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August 27, 2008


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Hmmh, my sister has the same philosophy. The only problem is that Peanut has rules to follow at school and if she breaks them, she will also learn that there are consequences for her actions. It's important for peanut to inform the adults that you have entrusted her with to handle the situation. If the situation continues then perhaps I would resort to plan "B" (knock the kid on his docus). It's very difficult in todays society of zero tolerance to have the mind set that allows your child to think they are running things. I've seen it quite often. The kid probably needed a lesson in humility, hence a pop in the head, but there was not one, but two suspensions. Hmmh, something to ponder.


My husband belongs to a boxing club and has started taking our 6 yr old son with him to learn the basics--they're not allowed in the ring until their older though. If he does get into a fight (and I hope he doesn't) we want him to be able to defend himself.


AMEN! and I am not very religious! Well said.


Amen, brother!

What we have communicated with our older (7) daughter, who has been dealing with a similar situation, is that we will stand behind her even if she gets in trouble for standing up for herself, which in a conservative Catholic School, she very well may.

I certainly support trying to work things out with words first, but there is a point where enough is enough.


The quote "fool me once..." was the quote that Bush used when he started his war on terror (he didn't say the "shame on me" part though... he changed the ending to say, "won't fool me again" or something like that). Do we really want to raise the next generation of George W. Bush's? The problem is that some people teach their kids to use violence to handle problems, which forces other kids to have to defend themselves and potentially resort to violence when doing so. So, if everyone was a "pussy" then we wouldn't have to defend ourselves in the first place and there wouldn't be any fighting.
Ghandi rightfully said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." What is your daughter going to do when a bigger kid pushes her and she pushes him back and he doesn't fall down? He will be pissed and will probably push back even harder.


Hey MD, quick story: I was in 10th grade and being bullied like crazy by a bunch of high school stoners. One of them carried a knife and they were seriously tough and I was scared to death of them. They would torture me everyday threatening to kick my ass etc. One day my dad told me that I should continue to try to ignore them but be ready to fight if it came to that. He said that if one of the girls actually started something and I fought back, the others would be so freaked out they'd stay back. That's exactly what happened. One of the girls finally pushed me and I went crazy punching, scratching, screaming...I was fine, she had a huge scratch on her face and a black eye. None of the other girls got invovled and not one of them ever bothered me again.


As I watch the kids in my daughter's daycare, I see a bunch of undisciplined sugar addicts who are complete maniacs. Sometimes I feel like my daughter comes home every day with different scratch marks or bruises. I've spoken to the teachers about all of this. However, they seem completely overwhelmed, helpless, underpaid, and frazzled. Clearly, I can't rely on them.

I've taught my daughter to use her words. I've taught her to go to the teachers for assistance. None of it seems to be working. Finally, against my general pacifist philosophy, I told her to hit or scratch the bullies back. Since then? No problems whatsoever.

Yes, things will change as she gets older. She'll have to learn when and how to act responsibly in a safe manner. And like you, I'll teach her these things so she doesn't suffer from the hands of a violent sociopath.

However, the thing that I appreciate most about this post is your teaching the Peanut the meaning of personal responsibility and that actions have consequences.

That is perhaps the most important lesson of all.


Let me use my words and say that I'm surprised that you would use the word "pussies" in such a misogynistic way. Babe, I know you're better than that. You love me and you love Peanut. Let's leave the dick talk in the locker room. xo.BL.

Wow, BossLady is politically correct. Who would have guessed?


I love this post, I thought we are the only bad parents around who teach our child to fight back. Once again, I gonna show this post to my husband and make him love you so much! ha.


I couldn't agree with you more, MD. This is a great post that should be read by all parents. Whether they agree or disagree, it will make them think about the subject at hand.


A-freaking-men. As I like to say, "If you are going to dish it out, you better be prepared to get it back."

We just had a similar situation here. And a certain would-be bully learned not to mess with my nine year old son.


Yeah, I always thought "use your words" was for annoying whining, tantrum throwing. That's how I use it. As in, speak to me kid because whining is not a language I speak.

That said, my first instinct, being the older sister of two boys who were bullied, then taught to fight back, then became bullies themselves, is...that this freaks me out. I know I'm "scarred" by my own experience, but violence can empower people. Sometimes that's good. Sometimes it empowers them a little too much.

Anyway. I think it makes sense though. It's something for me to think about since Cai tends to be the one bullied by more aggressive kids. I tell him, "Caius, you can tell her that it's not okay to take that toy from you." But he's not even willing to do that at this point.

He's a lot like me.

Certainly though, if someone's hurting him, I want him to stand up for himself, protect himself. Whether that means yelling out his name really loud (I love that - OLIVIA!) or pushing someone hard on the ground, I don't want him to get taken advantage of or pushed around.


This was a tough read MD, largely because I can't bring myself to say the P word. It doesn't help that I'm the hovering, overprotective parent you speak of. My boy runs like Phoebe Buffay, so it seems like the most logical stance. I'm such a P***y!

Even though I agree somewhat with you. We have to teach our kids to stand up for themselves even if it involves being physical. The interesting thing I note about this blog is how many of the comments agree with you. I wonder if it is just the herd mentality.
Someone else who I know also writes a blog.She blogs about her personal life and very often misrepresents what really happens, but amazingly enough the comments are always sympathizing with her. I wonder if people knew the real word truth if they would be so kind.
A blog allows people to live in a fantasy world and to garner support and boost their self esteem from total strangers.


amen! it seems that children and even teens these days dont even know how to so much as use manners to resolve a situation much less use more force than words. it bothers me to see some people believe that words are the only means to resolving conflict and violence will solve nothing. I can name several instances not only in my life but also in america's history where talking simply had no meaning, but only delayed the inevitable. ww2 for instance....before the world went to war with the axis forces they allowed hitler to capture multiple countries, the whole time saying diplomacy will stop him. in the end violence is what it took to bring resolve to the situation. on a lesser note however, in my experience growing up, my father taught me to ask my opponent politely to leave me alone. If my opponent persisted, than i would give him an undeserving second chance which would be his last. the first time i would ask politely, the secong time would still be polite but more stern after that i would physically take them down and continue doing so until they agreed to submit.
i agree with your views and commend you. america needs to go back to when we taught our kids to defend themselves by all means rather than by only one means. talk is fine for some but for others, well they dont get it and have to learn by means of physical demonstration.

Jen @ amazingtrips

My kids carry with them at all times, big cans of whoop ass and they know how to open 'em up, if the need should arise. Several times a week, when one of my three-year-olds shoves another one down, I'll be standing over the fallen child saying "Don't be a victim!! Stand up for yourself!!"

I use the phrase "Use your words" all the time. But, I use it with children and adults alike because I can't stand it when people hem and haw and don't speak their mind. My use of this phrase has absolutely nothing to do with nonviolence and everything to do with getting to the point and not wasting time.

I have a schedule to keep.

Seriously, Jess


My mom raised us with this same philosophy. My brother was another kid's punching bag until, per mom's advice, he knocked the other kid on his ass one day.

Now, for me, it didn't quite work. My brother would hit me and mom would urge me to hit him back harder. But after I would, in true big-brother fashion, he'd slug me harder than that.

I guess knowing your opponent and your limitations are equally important lessons.


I use 'use your words' for the same reason nonlineargirl does...

because my kids aren't prone to hitting but they sure are prone to whining...


I'm a little late on this one, but I agree wholeheartedly with you. I teach my boys to be mindful of others feelings and to be polite, but also to stand up for themselves, it is not ok to bully someone, but it is not ok to allow yourself to be bullied. My 11 year old is 5'3" with his dads linebacker build and the sweetest kid you will ever meet, but he has his dads and my full permission to whip on some ass should any kid not bright enough to know better try to pick on him. You'd be surprised how many kids want to "try him" because they think he's soft for being polite, well mannered and nice to the girls and younger ones.


Way to go!
If we parents are OK with our daughters getting picked on or even hit, what kind of message it that? Girls (and boys too, but I have a girl) need to know its OK to stand up for yourself. Don't take crap off anybody.

When I was working as a manager in a corporation, one of the other managers (a known womanizer and all around creep) made a horrible comment to me. Did I sue? Did I file a complaint to HR? NO. I slapped him right in the face. HARD. He never bothered me again. So, I guess this is an issue we never outgrow.

Lee Lee

Peanut Power!

I reckon you should get that printed on some t-shirts.


I like the basics behind this post, but can't say I would have my son run over to another kid and push him right in front of me.

Would you have been so brazen if the other child's large father was there? If so you could have had a family tag team match.


Glad to read you addressing this issue. I wholeheartedly agree with giving our kids the tools to deal with bullies. I wonder how many pussies grow to be douchebags? seen any research on that?
We have the problem with our kids being assertive/combative at home but roadkill in public, but don't think its a self-confidence thing since they're both TKDers (one a black belt). Maybe they're just not tough enough for the city.
Most posts here are positive, but my experience dealing with parents in these situations (and its been mostly mothers) has been defined by defiance and denial if not militancy. And godforbid if the misbehaving child is a girl (though that is rare).
Props for the use of "Pussies" in your post.


Jeff - So your three-year-old knocks a kid down and then you stand over the poor fallen child and tell him to quit being a victim? I hope I don't run into your family at the playground anytime soon.

And Corey - I don't know how many "pussies" grow up to be douchebags, but about 95 per cent of bullies do.

Let me be one of the few voices of dissent (or at least caution) here. I'm all for my boys standing up for themselves, and if push literally comes to shove then so be it. But there's a tone of "Hell yeah, my kid's gonna kick some ass!" creeping into some of the comments here. We do agree violence is always a last resort, right?


*Sorry, those comments should have been addressed to Jen@amazing trips and R2dad, respectively.


"You want to know what I teach the Peanut? That actions have consequences. That one must always take responsibility for one's own actions."

You know, if EVERY parent followed this philosophy, there'd hardly BE any anti-social behaviour in the playground anymore!

Wholeheartedly agree and will start teaching this to my 3yo (who by the way remains stoic when under attack which already makes me very proud)

St Paul Slim

I like it. Not in all circumstances, but at that age, it works most of the time. In some neighborhoods, though, it will get you a drive-by. Be sure you teach the kids that some won't stop at pushing.

Ten Feet

It's important to remember that physical force is not always mindless violence.

I'm really surprised to read comments in which people jump to the conclusion that MetroDad and everyone who agrees with him are terrible parents who are teaching their children to hit or strike out of frustration or anger.

First of all, why are people assuming that physical force is the only method of standing up for oneself and others which MD and other parents who agree with him are going to teach their kids?

Also, in the incident he describes, the Peanut is clearly not being taught to push back out of some kind of blind rage or panic. Instead, she is being taught when to judge that a line has been crossed, and to identify a proper level of force to use to assert and defend herself when other methods are ineffective.

You may disagree on where that line lies. Or you may believe that force is never justified, regardless of the circumstances. Whatever your personal beliefs may be, you should have the courtesy to not assume that the person who believes differently is an idiot, a barbarian, or lacking in judgment.

Our society is increasingly full of people who are incapable of critical judgment and can only think in absolutes. It's a grey world out there, and any parent who teacher his or her child to think only in black and white is doing that kid a huge disservice.


A FREAKIN MEN! holy crap it's true. I have to say I don't have the balls you do, but I'm sure as hell gonna grow em.

Good lesson for both kids, nice job MD


Metro Dad: I concur! Thank you for putting it out there!

M@: Good luck! LOL


Followed a link to get here and all I can say is A-MEN!! I teach my kids just the same way. I constantly remind them that if you don't learn to stand up for themselves to be prepared to be shit on for the rest of their lives. Harsh, maybe. But I never sugarcoat anything to do with reality.
Good for you and the Peanut!


I have taught my daughter the same thing. You rock MD.


While I fully agree with the sentiment of your post, the problem is that you've put the responsibility for taking a violent act onto the shoulders of a three year old, instead of where it belongs - with the adult. I'm not sure I want kids making those decisions, in fact, there are many adults I don't want making that decision either. But still, the problem is with the parent, not the kid. It is the parent that needs to learn; you might have been better off cold-cocking the mother of the kid. That is the message you are trying to get accross, isn't it - that we should drill everyone who does something we don't like?

I do like the bunghole line though.

Strathy in Canada - where we learned to 'drop the gloves' before we learned to skate.


I must admit that this is the first time I have been to your blog...stumbled across it from another blogger I know. But I love this post...I believe I may swing by here a little more often. In fact I may paraphrase this slightly and provide a link to this post in my own blog with your permission.


Leaving aside the merits or demerits of the 'parenting philosophy' which has drawn the attention of many of your 8.5 million commenters I have to say I am bewildered by the resounding chorus of 'amens'. This isn't a pentecostal tent. Why not say "hallelujah" or even "Oh, MD, I want you to slap me on the chin with your balls?'' I imagine there is a handy emoticon for that. With umlauts.

What a bunch of ass kissers (or something in that general neighbourhood). And I'm with Whit. Amen, Whit, AMENNNNN!


Only a guy would write this....


I forgot to add you might feel differently about this if you had more than one child.

Givinya de Elba

I use that phrase all the time. But that's because I'm a speech pathologist.


Love this post! This is what I tell my kids all the time - I have a boy and a girl. They don't have to stand there and take abuse. They have my full blessing to stand up for themselves, and fight if need be.
They shouldn't start fights, but they should know how to end them.


I'm way in the minority - and I'm headed out on the limb. I am disconcerted to see so much agreement here. Hang with me for a minute. I realize this isn't going to be the popular opinion in this group and I am not at all trying to be disagreeable or controversial. I'm talking about something I truly feel I have a solution for in the hope that someone might like something in my idea and adopt it to suit.

I know not everyone can do what my husband and I are doing, but more people could than are. We consider raising our kids and keeping them safe our most important responsibility and we've changed our lives to do it. Anyway, we're homeschooling - in large part because we feel there's just too much violence and too little supervision in schools. There are other options too (co-ops, communal tutoring, flexible work schedules), for people who couldn't do things the way we do if you're willing to think outside the box a little.

Imagine you're at work. In front of all your co-workers, you get big kudos from the boss for the great job you did. As all of you are filing out of the office, your co-worker, the bully, gives you a hard punch in the arm or shoves you down the stairs. Do you beat the crap out of the guy or do you just call the police because, "Hey, man, I don't have to take that kind of stuff." We have laws on our side - if, as a grown up, you're so poorly adjusted that you have to use your fists to express yourself, you're pretty much doomed to spend a lot of time in a very small space. My kid doesn't have those same protections. I'm my kid's protector. That's my job. My kids don't hang out with kids who are bullies. My kids don't watch television (unless you count the very occasional Kipper the Dog dvd) and are not subjected to violence they're not equipped to handle. My kids know they're safe, they're cared for, and they're loved - as all children should. I have a theory. My theory is that kids are rough because that's what they witness - or how they're treated - and because they're left on their own to figure out ways to handle things that they shouldn't have to. I've been in the same situation you described. I've been just as direct with the parent as you were, or, if the parent wasn't handy, with the kid. I don't hesitate to tell someone else's kid to settle down. Plenty loud enough for the parent to hear. And then I move my kid out of harm's way. Really, it's not "use your words" - it's "use your head" - and not as a battering ram. Violence begets violence. Take a good look around.

Ruth Dynamite

I'll never forget how empowered I felt as a kid when my dad not only told me it was OK for me to defend myself, but he taught me exactly how to do it.

Good for you for teaching your daughter how to stand up for herself.


I'm pretty sure you've taken some flack for this but I don't have the time to read through all the comments.

However, I'm a realist. Practically speaking, your daughter resorted to the final thing that worked. That's the ultimate goal. As far as not encouraging violence or touching another person's body inappropriately, that child didn't know better. In fact, I was sort of pissed just reading it because I can almost hear the non-committal parent asking the child to stop when it should have been demanded.

What you are talking about here in the very childlike playground sense is what I've been dealing with in the almost grownup high school students and parents I deal with (um, have you read me lately? like, last week?) and I have to say that I'm CONSTANTLY talking about how their actions, when uncorrected, become a problem for others.

This reinforcing goes for the parents, too. That's a much harder lesson to teach adults. Trust me.


Oh, wait. Crap. I didn't mean to hit post yet.

Last week when I got hurt in a fight between students and we had them separated the one who kicked me in my hand was trying to explain herself but was making OOOHHH sounds and crying and blustering her way through incoherent sentences.

Guess what I said to her?

Use your words! How am I supposed to understand you? You're nearly a grownup and you can't even speak to me about what you're feeling!

So, it was the violence first and the words second, but even a 17 year old had to be reminded that she actually has that capacity and that the responsibility here was upon HER.


Bravo, bravo! I hope you can hear me clapping down here in Texas, because this post rocked my world.

I agree with your parenting method 100%. We teach our boys the same thing.

Fabulous post.


Wow, that's spot on.


Extrapolate this concept to grownups. If you allow a friend or a stranger to treat you badly and dont defend yourself or tell them you dont want to be treated like that, they will continue to treat you like crap. Speak up for yourself? Game over.


I largely agree with what you've said here-- there are certain lessons parents can't teach their children, and the world needs to be able to teach them instead.

I want kids to push my kids back when they lose control, and my kids will certainly hear it from me as a followup if I see or find out about what they've done. But nothing I say or do could have the same effect as the person they are trying to intimidate with violence fighting back once they are given no choice.

By the same token, like you describe here, I want them to understand what it means that you only have two cheeks to turn.

How to Party with an Infant

I don't mind when the teachers tell this kid at my daughter's school to use his words when the little fucker is hitting everyone who passes by, including me. If a kid hits back this mo' fo' is off the chain. And words can be verbal shoves. They can push, bitch slap, sucker punch, whatever. I guess I want my daughter to use her words, to know what to say and how to say it.
I loved your story though.


This was an actual convo with my boy in middle school-
A- Mom I'm suspended for 10 days
Me- what?
A- X called me a bitch, I told him to shut up and leave me alone, X spit in my face and bitch slapped me in front of the whole class..
Me- uh-huh, and then
A- I decked him hard and he went down
Me- Don't worry about the suspension honey

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