Teaching Self Defense: A Lesson for Dads Everywhere

My son was threatened at school, and like any parent and I wanted to ensure my son would be able to defend himself if things got ugly. This resulted in an extremely humbling lesson for… the parent himself.

Bullies suck

I knew this day would arrive sooner than later and it brought back memories of the fights I lost on the playground. I can still taste the blood in the back of my mouth, the result of a jab smack on the kisser that left me dazed. Now, my son was facing a similar circumstance.

He was five and it was the Autumn season when he turned to me at breakfast on a Sunday morning. He shared that a kid at school had punched him while they played in the courtyard on Friday after school. He seemed confused, which kind of surprised me and I asked him what had transpired.

The was the Zen side of my brain was concerned about the well-being of my child. The barbarian side told me it was time to teach my kid how to throw a punch. That’s the difference between moms and dads, and it’s a big one. Mothers instinctively want to make sure their kids are insulated from the dangers in the world. Dads, of course, feel this impulse as well, but our darker sides radiate through when it comes to fighting.

Perhaps it’s just me, but when my son is threatened I want him to be prepared to defend himself. That’s the unwritten rule when it comes to bullies and playgrounds – sometimes parents and teachers don’t have time to react. At a certain age, a dad has to teach his kid how to defend him or herself and encourage them to avoid a physical confrontation in the process.

Having lost more schoolyard fights than won, I wanted my son to be able to strike back, hard, that left little doubt about the consequences if a bully pushed him around. Call it barbaric if you will but at some point, you’ve got to provide a lesson in self-defense.

First, I told Connor to step back if he’s threatened and warn the bully not to hit him. If he’s already thrown a punch and it landed, I told him the warning was essential and not to hit back right away.

If the kid comes after you again, I told Connor, you’ve got to pop him – right on the nose. Then I showed him in a slow-motion gesture to punch… straight forward. I warned him not to do it unless he was 100% sure he was being threatened.

He thought about this for a while, seeming to ponder the advice I gave him.

He didn’t speak about it for the rest of the day. I reminded him the following morning that he had to warn the other kid and strike if a kid tries to punch him.

Then the real lesson happened.

“But dad, I’m worried.”

“Why? You have to stand up for yourself,” I told my five-year-old.

“Well, dad, the kid who tried to hit me is three-years-old.”

And that’s when daddy felt like a complete ass.

“Do not hit a three-year-old toddler! Absolutely not, he’s not going to hurt you.” I laughed at my own stupidity and in short order, my son was laughing. I asked him why he left out that part of the story I can’t recall what he told me but I explained that my advice only applied to kids your age or older, and if a child is a lot smaller don’t hit him unless you absolutely have to.

It’s been five months since this exchange took place. Fortunately, Connor has not turned into a playground bully or roughed up any innocent toddlers.

The lesson being, ask a lot more questions when it comes to your kids and their physical confrontations on the playground.


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