The Nonviolent Hitters Club

We had Declan’s first Parent-Teacher conference for Kindergarten last week. Once we got past the perfunctory academic crap, I asked the real question that is on the mind of every Kindie parent.

“How is he doing socially?”

Because Declan has always been a touch shy. Not around *us* or anything – but big hoards of kids freak him out. He still hangs on to my leg at drop off some days. And he talks about how some of the kids in his class hit him. Yes, hit him. Even those nice kids at his school.

We’ve gotten out of him that it’s not a mean-spirited bully type of hitting, just kids being kids. But of course he still doesn’t like it.

And as we talked about how Declan is interacting with his peers (very well, according to his teachers!), we brought up the hitting thing and how we have been talking about it at home.

But here’s the hard thing. How do two parents who are dedicated to not spanking, not hitting and non-violence teach a 5 year old to stand up for himself?

Basically we have told him there comes a time when you can “remove” other kids from his person. And if that means a shove or a hit or a kick, we’ll understand and take his side. We’ve warned him that he may still get in trouble at school over it, depending on how it goes down – that rules are rules… but that we know he will tell us the truth about what happened and if he shoves another kid away who is not listening to his words – well, there is just a point where you have to say fuck it, right? (OK, I didn’t say it exactly like that.)

As I nervously told his teacher our strategy for the rough play Declan has been experiencing, I held my breath and waited for her response. We were careful to tell them we didn’t want to undermine their authority, and that we didn’t condone hitting but: our. concern. was. our. child.

She looked me right in the eye, pointed her finger at me, and said, “That is EXACTLY what I would tell my kid.”

I love it when a plan comes together.


P.S. 30 Days of Thanks
I am thankful for the awesome weather Denver has been experiencing this fall. Must be paybacks form Mother Nature for last winter.

This article has 41 comments

  1. Nanette

    Oooh, I really like your solution! And I’m glad the teacher agreed!

  2. Julie

    We have always told our kids they absolutely may not start something with another kid, and when somebody starts something with them, they should try to walk away. If they can’t, they should fight back — push them away, hit them back, but only until the other kid backs off.

    Kids need to learn how to defend themselves and how to respond to the inappropriate behavior of others.

    And if kids feel like they have a plan and permission to respond to bullies and jerks, it may help them be annoyed or angry at the bullies and jerks rather than scared of them. That confidence makes them a less than satisfactory target.

  3. Mayberry

    What a perfect outcome — and I love Julie’s comment that even just knowing about the plan will be helpful, and might even prevent Dex from ever having to use it.

  4. Caloden

    The predatory nature of other kids can be such an issue at any age. I am experiencing this same thing with my pacifist 3 year-old Devon. There is one boy at preschool who enjoys clawing Devon’s cheek. My son has thus far turned the other cheek but I am to the point where I want to tell him to go kick some 3 year-old ass. Sigh. Good thing your teachers are with you on this one. Good luck with it!


  5. Candy

    My kids are teenagers now, and that was exactly the strategy I used with them during their school years.

    Luckily, it has never come to fruition, but I think the knowledge that if they had to defend themselves, I would understand, has empowered them and made them more willing to take a different route.

    I just hope no one ever crosses my daughter to the point of no return, though, because she can open up a can of whoop-ass on you in a hurry.

  6. Nancy

    Kick-butt and take names later *wink*

    I concur, when my kids were smaller, I taught them not to start a physical fight, but if it takes physically responding to stop the other kid … have at it.

    I don’t think there was ever an issue, that I can remember.

    It seems kids are verbally violent more so than physically … shame =(

  7. monstergirlee

    Thats pretty much what we’re telling DS right now. Hopefully if we keep repeating it, he’ll remember when the time comes.

  8. Nat

    Against my better judgement, The Man enrolled The Boy in Jui Jitsu. The good think about it is that they teach a lot of respect and skills.

    We were at some sort of school function and some much bigger kid from Grade 3 has The Boy in a headlock (for like a nanosecond until like 20 parents descended upon the kid.) I asked TB why he didn’t use his JJ skills (because he can get out of a headlock.) He said but “Mom, I’d get into trouble and Sensei Scott said to never ever use JJ outside of the dojo.”

    We told him exactly what you told Declan. Then when he was sure he’d get kicked out of the dojo, we took him to see Sensei Scott who back us up.

  9. zenrain

    i can’t believe kids are hitting him….so glad you have a teacher on the same page as you, that helps 🙂

  10. Colleen

    Sounds like a perfect plan. I think it’s important that kids know that it’s not ok to hit or be violent, but that it is ok to stand up and defend yourself. Great that the teacher agrees.

  11. Alida

    My girl screams so freakishly loud that it just scares the bullies away. A parent made a rude comment about it once, so I told her, “Good to know how you feel. I’ll let her know not to scream if your child hits her again…I’ll let her know to aim for the nose and punch as hard as she can.” I smiled and walked away! I mean really!

  12. Anonymous

    Hitters hitting Declan?? For shame!!!

  13. MB

    Oy. This is a tough one. I always want to go beat the snot out of the kids who rough ’em up. And THAT is appropriate. 🙂

    Good job, mom! And good job, Declan!

  14. Manisha

    We had similar problems in day-care. My daughter was bitten on her upper lip – yes the skin was broken and the scar has faded only now – and then was bitten in the head by another child. Why didn’t she push them away? She was afraid that she would be punished and get a timeout! We had to explain to her over and over again that if she has to protect herself, it is fine to push. Hold out your arm, palm flat facing outwards and push the other kid away. And I also told her that I would take it up with the day-care if they gave her a timeout when she was defending herself. It worked.

    Now, she’s 9 and in 4th grade. There’s other kind of emotional bullying that happens. Now, that is even tougher to deal with!

  15. nutmeg

    I’d tell him to clobber the hell out of the biggest one. He’d only have to do it once!

  16. painted maypole

    sounds like you have a grade A teacher there for Declan. yippee!

  17. Angela

    Isn’t it great when the teacher agrees? Such a tricky situation.

  18. L Sass

    Sounds like good advice to me–you don’t want him to be so afraid to use force that he doesn’t defend himself if he ever needs to, right? Glad the teacher was on board!

  19. Don't Eat My Buchela!

    It is interestingg how different cultures handle rough play. I teach in a Korean school. During the breaks between classes, the boys pummel each other! Every time I come into my 4-6th grade class, I find a bunch of boys piled up on each other and wrestling.

    I have never had a kid cry. I have seen kids hurt but it never seems an issue if the whole thing resulted from play instead of an actual conflict.

    In cases of actual conflict, teachers mediate. Otherwise, I have never seen any of the Korean teachers frown on rough play let alone try to stop it. And the kids have a blast.

    It works here because real bullying and meanness, the kind you hear about in the US, is very very very rare if it happens at all.

  20. Lisa

    I had a similar experience last year with my little man. A boy in his class kept tackling him during “touch” football, so I told him to stand his ground and if he got tackled again he should return the favor. The other boy did exactly what I thought he’d do after finding himself on the ground – he left my boy alone.

  21. Chantelle

    I think that is a great strategy. I am going to steal it.

  22. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Wow, you all have some really amazing stories too. Makes me feel good that I am not alone!!!

  23. carrie

    Awesome. She sounds like a keeper.

  24. samantha jo campen

    You guys rule. But really, so does his teacher and yeah for Declan for having such fabulous adult role models!

  25. Amy

    We have experienced this from both sides. At our previous daycare (before Kindergarten) there was a boy who was super physical, to the point that one day he pushed Liam off the play structure. Luckily Liam wasn’t injured, and I don’t believe it was done out of meanness. The boy was grounded from the playground for 1 week. But Liam struggled with his physical ways every day as the boy really liked Liam and always wanted to be near him. Somehow, when we transferred to Kindergarten, Liam brought some of these traits with him. I guess he felt he was trying it on for size. So for the first few weeks, we had to have talks about keeping his hands to himself, because even if he’s not touching the other person in a mean way, the other person still may not want to be touched. My boys are very physical and strong natured, so I’ve never even considered having to tell them to stick up for themselves. They seem to come by it naturally. 🙂 Good thing to think about though. We are getting into the age with my older son (age 8) when we have to start talking about sex and drugs. That’ll be interesting…

  26. Karen

    This is senstive for me as it brings back unhappy memories of Joshua’s first year at school. He was bullied mercilessly for six weeks by a group of kids and he did everything by the book, he walked away, he told the teachers, he spoke with friend and NOTHING was done. When he eventually told me, in floods of tears one night as he was begging me not to send him to school, I’m afraid my advice was to thump the little shits back.

    One week later a child got hold of his arm and swung him against the climbing frame and he smashed his back against the ladder. He got up, took aim and punched this kid right in the face giving him a bloody nose. He got into huge trouble for this, but I explained to the Head about the bullying and that I fully condoned his behaviour and told her quite firmly that I had given him permission to deal with the issue as they had so dismally failed to deal with it themselves.

    He’s always been told never to start a fight, don’t get involved with bullies, but if somebody wants to take a pop, let them have it pdq because they’ll think twice about having a pop at somebody who can lump them back.

    Sometimes as much as we want to be pacifist there are times when things have to get ugly.

  27. Nadine

    Hooray! Glad you and the teacher agreed. We might have to deal with the same thing. We don’t spank Tim either. We solve things with words. However, I do understand that children will be children. Let us know who things develop!

  28. Kelly O

    Man, that’s tough, isn’t it? Teaching your kid to know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away, and when to run. I like your approach! Smart.

  29. Queeny

    My 4-year-old had the same experience when he first started day care last year. His dad and I told him it was OK to defend himself if someone hit him, but he was always too shy to do it.

    Now that he’s one of the tallest (and coolest, he insists) kids in his preschool class, we have nothing to worry about.

  30. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Karen, I know that was really hard. Hugs!!

  31. Lilymane

    Aimee, you’ve been randomly tagged. Please see my blog for directions to play along. Peace.

  32. Lilymane

    Rats! I tried not to double tag anyone! Still, it was a fun way to find your blog. I look forward to having more time to read it. Peace.

  33. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Thanks anyway Lilymane, I really appreciate it!

  34. wordgirl

    Good on you! Teach peace when possible (always the first choice), but there’s a difference between peace and being a doormat. Defending yourself is an option too!

  35. Jodi

    Great lesson.

  36. mrsmogul

    Hi there! Good to meet you! BTW I have always wanted to go to Denver! Looking forward to reading more of your stories!

  37. zipper

    Awesome post. glad the teacher got yer back.

  38. soccer mom in denial

    Yeah for teachers who GET it!!

    Wish we had one of those for one of our kids. The other teachers are great. Guess when you have three kids, one is bound to get a less-than-great teacher no?

  39. boogiemum (

    we say the same thing. We tell our kids to first use your words, then if that doesn’t work, walk away. Then it that doesn’t work do what they have to to get away, even if it means hitting.

  40. K.

    I agree, your solution is a good one and I like how you explain it as “removing” another child from his person.

    It sounds like Declan has a great teacher, too. That can make such a difference.

  41. Lisa

    I’m glad the teacher felt the same way. That’s what my dad taught me. He got a call from the principal when I was in second grade because I kicked a bully, and left him crying on the grass. He defended me and had to fight the urge to smile and tell me he was proud of me. Haha.

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