPECTS our children to manage these kinds of issues? If so, why don’t we just issue them all a gun and let them start packing iron to settle their differences? And where will this all lead?

Why does a child think he has to handle it himself by responding with an escalated level of aggression? Is it because children have figured out that adults don’t want to take sides and won’t deal with the child who started it?

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One Response

  1. My experience is that adults that are resposible for the safety of our children would rather not deal with the bully who started the act of aggression.My child has been bullyed for years and has never fought back. If a child is different, the adults (teachers,counselors, etc.)
    make them more of a target by not taking care of the issue when it starts. They seem to only see what the child who is being bullied says and they react to that. They don’t see what is being done to a child that may be slightly “different”. They don’t see it because they choose not to and this dends a message to the other children that it’ ok to bully others. Especially the weak or different children. A teenage child that has been bullied for years is going to react in one of two ways. They will either fight back when they feel so deserted by the authoritative adults and at that point are “the problem” or unfortunately for other children & families they take their own life because they feel so hopeless.
    What happened to no tolerance and being treated fairly? It doesn’t exist in todays society.–Unfortunate for our youth who are just trying to fit in.

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