The other day, I went to pick up the kids from daycare and they were out playing in the yard. The boy recently moved up a level, from butterfly to bumblebee, and his new teacher came over to talk to me.
“When he first came into the class,” she said, “I was worried he’d be too shy, but he’s been great. He’s not afraid to go over and talk to the bigger kids, he jumps into their games – he’s adjusted really well.”
“But today,” she continued, “he and Sari were siting and looking at books together and another boy came along and took Sari’s book away. She didn’t feel she could stand up to that boy, so she hit your son. I gave her a time-out and sat down to talk to him.
“I told him that he can’t let other children hit him like that. I told him that it’s very important that he do something – “
My heart stopped beating, as I feared what was coming.
“I told him,” she said “that he should stand up for himself. I told him that I would always be there for him, but that he should learn to fight his own battles.”
And I was thankful. I was really expecting the old party line of “just tell your teacher about it.” We all know how that plays out.
A friend and I were recently discussing this very subject, and about how we both felt, seemingly in the minority, that when our kids are hit for no reason, they should hit back. So many parents are trying to enforce the “hands are not for hitting” mentality and I can’t help but think how detrimental it can be.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating violence among the preschool set. Or beyond the preschool set for that matter. I’m against hitting and my children get an instant time-out, no warnings, when they hit someone.
Or should I say, each other. They’ve never actually hit anyone outside the immediate family.
But I strongly believe that when a child is picked on, he must defend himself. If my son doesn’t hit back, all the other kids are going to realize that he’s the weak one. And then he’s going to become the kid that gets hit.
But if he defends himself, even once, all the other kids will realize it’s not worth messing with him.
In the car on the way home, I went over this whole thing with him. Over and over. I wanted to be sure he got it.
“You understand, buddy, that you can only hit someone if they hit you for no reason. What Sari did today was wrong. She shouldn’t have hit you. But you need to hit back – not hard- but just enough to show her she can’t bully you. Do you know what a bully is?”
“Oh, yes. A bully is someone so big they touch the sky.”
I filled with wonder and sadness as I got a flash of what life must look like through his eyes.
“They sure do seem that way, don’t they? But they’re not. You just have to stand up for yourself. Show them you’re not afraid. Bullies only pick on the ones who are afraid. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”
“Do you have any questions?”
“If I hit back, do I get a time out?”
“I don’t know. We can ask your teacher on Monday. I honestly don’t know what their thoughts are on this subject.”
Like I’m talking to a freakin’ adult.
“But even if you do get a time-out, buddy, it’s worth it. Not getting picked on far outweighs 3 minutes in the corner.”
“Can I hit my sister when she hits me?”
Ooh! Straight to the kicker.
“No,” I said. “That’s different. You’re both my children. I can control you. [Ha!] I can teach you both how to behave decently, but I have no control over those other kids, or how they treat you.”
And while I’m sure my opinions on this matter aren’t universally held, I’m firm in my belief that I’m teaching him the right thing. And if one of my kids turns out to be a bully, I can recognize that some other kid might be justified in hitting them back.
I’m okay with all that.
What I’m not okay with is the fact that this is happening now.
The kid is 3 years old.