Our partners over at The Chopra Well have a new show called “Perfectly Imperfect Parents.” In it, working moms Mallika Chopra, Dr. Cara Natterson and Dani Modisett get together and discuss the various challenges that face parents today, challenges like bullying. One episode especially caught my “Perfectly Imperfect Parents” prove, smart moms don’t always agree about parenting choices.
On this episode, the moms discuss bullying and how to help your child with this difficult and widespread problem. I complete agree with Dr. Cara Natterson’s approach of helping kids learn to use their words, even also to watch out for signs that your child might be bullying others. But I just can’t get behind comedienne Dana Modisett’s assertion that sometimes you have to encourage violence to stop bullying. Call me crazy, but I don’t feel like increased violence is helpful in any situation.
Modisett shares that her first grade son has been the victim of bullying, even coming home with a bloody lip. The response from Modisett and her husband was to teach their son how to throw a punch, how to respond physically if he was being picked on. She says of her husband, “He thinks that’s the best way to deal with a bully.”
When Mallika asks how Modisett would feel if the school calls and tells her that her son just beat up another child, Modisett says that she would be proud of him for defending himself. Even if the other child hadn’t taken the first swing, if they were just “in his physical space” or “threatening him.” And if it wasn’t self-defense? Well that would never happen. “That would be another universe.”
But I disagree. Instead of arming our kids in any way, why not teach them more constructive ways to handle their problems? For young children, encourage them to talk to teachers and seek out help when bullying starts. Teach our kids to be good friends and to stick up for other kids who might also be victims. And try to give them the independence and self-confidence to stand up to bullies before the fights become physical.
More than anything, I think this idea that our children are always the ones defending themselves and never the aggressors is part of the reason why bullying is such an out-of-control problem, which Dr. Cara Natterson brings up briefly in the video. We want to believe that our children would never do anything wrong. Who is to say that the little boy you taught to punch out at bullies won’t become a bully himself? At what point is it still self defense and not just a child who hits people whenever he’s unhappy with them?
For adults, physical violence is never the right way to handle stress or confrontation. This is not a lesson that will help or empower them later in life. It’s a lesson that could lead to dangerous consequences as children get older if they continue to believe that their fists can solve their problems.
Check the video out and let us know what you think. Would you teach your child to punch back at their bullies?