It’s not unusual to hear of school-age kids who get into a fight and exit with a bloody nose or fat lip. While adults tend to grin at such behavior and chalk it up to childish pranks, parents must be careful to advise their kids against hitting others.
Sometimes self-defense makes it necessary to strike back, some believe. But even defending oneself can be done in such a way as to block rather than return a hit. Since violence-prone kids sometimes gravitate toward street gangs or progress to criminal activities, train your children in the art of self-defense that deflects physical blows rather than encourages kids to fight.
- Remind kids that might does not make right. While adolescent hormones sometimes pushes kids toward conflict with others, they need to be reminded that the strongest person is one who is master of his or her emotions. Beating someone up or getting the best of an opponent in a fight or wrestling match does not prove anything. In fact, the defeated person may watch for another opportunity to get revenge. Point out that violence is not an effective response to emotions, to conflict, or to others’ aggression.
- Enroll the kids in a self-defense class. Many Eastern martial arts instructors emphasize the value of avoiding conflict or simply protecting oneself rather than initiating aggression. Some techniques require very little physical activity and can be mastered by just about any student of any age. Learning how to deflect an aggressor’s assault can instill your child with confidence while teaching the value of self-restraint.
- Discuss examples of violence with the kids. Show them newspaper articles about kids and violence that led to legal trouble or academic suspension. Explain that there are better ways to handle conflict rather than resort to the use of one’s fists. Ask how they would feel if older or larger kids would strike them. No one likes to be bullied, and fighting is often a form of bullying.
- Create word pictures as illustrations. Ask your children to imagine a world where everyone struck others who irritated them. What would happen to young children beaten by irate parents? To small folks victimized by larger people? What if every time a person went out in public, he or she had to watch out for possible aggressors and flee if one approached? If everyone gave in to violent impulses to hit others, the world would become a crazy, unsafe place.
- Be a positive role model. Don’t brutalize your children. While there is a place for healthy discipline within the family, paddling should be limited and controlled. Anger should never be taken out against a family member by physical force. Don’t act out your own aggressions against the kids or a spouse, and don’t allow siblings to beat up on each other. Insist on mutual respect for everyone.
Hitting may seem natural for a one-year-old who is learning to imitate television behavior. But it should be nipped in the bud with proper training so that a child can learn to avoid violence and imitate positive behavior instead.