Should you teach your child to hit back?

Kindergartner in stripes talks anti-bullying
"The problems with teaching children to hit back | Honeycomb Moms | Kindergartner Caidyn Bennett explains in a viral video how his anti-bullying policy flies in the face of turning the other cheek. | Credit: Facebook via Caidyn Bennett

If you haven’t seen the viral video of kindergartner Caidyn Bennett explaining how his anti-bullying policy flies in the face of turning the other cheek, wait no longer.

It’s hilarious. I laughed, watched it again and laughed some more, and that is the point. Caidyn was joking, which he does quite well.

He was formerly in the headlines for his hilarious take on making friends.

And even though his recent video is a joke, I won’t lie. Hit me and catch these hands has always been a pretty effective anti-bullying policy in the Chicago Public Schools I attended.

But now that I’m a parent of a black boy who is in the 100th percentile for weight and height, I have my reservations about teaching that ideology to my son.

Kids accidentally bump, headbutt, spit on, hit and kick each other all the time. They play fight and wrestle. If I just leave our fighting conversation at the popular ‘you have a right to defend yourself,’ my baby could end up jeopardizing his record at school over silly, childish scuffles.

I know you’re thinking no one is talking about accidents. Caidyn spelled out a scenario in which another student intentionally punched him. What’s wrong with hitting that child back?

Let’s say someone does intentionally punch my son in the eye and he hits that child back. Because of my son’s unintended strength, the offender falls back and hits his head on a school desk and dies.

We live in Atlanta. It’s hard for me to believe Georgia prosecutors would have any reservations charging my uniquely tall black son with involuntary manslaughter. I believe a jury would convict him. Everyone loses in that scenario, and for what? So my son could have bragging rights about how he showed Johnny not to put his hands on anyone?

And what if the child who hits my son is a little girl?

Do I teach my son it’s OK to hit another child back unless that child is a girl? I’m no feminist, and trust me. That’s a whole other blog post, but I do believe there has to be some equity when teaching children these kinds of moral lessons.

I plan to teach my son:

Don’t put your hands on anyone ever. You can absolutely defend yourself, but hitting someone just because he hit you is not self-defense. That’s retaliation, and we don’t deal in violence. If you do, be prepared to deal with whatever punches, murder convictions or bullets that may be waiting on you.

I plan to teach my hypothetical daughter:

 The problems with teaching children to hit back | Honeycomb Moms| Credit: Jessica Felicio / Unsplash

The problems with teaching children to hit back | Honeycomb Moms| Credit: Jessica Felicio / Unsplash

Don’t put your hands on anyone ever. You can absolutely defend yourself, but hitting someone just because he hit you is not self-defense. That’s retaliation, and we don’t deal in violence. If you do, be prepared to deal with whatever punches, murder convictions or bullets that may be waiting on you.

I think it’s time black and brown parents got real about what self-defense actually is according to the law.

A lot of us aren’t exactly in denial about the fact that some police officers, judges and regular shmegular people (in my Cardi B voice) assume we are criminals based on the color of our skin. But for some reason, a lot of black and brown parents still think we have the luxury of operating as if that isn’t the case. We think we can simply teach our children all people should be treated fairly and send them off into the world.

Georgia law maintains that “a person is justified in using force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury…”

Note the words “she reasonably believes.” Those words would have you thinking that even though you hit and accidentally killed Johnny, the law was on your side if Johnny hit you first. That absolutely should be the case, but don’t get it twisted.

If I were prosecuted on involuntary manslaughter charges, it wouldn’t be about what I considered reasonable. My fate would be tied to what the jurors deciding my case thought was reasonable. If I happened to be a 6’6 black man, how many jurors would think a 5’7 white man’s punch qualified as a reasonable threat to me?

Let me answer for you. Not enough to bet my freedom on.

There are whole art forms dedicated to teaching actual self-defense i.e. karate.

If you’ve ever watched actor and martial artist Jackie Chan in action, you’ll notice a lot of the fight scenes seem so cool not because he’s viciously going after his attackers but because he beats them mostly by dodging their punches and kicks.

He usually doesn’t go straight to violence either, even when he is attacked first. He gives his attacker the opportunity to realize his mistake. He says, “I don’t want trouble.” He tries to problem solve with his words.

He does everything in his power not to fight before he is ultimately forced to defend himself. And even when he does, the only times you see Chan’s characters actively hurting another person is usually when that person has him in a choke-hold.

There are tons of other people around. He has witnesses and a solid legal defense should the situation rise above a regular fight. He has protected himself physically and legally.

That’s a life lesson worth handing out.


5 thoughts on “Should you teach your child to hit back?”

  1. Love love love! I think this is such an important perspective and amazing life lesson that we often don’t think about. So often we’ve been told, "if someone hits you, hit them back" without thinking about the implications of that for our black and brown babies. I could rant about this forever, but I’ll just leave it at that lol. Great post.

  2. Michelle Breland

    This is such an important conversation for all parents. Love, love, love that you’re making connections to the how these decisions have the potential to impact the rest of of our babies lives…it also saddens me that we have too.

  3. [object Object]

    This has sparks quite the buzz on my fb page….just wondering what you all think about this comment left by one of my friends:

    I’m just going to say all the stuff Lauren said. What if little Johnny hits Caidyn because he is just looking for someone to fight? There’s so many kids (and adults) who fight for reasons that wouldn’t make sense if explained (and often don’t afterwards). Swinging back isn’t really a recipe for discouraging many would be shit starters. Sometimes keeping your fists balled up for the first person who crosses your line either makes you identifiable as a willing combatant or unconsciously skilled at playing, “who can instigate the other to take the first punch”. Lauren is so right that you give up all your power when you let other people decide if you were justified.

    The power lies in teaching your kids to strongly indicate what they are about… to be confident in the sun that pulls all their stuff into orbit. That alone changes the whole dynamic so WHEN you get hit (literally and metaphorically) your justice meter isn’t so thirsty for the screws to get put in the person who hurt you. I want my daughter to be above it. The way to deal with someone who hurts you is so much clearer up there anyhow. Making teachers accountable for REAL restorative justice.. thats holds kids who hit more to account than getting hit back… that’s the strategy.

    None of this applies when my kid is really having to defend herself. She can give those people the business ?

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