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In the News (or not), Parenting, School Years, Teens

Boys and Violence: It’s Not the Problem…It’s the Solution

©UnnecessaryWisdom.wordpress.com 2013

©UnnecessaryWisdom.wordpress.com 2013

I consider myself a peaceful, non-violent person. I don’t like violence. I am against war. I don’t spank. When my first son was born, I remember cuddling him and thinking, This is my little child, a human, not a boy. Just a soul who has been given to me. I will love him for who he is. I will not have pre-conceived notions. I will allow him to find himself. I raised him surrounded by a multitude of educational toys including kitchen sets, art supplies, costumes of every sort, trucks, blocks and every type of doll from animals to babies.

When he was about 3 or 4 years old, he became obsessed with dinosaurs. I laughed to myself and thought, Well, I guess that boys are just boys after all! I knew I had nothing to do with it. He had nursed his baby doll, just like me. He had dressed up like a princess with his big sister. But eventually, he became primarily interested in typical boy things like trains, cars and dinosaurs. So that’s what we played with and that’s what we talked about.

I raised all three of my children in a nonviolent home. All problems were to be solved using words. I taught them how to express their feelings and frustrations and to negotiate solutions. I taught them my values of peace. I practiced nonviolent forms of discipline as well. Hitting was not allowed.

Throughout elementary school, he learned world languages, acted, played musical instruments and participated in art contests. He played sports and was otherwise very much engaged in his world and a variety of interests. Then, the summer before 6th grade, something changed.

He started playing wrestling with his neighborhood friends in the yard. Wrestling was getting very violent and very rough. We made sure there some rules on this game but we let them play. They were having fun with each other and it seemed harmless. But then one day, I walked outside and saw him at the exact moment he hit his good friend with an amazingly accurate uppercut to the jaw. The boy’s head snapped back and he hit the ground.

I really didn’t know what to think for a minute. I had never seen any of them fight like that before. They didn’t seem angry with each other. It still looked like play. So, I loudly cleared my throat to let them know I was there and disapproved. “Break it up!” I said, unceremoniously. They did, with their beet-red faces and dirty pants. They seemed a little shocked, too, but otherwise calm and quiet. I went back inside, trying to figure out what had just happened. They were violently punching each other, but weren’t angry? Huh?

Now, I was secretly a little proud of my son that he could punch like that. I had no idea where he had figured that out. I told his stepdad what happened and he let me in on a part of a boy’s world I’d never known about. The part where boys start to challenge each other physically to find out what they are capable of and where they stand in the pecking order.

He explained to me that it really isn’t something vicious. He had often engaged in physical fights with his friends growing up. It was about testing your physical strength. Your body is changing, your hormones are surging and you wonder to yourself what you can do with this new-found strength.

I had to admit I could understand that. It’s almost like an informal boxing club. I’d been to a boxing gym before and I loved it! No one at the gym got upset with anyone else for sparring. It was understood that you were fighting each other for the pure joy of throwing punches and discovering the strengths and limitations of your body.

But what about my stance against violence? I had grown up with violence in my home. I had taken a strong, philosophical stand against using violence in any form as a way to solve problems. How could I allow this with my sons? Shouldn’t I be telling my boys that no violence is acceptable? After all, I’d always told them their rough and tumble play was okay as long as no one got hurt.

But then I realized I was not being completely honest. I did believe in violence in some circumstances. In fact, I expected and even demanded violence. Particularly from men. For instance, if a man is with or near a woman or child who is being threatened or harmed, I fully expect that man to step in to defend her or the child. If he did not, I would have no respect for him as a man, or even as a human being. Harsh, but true. I expect myself to be violent with anyone who would attempt to harm my child. The Mama Bear. I expect that of most mothers as well.

So, instead of simply forbidding violence, I decided to teach my sons the rules of violence:

  1. You may harm someone who is harming someone small or helpless
  2. You may harm someone who is harming you
  3. You may harm someone who is harming a female
  4. Do not strike first if at all possible
  5. Use the least amount of force necessary

I let them know, that these rules apply to them no matter where they are. I did not care if the school had different rules. They are human beings with the same rights to safety, self-defense and the defense of others, as every other human being. I would defend them to the bitter end if they decided to step in and do the right thing. After all, I would allow myself to strike someone who hit me. Why should my child have any fewer rights?

At the beginning of 6th grade, Adrian was getting challenged by a lot of the boys at school. It bothered him because he really didn’t want to fight with anyone. I kept reminding him he had a right to verbally stick up for himself and if it came down to it, to physically stick up for himself. He kept trying to hold out.

One day, I got a call at work from the principal. He told me my son had attacked a boy in the locker room for no reason and would be suspended for a week. I didn’t believe that for a second. I demanded to speak to my son. Adrian was afraid of being a “rat” so he hadn’t told the whole truth. I promised him whatever he said would be kept in confidence, so he told me the real story.

Outside, during gym class, three boys were taunting him. He ignored them, so they ramped it up, ultimately informing him he would be “jumped” sometime during or after school that day. So, my son decided he was not going to live with that threat, and when they went into the locker room to change, he attacked the boy who threatened him, punching him hard in the head.

The boy who got beat up wasn’t very happy about it because he lost the fight. He told on my son and of course, left out the part about threatening to jump my son. My son had refused to tell that part, too.

When it was brought to the principal’s attention, he believed the original story. But no one else did. Every teacher and the counselor said that it couldn’t have happened that way because they knew my son was a well-behaved and respectful kid. I agreed.

I went to the school and advocated for my son. He ended up with a one-day, in-school suspension. I agreed he deserved a punishment of some sort because he did, after all, throw the first punch. I understood why he did it. I might have done the same thing. But he certainly didn’t deserve anything drastic. It was still, after all, self-defense.

When my son came home that day, I told him I supported his decision. I explained the error he made in hitting first and instructed him on calling the bully out. I told him, If a boy says he’s going to jump you, just tell him to do it right then and there. Then, if he tries to hit you, you can hit him back.

Since that day in 6th grade, not one single boy has ever bullied my son in any way. He hates using physical violence but he’s not afraid to. As it turns out, he’s not afraid to defend others, either.

He’s in 8th grade now. I found out on one of his social media sites that he hit a boy in school the other day. He punched his friend because the boy smacked a girl on the behind. The girl remarked to my son, “Why did you do that? You think I need you to do that? ‘Cos I don’t.”

His response to her blew me away:

“I don’t think you need me to do that, but there’s no way he’s going to disrespect you like that in front of me.”

Now, that’s exactly the kind of man I want him to be.

So, I think that instead of teaching our kids NOT to be violent we need to teach them HOW and WHEN to be violent. We have so many stories of people standing around watching others getting assaulted or verbally attacked and we don’t know why. We have thousands of self-defense classes all over the country. We have anti-bullying programs that tell us to stop bullying but offer no concise steps telling us how. Honestly ask yourself, if you don’t know that you can physically defend yourself, would you really step in to verbally confront someone who is being physically and verbally threatening? I know I wouldn’t.

If we are to raise boys who are willing to step in when a girl is being attacked or fight back when a boy is being vicious, we are going to have to admit that we DO expect violence in some scenarios and teach them the fine lines to walk within. Why wait to learn self-defense as an adult? Why not let them learn it, as they are growing up, with the guidance of their parents? Maybe not all is violence is so bad after all.

It was a tough pill for me to swallow, realizing my beliefs weren’t all I thought they were. But I’m happy I listened to my son. He taught me there was more I needed to teach him–about life, and about becoming a man. My hope for him is that he will be the man, that when a woman is his neighbor and he hears her scream, will not just shut his window. He will run out the door, run through hers, and knock out the guy that is hitting her. That’s a form of violence I’ve learned that I’m actually pretty okay with.

©UnnecessaryWisdom.wordpress.com 2013

Discussion

118 thoughts on “Boys and Violence: It’s Not the Problem…It’s the Solution

  1. I think it would help nonviolence advocates more than a little if we were more precise with terms.

    The author Starhawk defines violence as “the imposition of power-over.” This is interesting because within this framework, firing someone from their job unfairly is an act of violence, but kicking a guy in the throat (or somewhere else) when he’s about to rape you isn’t.

    Something is still happening in the latter scenario but I would simply call it “using force.” It has a different feel to it than just hauling off and bullying someone.

    I have never understood why so many pacifists are against basic self-defense. I know politicians lie about that all the time, saying every war we get into is self-defense, but the problem there is the lie, not the concept.

    Posted by Dana | May 4, 2013, 12:14 pm
    • Dana, you make an excellent point. My personal history of growing up around physical violence (spanking, domestic abuse) caused me to have a view of physical force that was unclear in my own mind. Terminology is very important, as you are correct–not all violent acts are the same. As you put it, when acting in self-defense a term such as “using force” would be much more clear and easier to discuss. It would help someone like myself make moral and ethical decisions about what to teach their children. I was always in favor of self-defense but because I had not clarified that in my own mind, it took me growing with my children to consciously realize that. Thank you so much for pointing out this distinction!

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 4, 2013, 12:28 pm
      • I’m so glad I fund this article as I’m struggling with this very issue now. I was raised in a strictly no-violence home and have raised my own son in that same belief. I’m a single mother raised with only sisters so I don’t know much about raising boys only that I enforced that same rule because I didn’t want my son to become a brute. Now, he is getting bullied on occasions and because he says he doesn’t want to be mean and fight, he does nothing about except notify a teacher. Now I’m starting to think my ways are wrong and I’m trying to find the right way to try to change his mind and correct what I’ve taught him, before he gets seriously hurt. Just like your son, my son is very peaceful and outgoing and I have trust in him that if I let his ” hands loose” he’ll only use them when absolutely necessary. I guess I have a lot to learn myself.

        Posted by Nobemi Lopez | May 4, 2013, 3:15 pm
        • I feel your pain on this. It is definitely a balance. Mostly, it’s about being honest with ourselves and our children. And trust, like you said. I know I raised my boys to talk and negotiate well. But sometimes guys can get physical. So my boys have to know how to deal with that, too. Trust your instincts and do what feels right to you. It sounds like you are a very sensitive and tuned-in mom. That’s the most important part right there!

          Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 4, 2013, 3:31 pm
    • Dana, I like your point on the use of terminology. I would add another term to this issue of violence. I cannot stand violence but I know that it has been with humanity from the beginning and will be here into the future. The thing that scares me the most, and probably others, is unprovoked aggression. I believe that everyone should be able to and have the right to define themselves from such aggression. If violent aggressive behaviors were rooted out, I think that the overall level of violence would decrease in our society.

      If I don’t have to worry about someone attacking me, then I won’t have to become violent.

      Posted by Will | May 7, 2013, 5:47 pm
  2. I totally agree with these ‘rules of violence’.
    When my son was in 7th grade, he told me that he was being bullied by another boy. My advice to him was:
    1. smile and walk away
    2. if the boy keeps at it, ask him to stop, then walk away
    3. if the boy keeps it up, and lays a hand on you, deck him.
    4. be prepared to be disciplined by the school but ensure you explain the reason for hitting him
    I never did find out what happened, but he never mentioned being bullied by this boy, or any other, ever again.
    My son is now 38, a husband and father to a girl and two boys. I will be showing him this article. He has grown into a fine, self-confident man and I know he will raise his sons to become fine, self-confident men too.

    Posted by Sue B | May 4, 2013, 12:36 pm
    • Sue, thank you for pointing out all the other options, too! I also taught my children (including my older daughter) conflict resolution their entire lives. I was somehow more comfortable teaching my daughter self-defense than my sons. I think I felt with my daughter, it was helping her become empowered but worried it would send my sons “the wrong message.” My son Adrian, who I wrote about, was even a trained peer mediator in 5th grade. It sounds like you gave your son some pretty clear guidance! I’m glad you enjoyed this and hope your son does, too. :)

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 4, 2013, 12:52 pm
  3. I love this article. I am in the process of teaching these things to my daughter, who was adopted and is much to compliant in my opinion. (I published an article about it in Adoptive Families magazine and have gotten a lot of negative, and positive, feedback.) I think you are wise in teaching the balance to your sons. And we do the same thing, and so does the jiu jitsu coach that we see.

    Posted by Amanda | May 4, 2013, 2:00 pm
    • Amanda, thank you for your feedback! I’m a little surprised you got negative feedback for teaching self-defense to your daughter. It seems so common and expected that we teach our daughters these skills. I know I had that own bias towards myself, when teaching my daughter versus my sons. Do you think there is a gender bias at all? Or just a general discomfort with teaching children skills that would enable them to “fight”?

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 4, 2013, 2:12 pm
  4. This is a great article and exactly what I teach my boys. Thank you for sharing!

    Posted by Melanie | May 4, 2013, 2:51 pm
  5. These rules pretend that when someone is being harmed, if you can’t talk them out of it, you have only personal violence available. What about calling for help from peers or authorities? Where is society as a backup? How did these rules help the boy to learn to approach the school about how he was being threatened by his peers? Her lessons are to blame. He decided that instead of her rules about being attacked, he was not going to put up even with being threatened. Escalation. Inevitable once you accept violence as OK in certain circs.

    I don’t claim that an appeal to society always succeeds, but let’s not teach one-on-one violent solutions to every squabble. That’s what leads to immature personalities throwing the first punch because they have NO CLUE what the minimum force necessary is, and the maximum force appeals to their hormones.

    And if you teach your small child that violence is the answer with other violent people, you may teach yourself a pretty good lesson as your child gets badly hurt or killed because their opponent is bigger or meaner.

    I will hold my child away from me if he/she is so furious she is attacking me. That is force. I will not knock my child across the room with a blow, even though I could and that might prevent all further attacks.

    Violence the solution? No way. You need to read some history, psychology, and philosophy, before someone gets hurt.

    Posted by Jess@miniMum | May 4, 2013, 7:20 pm
    • Jess, thank you for your comments. While I can only include so much in one post, this is just meant to describe the exceptions to the rules of “not fighting.” In other words, my children had all been raised using emotional intelligence training, conflict resolution, and negotiation techniques since they could speak. Violence is never to be the first option to solve a problem. That was ingrained in them early on. What I came to realize is that, for me, it was necessary (or as another reader so aptly put it “use of force”) in certain situations. When I say “may harm” that is to describe the exception to the rule “you may not harm” that they grew up with. My son made a mistake, however, being threatened with an impending attack (being jumped) is no joke. That is technically a terroristic threat and could be prosecuted as assault. I corrected him, he was punished and he did not do it again. I will not, however, refuse my children the same rights to self-defense that I hold dear to myself, nor neglect to teach them that they have an obligation to protect others. It may have an unpleasant ring to it, but I expect them to be as protective of their children and spouses as I am of mine. I would rather they learn that from me than on their own. As far as calling for help from peers? My hope is that my boys will BE the peers that another can call to help. I absolutely respect that not everyone will see this the same way.

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 4, 2013, 7:36 pm
      • Thanks for your response. Violence is an instinctual reaction to a threat, and we make our own exceptions for self-defense without anyone’s permission.

        Making rules so that “It’s OK to hit if you’re the good guy” just leads to further rationalisations so we believe we are the good guy.

        Posted by Jess@miniMum | May 8, 2013, 10:02 pm
    • This is a great summation of my feelings, thanks, Jess. I thought the key problem in her rules was the phrase
      “you may harm”. Self-defense, except in desperate extremes, can often be accomplished by moving away from or flowing with the force as demonstrated by refined eastern martial arts. Male stereotypes that glorify strength and virility are not necessarily wrong but there is often a gentler and more refined avenue available. No doubt, it requires more patience and discipline to see that alternative, but it’s worth the effort considering whom “you may harm” in the short run.

      Posted by Rick | May 4, 2013, 8:32 pm
  6. Love this! Nothing wrong with teaching both verbal conflict resolution and physical self-defense. It’s a very hard age for these boys and we need to give them all the tools possible to help them “survive”. My favorite is, talk it out or use your wit and intelligence first. But I also know boys are very physical, so as long as they don’t throw the first punch, I have no problem with my boys protecting themselves or others. I’m proud of my 6th grader who sticks up for the bullying of the special needs children. He has many friends both boys and girls for his good heart and his sense of confidence. You are right on!!

    Posted by Cecile | May 4, 2013, 9:35 pm
  7. Excellent post. Incredible points.

    Posted by KatyE | May 4, 2013, 10:16 pm
  8. Those who reject this on the basis of calling for help need to consider the admittedly glib but painfully accurate saying,”When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”

    The child of a friend was strangled on a school bus until she saw stars. A friend of my daughters came from an abusive home. At high school she was surrounded by boys who pinned her against the wall and began fondling her. She exploded and bloodied a few noses and scratched some eyes. For defending herself against molestation she was suspended.

    I have seen things in juvenile and domestic relations court which were all about society NOT responding to cries for help.

    It is asked: >>Where is society as a backup?<< The answer is: Too often absent. That's the real world.

    Posted by Dominic Gabriel | May 4, 2013, 10:27 pm
    • Oh, this, 1,000 times this! My daughter went to a middle school where the assistant principal for her year was more concerned with the school’s record on “lowest suspension/expulsion rate” than he was about keeping my daughter from being bullied. We then taught her exactly what this mother taught her sons: don’t start anything, & no matter what punishment the school way try to give you, we will back you – and yes, it came down to my daughter being forced to punch one of the bullies when said bully shoved her. & they never touched her again . But when my daughter fought back, I wasn’t just proud, I was RELIEVED (FTR, to be fair, once the principal found out, one of the girls *did* get suspended when she continued to antagonize my daughter).

      Posted by Fed_Up | May 9, 2013, 11:57 pm
  9. Most interesting and thought-provoking article. Thank you for sharing. I think this is a very wise, sensible approach. :)

    Posted by Ralph W | May 5, 2013, 5:28 am
  10. As kind of an expert on ‘value-added’ violence, I applaud this lady’s approach. It is something that is often misunderstood among cultures that support absolute non-violence. There is a time and a place when it is necessary. (I might add, especially in school, unfortunately.) Her ‘rules’ are generally good and very much within the standards applied by ‘sheepdog’ violence experts. My great grandfather was a marshal in the old west and later a judge. His rules were ‘Never start a fight. Stop one by words if possible. If you are forced to fight, be it hands, knives or guns, be the last one standing.’ The one modification I would add is ‘Use the least amount of force necessary but be prepared for as much as necessary.’

    Honestly, if more kids were raised by those rules of violence, we would have much safer schools.

    Loyalty to the culture.
    Courage in battle.
    Protect the innocent.

    Simple enough.

    Posted by John Ringo | May 5, 2013, 7:59 am
  11. …so, by your rules, if a male is being picked on, no need to help unless they are smaller or helpless….but a free pass for all females.

    Guess when I started high school and was being harassed by much older females, your son could be counted on to kick my ass if I defended myself…..you know….females and all that.

    Of course, it doesn’t matter that 75% of all domestic physical confrontations begin with the female, run next door and kick his ass if he defends himself.

    Until……that one day where the romance novel idea of chivalry collides with circumstances you hadn’t considered and someone gets shot….

    Posted by Deadly Show Of Farce | May 5, 2013, 9:01 am
    • I appreciate the points you made and definitely want to add that there is never an excuse for bullying or harassing anyone, regardless of gender. I also raised a young woman. I taught her that she was to be respectful of people as well and the girls who bullied you were clearly in the wrong. I don’t think that teaching my sons to be protectors and defenders of women means that they would enable women to be nasty, cruel or unkind. That is not what they’ve seen growing up and that’s not what I’ve taught them about their own personal boundaries. But I don’t want them striking someone who is smaller or weaker, such as a child or a woman. And in most cases, a girl or a woman will be smaller than them. If a girl were to strike my son, he is allowed to stop her but fighting back is unnecessary, just as if a small child were to do the same. These are not simple issues by any means, and I am glad that there has been such an honest discussion on the topic. Thank you.

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 5, 2013, 2:28 pm
  12. Ever hear of a one punch homicide? It happens far more often than you might think. When gauging whether it is appropriate to respond with force, one should consider whether the offense is worth possible death or paraliztion. I do not believe that seeing someone smacked on the butt means you should punch the smacker. All it takes is hitting them in the wrong spot, or if they fall and hit their head in the wrong spot.
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/05/05/181319373/soccer-referee-dies-one-week-after-being-felled-by-punch

    Posted by Rusty Boulet-Stephenson | May 5, 2013, 11:00 am
    • Yes, I am aware of this incident and the dangers of any physical contact. That is the reason why, in part, I don’t prefer physical fighting as a solution. This incident, of course, was clearly and blatantly wrong. My boys have been taught by someone with over twenty years in law enforcement and even I have some training in boxing and Krav Maga. Any time one makes the decision to make physical contact, there are inherent risks. Sometimes, though, there are risks in not making that decision. As to the incident with the girl, I would not have specifically told him to do what he did. But I do think he was right. A smack on the behind is technically a sexual assault. This has been prosecuted as a felony previously, even against young teens. He knew both the teens involved. I think that his reaction was visceral and succinct. He clearly told his friend, in a nonverbal manner, that sexually assaulting a girl was absolutely unacceptable. I don’t think we should underestimate this type of agression against young girls.

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 5, 2013, 2:36 pm
  13. Aside from the sexism in your article, I kind of agree with a lot of it. However, what your son did to the bullies was not self defense. It would only be self defense if they attacked physically first. Verbal threats are not considered valid reasons to kick someone’s butt. I was trained in martial arts as well as various sword fighting techniques and I train with firearms and other weapons. I am technically a very violent woman. I find it odd that you started your article saying that you didn’t want to really follow gender stereotypes, yet you did, and still do. While it’s commendable that your son won’t take crap from a friend, not all women are weak and helpless. I’ve never had to beat anyone up and people are still afraid of me. I played with dinosaurs and cars and fed Barbie to Godzilla as a child. I know lots of females who have. *shrug* it’s just not a boy only thing.

    Posted by Rachel | May 5, 2013, 11:26 am
    • I agree. He should have waited for the three guys to suckering punch him and jump him, THEN defend himself.
      One should also wait till an armed robber has actually fired at you before spiting back… and only after a verbal warning and warning shot.

      Posted by dusty | May 5, 2013, 11:51 am
      • Technically, yes. Legally, he has no ground to stand on since he attacked without true provocation, because he sought the boy out and attacked. He didn’t attack immediately after the threat (which is verbal assault, btw) and there are no situations where it would be legal to throw the first punch, anyway. In a court of law, he would be found guilty of battery. The correct thing to do when physically threatened in a school situation is to tell someone in authority. Even telling your friends so they can provide backup is better. If he had ignored the threat and git jumped, he still would have had a chance (seeing how he knew how to fight) to lay the smack down and be in the right and the other boys would have gotten suspended.
        When it comes to firearms, if someone aims at you and threatens your life, then they have already attacked and you are free to defend yourself. There are different rules for physical violence and firearm violence. Comparing a school bully with an armed robber is completely different, and completely irrelevant.

        Posted by Rachel | May 5, 2013, 12:50 pm
    • Rachel, thank you for your comment. I focused this article on my sons because I have already raised a young woman, now 22 years old. I found this to be a different process and rather eye-opening. My daughter is a self-sufficient young woman, now in graduate school pursuing a masters in business. She owned her own business at 12 years old and has been employed for the past ten years. I don’t believe in helpless women. I believe in empowered women. But I want my sons to be men who stand by and support empowered women. I have men to raise as well. I don’t think it should be us vs them. It should be us with them. I hope that makes sense.

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 5, 2013, 2:46 pm
      • Do you believe men and women should have different roles in society? Because in my opinion that is sexist.

        You constantly the use of ‘man’ rather than ‘person’ in phases like “exactly the kind of man I want him to be” and “no respect for him as a man” and comments like “You may harm someone who is harming a female” and “if a man is with or near a woman or child who is being threatened or harmed…” implies that you think women are inherently weaker than men.

        Although in general men may be more able to defend themselves than women this over-generalisation is incredibly harmful. I assume your point is that a good person should defend those weaker than them, rather than more narrow minded one you put across. If a women and a man were equally able to defend themselves why should they be treated differently? In your example of a man and women together and the women is being threatened would you still expect the man to stand up for her if he was small and weak and she was significantly stronger than him? I’ll admit in most situations this is not the case, but isn’t it better to teach children the more general “help the weak” rather than some sexist equivalent which only helps to reinforce the gender issues we already have?

        Posted by Sam | May 9, 2013, 7:23 am
        • Sam, yes I do believe that men and women are different and have different ways of thinking and relating. I speak about men in the article because I was focusing on how I was trying to accept these differences in my boys in relation to myself. As I mentioned previously, I already raised a young woman. I do believe that every human has equal value and equal opportunity as well as the right to pursue any dream s/he wishes. But I want my boys to have values as men that are specific to men. That includes standing up for and with empowered women. I don’t want my sons to look at a man who is disrespecting a woman and think to himself, “Well, she is fine. She can take of herself.” While I want my daughter to take care of herself (and taught her to do so), I want my son to take this type of mistreatment personally and intervene. To me this portrays women in a positive light, not a negative light. If I were to categorize women as “the weak,” that would be more damaging. That’s just how I see it.

          Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 9, 2013, 12:24 pm
  14. I agree with how you evolved in your thinking and I am glad to hear you champion the right to self-defense, and your son’s natural inclination to want to learn how to defend and protect. This is a proper evolution as a mother, yet it is sad that this escaped you (and many other women) in favor of leftist idealism and programming.

    I am more than a little frustrated that you’ve blindly accepted, at least early on with your son, that we are genderless, or at the very least we can’t be fully our gender without being politically incorrect. In some ways, this is a rejection of your son, on a subtle unconscious level. He’s male. He didn’t need you to try out all kinds of female and gender neutral toys so that you could feel OK about yourself when you have coffee with your feminist friends. It is sad beyond belief how many women are doing this with their sons. Not all of them will allow their boys to actually be boys, eventually and after the experiments they try fail, and will continue feeding negating messages to them about their masculinity.

    If I sound harsh, it is only because I almost made the same mistake, having been shaped by collegiate feminism and the cultural norms of today’s 20-something female, which taught me that we are born genderless and that our gender is socially constructed. I learned it was kind of pathetic to encourage boys to play with trucks and for girls to play with dolls, and people who did this were unenlightened and not that intelligent. I learned that there was a better way, and that it was more noble to encourage boys to play with dolls and anything that wasn’t too masculine. To accept this view means that we prefer a society that thinks of males and females as interchangable and androgynous beings, as the feminists would like us to believe. It means there’s nothing challenging females in the world, as well. Thus, I almost went down the path you did early on, until I learned very early on with boy-girl twins that they were expressing gender differences very early and it was my job to allow them to be who they are vs. feel anxiety about them being too male or too female, and in a sense dumbing them down. We are born with the wisdom and intelligence that comes with our gender. To try to reprogram this is insanity.

    Our society has been turned upside down by the feminists, who insisted we are gender neutral, and that masculinity (even as a young boy) shouldn’t be encouraged and developed. The thinking goes like this: we want our boys to be more humane and gentle, less challenging to girls, and more nurturing. In essence, we want them to be girls. Our culture tells us now that is is preferable for us to encourage our boys to dress up like princesses, play with dolls, and reject monster trucks, so that we ourselves can feel acceptable to the politically correct crowd. We want our boys to be anything but characteristically male, as that would encourage the undesirable aspects of our culture to continue and challenge the foundations of feminism. So, I just have to say that it is sad that you were in the space you were, per the start of your article. Very sad for you and for your son to be so subtly rejecting of his core essence.

    Boys are more aggressive. Our planet required them in the distant past to be so. Women do need protecting. Our planet required this of them in the distant past, as well. These things are hardwired. We can stray from these inherent traits, if we choose to, and a lot of us do. And that’s fine. But, to be in need of protection as a female doesn’t make you weak or less enlightened (meaning, less feminist). It makes you natural. Stepping in to defend and protect someone in need, male or female, older or younger, isn’t a sign of overreaching masculinity. It’s just natural.

    It is hysterical to read some of these comments, because at their core, what they are saying is that there’s no common sense to the natural order of our male and female gender characteristics. I have some news for you all… being a stereotypical male or a stereotypical female is OK. There’s not a damn thing wrong with it. It’s only from feminism that we’ve criticized the natural order so that we could socially engineer a different society, one that tells us we aren’t OK in our natural state and that we must manufacture something more acceptable in order to be enlightened. Puh-lease.

    Posted by Celeste Elizabeth | May 5, 2013, 5:39 pm
    • I find your comments regarding the author’s open-minded approach to exposing her son to toys commonly attributed to both genders astonishing. You throw a low of ignorant comments around about ‘feminists’ and the attempted ‘reprogramming’ that is occurring, but you do not seem to even understand the true meaning of the term ‘feminist’ – an advocate for the equal rights of a woman in political, economic and social stances in relation to men. Feminism plays no part in this scenario, and it shouldn’t feature in your argument.

      Further to this point, you are blatantly uneducated and misguided in the field of gender development. There has been amassed a significant amount of research to counter your claims that stereotypical Western gender norms are an innate feature in human development. Please, before you go around blasting people’s decisions to better their children’s lives by not forcing them to follow narrow-minded and imprudently set out ideals, do some research. Margaret Mead’s study in Papua New Guinea (1935) would be an excellent place to start – three separate tribes living independently of each other, within a 100 mile radius, all developed different social norms for the behaviours of males and females, including one tribe (the Tchambuli tribe) who had norms that are the reversal of those observed in the Western world – the men were emotionally dependent and sensitive, and the women were managerial and dominant.

      You may also try Chang et al., Whiting and Edwards, Bee, Tager and Good… The list goes on, but all researchers have come to the same conclusion: what is currently recognised as stereotypical male and female behaviour has been developed on a social basis in the Western world, and has no standing in terms of the idea of ‘innate behaviour’, because none of these norms can be observed universally, therefore meaning that it does not have a biological basis at all.

      Your personal experience with male and female twins is more than likely due to the immediate difference in socialisation we apply to male and female babies. For a start, they are dressed differently, often given different environments to play and learn in, and are also spoken to differently – a different tone of voice is used between male and female babies, and the word choice is also reflective of their sex: boys are called “strong” and “handsome” and things along the lines of “Mummy’s little fighter” or “little solider” or even just “little man”; Girls, on the other hand, are called “princess”, “baby girl”, “beautiful” etc. It is not hard to see why your twins began to behave differently, as they were no doubt treated differently from the moment they left the womb.

      I shall end by saying that you have no right to determine what another individual’s gender is just because you are too narrow-minded to understand that someone’s biological sex does not always correspond with their psychological or personally-identified gender. If, again, you have not done enough research into a field before making scathing remarks about it, please do some reading up on Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorder, a classified, well researched and well documented disorder that affects the lives of 1 in 30,000 people.

      Posted by Taz | May 5, 2013, 6:34 pm
      • Unfortunately, your citations are dated. Modern research on gender, which now includes neuroscience and endocrinology, and not just critical theory, confirms what is simply common sense. There is undoubtedly a social element to gender, but the evidence for a strong biological basis is undeniable.

        It is a rejection of our core selves to frustrate these biological tendencies with ideologically based social engineering schemes. Even when we do frustrate these tendencies in early childhood with gender-neutral and gender-opposite toys/play, once the conditioning is put on pause, both boys and girls bounce back to their innate tendencies in a short period of time, thus further debunking the social construction of gender theory. Few, anymore, deny that biology plays a major role in determining gender-specific play. Those who make arguments that we should oppose certain biologically inbuilt tendencies with social conditioning treat gender-based behavior in children as a disease in need of a cure. This is a tragedy and a deep rejection of children’s core, which is why I speak out.

        Boys and girls are hardwired differently. No field has given more credibility to the biological roots of gender more than neuroscience. That gender is primarily socially constructed, with a very small contribution from biology, is a dated philosophy now, even in academia. It’s more than dated, it’s backward. Science now tells us that biology is far more potent than society with regard to gender.

        Had we been having this discussion 10-15 years ago, the literature would have been on your side. That is no longer the case. Thus, you’ve accused me of being uneducated when in fact it is that you are the one in need of updating your education. The internet is FULL of scholarly, peer-reviewed literature on the subject. I suggest you start with the neuroscience angle.

        Males and females are different but equal and the equality agenda has damaged rather than served by trying to eliminate difference.

        Posted by Celeste Elizabeth | May 7, 2013, 4:18 pm
        • Very well said. How long before we allow our children to decide whether they want to follow the societal norm of living with their parents until they’re over 18 or move out on their own at age 6 if they so choose? They’re children for heaven’s sake, not some social experiment. As parents it is our responsibility to inform our children of social norms and gender roles/differentiations. The gender neutrality movement has caused more harm and confusion for this and the next generation than it is worth.

          Posted by weatherweary68 | May 8, 2013, 11:29 pm
        • Even with significant evidence that continues to pour out, year after year, confirming that the sexes are biologically distinct, and that gender-specific behavior is rooted in our brains and hormonal composition, proponents of the social construction of gender still assert that nurture over nature is the proper paradigm.

          When Gloria Steinem was asked about her thoughts on the latest research on male and female brains, which shows a clear and undeniable distinction between males and females, her response was:

          “Well, you know, every time there is a step forward, there’s a backlash. So now we’re seeing another backlash about brains, brain differences, gender differences centered in the brain. Even if they’re right, it doesn’t have to continue to be so. What makes human beings the species that has survived all this time is our adaptability.” When the interviewer pressed further and asked, “But aren’t there inherent differences we can’t ignore?” Steinem replied, “Society can certainly intervene at a cultural level to change that behavior.”

          Arrogance doesn’t even begin to describe this attitude. Women like this and who are devotees of these ideas are a danger to our children. They have a natural right to be who they are and not be pawns in an ideological experiment.

          Posted by Celeste Elizabeth | May 9, 2013, 1:15 pm
          • Celeste, I have read the recent research and it appears to me that there are no conclusive results on either side. However, I am curious about your position. How would it be damaging to my children to expose them to a variety of toys and experiences to choose from, without any pressure from me, if in fact their gender is biologically based? Wouldn’t that be in line with their development on a biological and hormonal basis? That would be almost entirely removing the societal element from the equation. It would seem to me that by choosing their experiences, toys, clothes, colors, etc. for them, at an early age, I would be forcing their gender identity development along a societal and cultural basis. And based only upon the culture they happened to be born within. For instance, if I decided that it was a girl’s job to cook and clean, and therefore, did not allow them to play with kitchen toys, wouldn’t that be manipulating their gender identity formation based upon the nurture theory? Just so you know, I agree entirely that the sexes are unique and distinct. But I did want my children to discover themselves on their own, without my influence or bias. I just don’t understand how if gender identity is biologically based that it must, therefore, be taught. I would think, it would be the opposite.

            Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 9, 2013, 1:36 pm
            • I don’t think there is any potential damage in exposing kids to a variety of toys, but the real question is what is the motivation for doing so? Is it to stay committed to an ideology? Is it to be politically correct? Is it to prove something to yourself, like you’re enlightened and progressive, open and accepting, tolerant, etc.? If those are the motivations, I’d say we have a problem and this is what my reaction is to.

              For many, many, many generations kids have been exposed to toys of the opposite gender. They’ve grown up in homes with brothers and sisters. It’s only until recently (say, the past 30 years) that our society has sent the message that it’s unenlightened to give a boy a monster truck to play with. I can’t tell you how many baby showers I’ve been to where a request has been made to not buy anything with cars and trucks or sports for a boy, and to not buy anything with dolls and flowers for girls. No blue and pink… gender neutral only. These are educated women, like myself, who’ve learned that we are gender neutral until society conditions us. Their hearts are in the right place, but the information they’ve based their views on is not.

              With boys, we’ve looked at their natural aggression, tendency to compete, and other traits the feminists dislike, and shamed them for it. We’re drugging them up in school if they don’t behave like girls. Instead of giving them enough time to burn their energy via play, we’re shaming them for not sitting still well enough. And this is happening in schools because of the idea that gender is socially constructed and thus boys can be shaped to be more cooperative and collaborative… and be more like girls. If we can’t force them to subdue themselves, we’ll drug them into submission.

              I have twins – boy and a girl. There are toys of 3 kinds in our home: boy-oriented, girl-oriented and neutral. I’ve been so busy and overwhelmed with two toddlers I have never been a gender agent… meaning, I’ve never instructed them on which toys to play with, and frankly I don’t care. They can play with whatever they want to. The point is for them to learn through play and enjoy themselves, and if I’m lucky, entertain themselves long enough for me to get something done around the house. For about a week, my son liked playing with a baby doll. We didn’t care. If that was what he felt an attachment to, it was all good. We put the baby down with him at night, and showed him how to feed and rock the baby. He then moved on to cars, tractors, trucks, and anything mechanical. He also is far more physical in his play… he likes to tackle his sister. She prefers more collaborative play.

              I have never cared which toys they prefer, but in the end, they almost always gravitate toward toys geared for their gender. This was a shock to me, as I had learned in college and accepted, that gender was socially constructed, thus in my mind, they’d play with things equally. This did not happen. I am still shocked when I see them being so very, very gender-specific. For 20 years, my worldview contradicted what is actually happening right in front of my eyes.

              My little girl loves babies, flowers, horses with hair she can brush, etc. She likes to dress up and wear necklaces. My little boy loves tractors, sticks he can swing, and things he can figure out how to take apart and put back together. He likes to show his strength and might. They rarely cross over to the other side, but it would certainly be fine if they did. I did everything in my power to be a gender neutral parent, because I thought I was supposed to be, and was conscious of this to the point that I was concerned about whether I was “doing it well enough” because of how they were choosing, which was in conflict with what I learned.

              I think you may have misread my reaction to all this. I am not saying that we must stuff our kids into their gender’s box. I don’t think that at all. Let them be who they are… which is another way of saying, stop trying to get them to be gender neutral when they are not.

              Posted by Celeste Elizabeth | May 9, 2013, 2:44 pm
              • I think we actually agree on most issues. To answer your question as to my motivation – it was to give my children the best opportunity to develop as individuals as possible. I come from a background that includes classroom teaching. I observed children learning through open play. Children in the classroom have the opportunity to learn, without adult interference, with every type of toy and without judgment. I wanted my kids to have the same opportunities at home and their toys were very similar to a classroom. What you described with parents insisting that certain toys be excluded from their child’s playroom is absolutely absurd to me and I would never describe that as gender neutral. I think it’s very sexist actually. I was considered a tomboy growing up. My daughter was too. We both love playing in puddles. We climb trees and jump fences. My youngest son hates getting wet. He hardly even likes to go outside. He loves to talk though and write computer programs. Kids like what they like. To assign characteristics, activities or toys to a gender is unfair to me. That is why I gave my children every opportunity to explore they toys and activities of their choosing. I didn’t want my perceptions of what a boy or a girl was to determine who they would become. I wanted them to become who they were and show themselves to me. And they did. I hope that makes sense to you. And I agree with you completely that we should allow children to be who they are. Absolutely :)

                Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 9, 2013, 3:49 pm
      • Look up Dr. Simon Baron Cohen, then speak on this issue. Also, roughly 237,000 worldwide people suffer from Gender Dysphoria, a word that the spell checker doesn’t recognize for some reason, if your claim of 1 in 30,000 is true. This doesn’t seem to be very prevalent.
        I know this is anecdotal, but my sister is very much a girly girl, despite being treated as if she were a boy. At least, she’s treated the way that my little brothers were. She’s three, and she acts more like the stereotypical girl than many of the little girls I’ve known. I was there when she first went to the toy store when she was old enough to express what toys she wanted. We went through the action figures, and the toy weapons, and the myriad toys marketed to boys first because I have two little brothers. These, and the gender neutral baby toys were the only one’s that she’d ever seen. Not a peep. We got to the dolls and other stereotypical girl toys, of which there were none in our house, and she went crazy. We don’t have a tv, so she’s never seen ads that show certain toys are for girls and certain ones are for boys. The only time that she even touches toy weapons is when she’s pissed at somebody. The only time that there’s an indicator that she’s different than boys is when we call her little mama because she bosses everyone around.

        Posted by Bobby | May 9, 2013, 6:02 am
    • Here’s a thought: How about you let the kid decide what they are interested in and what toys they want to play with and what colors they like? And then let them do it without commentary about how they shouldn’t play with/be interested in/like this or that because they are a boy or a girl?

      Posted by Kathy | May 7, 2013, 11:12 pm
    • I’m sorry, but as someone who is transgender, I find your comments insulting and just wrong. I do not know the author- I just found this post through a friend who shared the link… I have never read this blog before.

      First of all, as a trans person, I am pretty hyper-aware of gender in writing, and in life, really. I did not find that the author believes we are born genderless. The author’s allowing their child to play what they want to play with and figure out gender for themselves is a huge service to their child- it does not mean they are trying to impress their feminist friends at coffee- a comment I find to be insulting and arrogant, since it seems to be very much an assumption you have made about the author. The fact that the author allowed their child to figure out gender for himself is nothing more than a selfless act of love for their child- they wanted their child to be able to be himself without imposing a socially-constructed gender binary onto the child. What is so wrong with that?

      As someone who has transitioned from one gender to another, I have experienced both genders from both a social, emotional, AND physical/hormonal perspective, and yes- there are definitely differences between men and women. But to make a sweeping generalization that men are more aggressive and that women need protecting is not only false, but it is perpetuating gender stereotypes and attempting to uphold the socially constructed gender binary.

      It is clear that you have boxed yourself into this binary thinking about gender in our society, so I would urge you to spend some time thinking about that. And at the very least, stop making assumptions and insulting comments to those who have not subscribed to such binary thinking. It is irresponsible and quite frankly, rude. You wouldn’t want people making assumptions about why you do things you do or do not do.

      Posted by rhysharper | May 11, 2013, 7:54 am
  15. I am a father of 2 small boys and a high school teacher. It sickens me to think that parents are teaching their children that it is OK to respond to violence with violence. I see students at my school every day that are beaten at home because their parents think it is ok to use physical force to “discipline” or “teach” or “correct” behavior. They verbally abuse their friends. They physically and verbally abuse other students because they think it is normal. You are deciding what is right and wrong. You are teaching your children it is OK to decide when violence is appropriate. It is never OK. Vigilanteism is not OK. There are guardians of our children. We are guardians. Teachers are guardians. Police are guardians. They are there to keep us safe. They will not keep you safe if you break the rules, meaning you will have to rely more and more on your own violence to protect yourself and your family.
    I was bullied at school and the school did nothing about it. In my final year at school I was pushed down the stairs seven times. It was horrible. I really wanted to lash out at those that did that to me. But I’m really glad I didn’t. I am now not a violent man. I will defend my wife and family with all means possible – but if the situation warrants it, we just walk away. Simple.
    As a teacher I am in a position to help students in a non-violent way. I offer bullies in my classes better alternatives to let their emotions out. Bullying them back to control them by fear is absurd. They will just go and find a weaker victim. This does not fix the bullying – it just passes the problem to someone else less equipped to deal with it than you.

    Posted by Matt Stenbo | May 6, 2013, 2:08 am
    • You are too idealistic…Just because you want the world to be a certain way does not make it so and no amount of belief on your part will change it. There are horrible people out there that want to do harm to others. Go to the Middle East sometime dressed as a woman and then get back to me. Vigilantism is OK because sometimes people need protection from oppression and frankly I would warrior over a pacifistic any day.

      Posted by mjolnira | May 6, 2013, 9:23 pm
      • I know there are horrible people out there and I strive to teach people to deal with them as they are confronted with them in their lives sensibly. You may find my beliefs idealistic but they are still valid. I respect your view but would not want to be on the wrong end of a gun while you are deciding who did right and wrong…

        Posted by Matt Stenbo | May 14, 2013, 4:58 am
    • well im sorry you are a communist loving teacher who thinks the world is all rainbows and unicorns piss off. as for your way overused term bullying if we didnt have so many sissys in todays world it would be a non issue

      Posted by Torek Inderberg | May 7, 2013, 11:15 am
      • You know nothing about my political beliefs or my domestic situation. Your answer says much more about yourself than it does about me.

        Posted by Matt Stenbo | May 14, 2013, 4:56 am
      • Wow. I can’t believe commenting on this blog but if society were to try to socially engineer our children, your attitude would be my first choice to eliminate! Go back to the 12th century where you belong.

        Posted by Steve H | November 16, 2013, 3:57 pm
    • You say that teachers are guardians and so vigilantism isn’t justified because they exist. Yet you also point out that you were bullied and the teachers did nothing about it. If the guardians won’t protect us, should we just take it? You answer that yourself by saying that you will defend your family with all means possible (so you would even kill to defend them if necessary). Your own words are contradictory and so I cannot respect anything you have to say. You can advocate 100% non-violence but this would mean that you would not do anything to defend your family except serve as a punching bag because calling a guardian to save them would involve violence which you would oppose.

      When no one stands up to the violent people of the world they will simply become more violent knowing that violence is power.

      Posted by Mark | May 7, 2013, 3:42 pm
      • I apologise if you find my words contradictory. I believe it is not my right to decide who should be kicked or punched or shot or wrestled to the ground. We have laws. If I don’t like them I will campaign to change them. I will support our law enforcers because it is their job to protect us.

        I have lived in a police state and now in a place where the police have very few rights in comparison. I don’t advocate non-violence but I know that if I step into someone else’s fight I may then not be able to look after my family sufficiently.

        I do not oppose violence. But I do believe that asking children to choose when it is right to physically harm another person is not fair or reasonable on the children.

        If you have no faith in your law enforcers I guess you would have to look to yourselves for your own protection. I have relations in South Africa that believe that no-one will look after them if they need help so they keep a gun within reach at all times. I have never seen people be beaten as badly as them. One now has a metal plate in his head. I have never carried a gun and I have never ended up in a situation where someone thinks it appropriate to beat me severely enough to send me to hospital. I have been a bouncer and a bar tender as well. And yes I have been punched a few times in my life, but as the bigger person I have always managed to sort out a reasonable solution without having to respond with violence.

        Posted by Matt Stenbo | May 14, 2013, 5:07 am
    • I was Bullied as a kid until I stood up for myself. The testing of the pecking order is just as the original poster says. I suspect you were thrown down the stairs 7 times because you had become a total doormat and thus a target. I hope things are much better for your boys. Ever try “walking away” from a dog in attack mode? Defense and sometimes Violent active responses to Violence are unavoidable if you don’t want to be perpetually stepped upon. Someone who hides from their peers behind “guardians” rather than being able to deter the need for those guardians from ever arising will never be one who is truly respected by his/her peers. I would not want someone such as yourself acting as a guardian of my two kids. You are giving far too much weight to nurture as if it can overcome nature.

      Posted by Anonymous | May 7, 2013, 9:28 pm
      • Interesting you use the “dog in attack mode” metaphor. I was attacked by a dog 2 years ago. I simply stood still and stared at the dog. It barrelled into my legs but then stopped confused. This is standard behavior for aggressive dogs. If their target does not run away they lose track in their attack. Bullies mostly respond the same way. The bullying stopped for me in my final year at school. When I look back it was around the time that I started having success in areas away from school. I guess I just grew out of being bullied. Funny though, I read the other day that one of the boys that used to bully me was convicted of fraud. I guess I didn’t have to punch him myself, he got what he deserved.
        Since I was 16 years old (I am now in my mid 30s) no one has bullied me. No one has stepped on me. No one has mugged or attacked me. I walk with my head held high knowing that I did not give in to the animalistic urges to punch back. I don’t hide behind guardians or anybody else. I don’t have to. I am a proud successful Father and I am in no way ashamed of the path I took to get where I am today. I am very respected by my peers.

        I have no desire to be respected by bullies, their approval is worthless to me.

        Posted by Matt Stenbo | May 14, 2013, 5:14 am
    • Sorry, but it’s not OK to expect some poor kid who’s getting his guts kicked out to lay there in the fetal position and do nothing to defend himself while waiting for help that might never arrive. It’s also not OK to expect another kid to stand there and do nothing while said kid gets the guts kicked out of him. Withholding force that is necessary to put an immediate end to violence against innocents is immoral. Kudos to the kid who does whatever he can (verbally if practical and physically if necessary) to immediately end such violence.

      It seems to me that you are failing to differentiate retaliation/revenge from prevention/self defense. I was once a pudgy, nerdy little kid who suffered from amblyopia and had to wear a bandage over one eye and glasses. I walked away from those situations that I could safely walk away from, but I was taught to never allow myself or anyone else around me be victimized. I adhered to that teaching and defended myself and others (again, verbally when appropriate and physically when necessary) even if it meant I might end up paying somehow. Sometimes it’s simply impractical and ultimately ineffective to go running for an authority figure and the only recourse in such a case is immediate force. Parents are not demigods and as such cannot always be there for their children when they need immediate defense, though as parents we should defend them whenever possible. Teachers also are not omnipresent and cannot be held responsible for the personal defense of their students. Even the law enforcement community cannot provide for the immediate defense of the citizenry (in fact, in the United States LEO are not even legally obligated to protect you; read Warren vs. DC, Castle Rock vs. Gonzales, and so forth). The only person ultimately responsible for your personal safety and protection is yourself. Attempts at reason should always be exhausted before force is considered an option; however, when reason is ineffective, force is the only option left. The sooner we teach our children to assert their right to personal self-defense and defense of others when necessary to end violence immediately, the better.

      Does this mean teaching our kids to defend themselves and others against violence is the only way we should respond to bullying? Of course not. It simply means that we should not expect our kids to accept violence against themselves and others weaker than themselves in situations where immediate force on their part will put an end to it.

      Posted by weatherweary68 | May 7, 2013, 9:51 pm
      • Brilliant. Well said Weatherweary68.

        Posted by Karen Grace | May 8, 2013, 9:27 pm
      • I don’t expect kids to lie there and be kicked. I do expect others there to go and get help. I do expect systems to be put in place to stop that happening in the first place.
        The article here isn’t just about self-defense.
        It’s about children choosing when it is right to use violence – a decision that most adults are not equipped to make.

        “So, instead of simply forbidding violence, I decided to teach my sons the rules of violence:
        You may harm someone who is harming someone small or helpless
        You may harm someone who is harming you
        You may harm someone who is harming a female
        Do not strike first if at all possible
        Use the least amount of force necessary”

        This perpetuates violence where often words would suffice. Children do not have the maturity to decide when it is appropriate to use physical force.

        By all means – send them to self defense class. Teach then to look after themselves. But don’t ask them to be judge, jury and executioner. They are kids, and like I say, most adults don’t even have the where-with-all to decide correctly where the use of force is appropriate.

        You make a valid point about teaching kids other ways of responding to bullying. That is the message I have been trying to perpetuate here.

        Posted by Matt Stenbo | May 14, 2013, 5:23 am
    • I agree Matt. Thank you for saying it so clearly.

      Posted by red pear puppets lynne | May 8, 2013, 12:49 am
    • The situation you are describing and the one described in the article are two different situations. The author did not and does not use violence in the home as a “correctional” method or to punish her children.

      You are correct that violence in the home typically begets violence elsewhere, but this fact does not make the author’s own experiences or conclusions about violence wrong.

      I applaud the seriousness with which you approach your responsibility as a teacher, but as other people have pointed out, it is simply impossible for a “guardian” to be available at all times. If this were not the case, there would be no crime and no bullying at all, ever. If there were enough “guardians” who all took their jobs seriously, and who were powerful enough to command the respect of deviants (though I’m not sure how they would do this without having physical force up their sleeve if absolutely necessary) then there would essentially be world peace. But this is not the world we live in.

      Posted by Meena | May 8, 2013, 7:12 pm
      • The children I see in my community treat their peers as they are treated by their parents. They swear at each other and think it is normal. They do the fingers to each other and think it is acceptable.
        My point is that children can’t differentiate. They follow the example of their parents and other influential figures.

        The old adage “do as I say, not as I do” springs to mind. Too many children are asked to do this. They can’t, they are just children.

        You wonder how guardians would keep peace without having “the use of force” up their sleeve. Where I am police do not carry side-arms. In fact they have no hand guns of any kind, but they do an admirable job of keeping the peace. And yes we have violent gangs and car chases and criminals here and there. We had a guy with a weapon on the run from the police run through our school last year. No one was injured, no one was hurt, and no one had lasting physical or emotional damage. And yes the police got him. And yes they did need to use physical force to apprehend him.

        If a few more people decided to tackle violence without hitting back or hitting preventatively the world might begin be a better place.

        Obviously I realise that violence is neccessary in certain circumstances, but I can only repeat what I keep saying – they are just children. They cannot differentiate.

        Posted by Matt Stenbo | May 14, 2013, 5:32 am
  16. I am amused by one of the commenters expressing being “astonished”. Surely someone so well versed in the research about what constitutes “normal” behaviors, would also be very familiar with the wide range of opinions on the subject … it is rather surprising to me that they’d be so “astonished” :) It does feel to me like a person who is over-thinking the issue somewhat, and getting lost in all the twists and turns of academia. I’m also very amused by their assertion that someone “has no right” to “determine” some aspect of another person – I wonder where that’s coming from?

    One might well ask the question: what is “normal”? Well, whatever is the most common in society – that’s “normal”, really! When trying hard to establish whether something is wrong or right, it seems to me that a natural starting point of the debate would be to establish a benchmark for “normal”.

    Too much arguing. Too much anger and righteous indignation. Take a chill pill!! :)

    Posted by Ralph W | May 6, 2013, 5:22 am
  17. It has always been my believe that while violence doesn’t solve problems, it will resolve issues. The most difficult wisdom to teach is the wisdom to know when it is time to resolve the issue rather than continue to tackle an intractable problem.

    Defending the weak (female, male, queer doesn’t matter) has always been one of those times when violence can be warranted.

    Discourse and reason are always the best way to solve a problem… But when the “problem” refuses to hear reason AND someone else is at risk, I say stand up, put yourself in between a defend yourself.

    Posted by David Edey | May 7, 2013, 2:17 am
  18. I love (and agree with) your article. I have a question though – what kind of school does your child attend? Private or Public. The reason I ask is this: Public Schools (and most private schools) have a zero tolerance policy in which any act of violence including self-defense is punishable by expulsion. How did you get around this? I

    Posted by Angie | May 7, 2013, 9:39 am
    • Hi Angie, thank you for your comment. My kids are in public school. You are right that the school district policies are very strict. Most schools use a detailed and graduated system of discipline to enable them to apply common sense in their approach. In other words, they can treat a slap in the face differently than a stab with a knife. Because my son had never been in any kind of trouble before and because he had been physically threatened, his punishment was reduced from a full week’s suspension to a one-day in-school suspension. It’s not that I got around anything so much as I, along with the teachers and counselors, explained to the principal that my son’s actions were not unprovoked. Fearing imminent physical harm vs spontaneously attacking someone are two different crimes and ought to be treated as such. The principal agreed and changed the punishment. I hope that helps :)

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 7, 2013, 10:09 am
      • You refer to the situation where your son was responding to a threat… but how did they react to him punching his friend? Certainly that was no longer his first offence. Actually, it shows a pattern of violence. And of disproportionate reaction. How did the school respond?

        And if he couldn’t just talk to his friend about how inappropriate he was, it also speaks to a troubling definition of “friendship.” I know you say that his reaction was instinctual/visceral and that “boys will be boys” but couldn’t that same argument be made for his friend’s actions? “Men can’t help it, they only have enough blood to power one head.” That type of thing?

        And the violence wasn’t preventative. The action had already happened. Was he hoping a bloody nose would prevent future misconduct? Because maybe hitting his friend will stop his aggressive sexual behavior… and maybe hitting a child will stop them from back talking. Or maybe not. I’ve known a lot of badly behaved children whose parents had never spared the rod. Violence as behavioral correction is a crap shoot. But violence as a habit is sadly very common.

        We are what we (repeatedly) do.

        Posted by Name | July 6, 2013, 8:55 am
        • My son was raised being taught conflict resolution skills his entire life. He was trained as a peer mediator in elementary school and served the student body in that role. Peaceful, verbal interactions are his primary tools for resolving problems. The only incidents of physical altercations that I am aware of are the ones mentioned in this article. I don’t believe that constitutes a pattern of violence by any means. The school didn’t do anything. Just like they do nothing to protect the girls who are constantly being touched by boys against their will. It happened to my daughter all the time. She had to defend herself.

          When he hit his friend for sexually harassing his other friend, I have no idea what had occurred prior to that, though I can reasonably guess. The boy he hit is known for being disrespectful, rude and physical. He is often in trouble and frequently attacks other kids as a “joke.” I only knew about the incident because I saw the conversation on my son’s social media. I believe it’s highly probable that my son had already warned this boy multiple times to knock it off and he had continued his repulsive behavior.

          This article is not about preventative violence. It’s about self-defense and the defense of others. While I would never teach my son to strike someone who slapped a girl, I am proud of his reaction. He is only a young teen and still figuring out how, when and where to defend others. His belief was that when he witnessed this boy slap his friend on the rear end, his responsibility was to defend her. I would much rather him err on the side of being more involved in the defense of women than become a passive, unconcerned bystander like the teenagers in the Stuebenville rape case. I don’t know if he overreacted or not. I do know that he was willing to stand up for what he believed in and willing to lose a friend over his principles. That is the opposite of “boys will be boys”. He was just fine with getting rejected by this boy. He would rather stick with doing what is right and insisting other boys do the same. That is what I am proud of.

          You are trying to draw a line between an adult hitting a child and a teen hitting his peer in defense of another. These are wildly different scenarios. If we want our children to grow up to be adults who know how and when to defend themselves, their families, their friends and strangers, we have to teach them how. We don’t teach five years old’s to drive but we do teach our teens this skill. There comes a point in a child’s development when it’s time to teach self-defense and defense of others. It’s important.

          Posted by unnecessarywisdom | July 7, 2013, 4:51 am
  19. Fantastic article and very much agreed. I’m a proponent of the Non Aggression Principle, but there is a place for violence in self-defense and I’m jacking your 5 rules of violence. I’m going to feature this article on my online radio show for tomorrow’s episode. Good work and thank you for the write up.

    Trey Gibson
    Host of The Family Podcast Network

    Posted by Trey | May 7, 2013, 7:17 pm
  20. A hard punch is much different than a gentle slap…

    Posted by Briana Lyn Delaney | May 7, 2013, 9:26 pm
  21. You started with the goal of treating your child as a soul not defined by gender, “This is my little child, a human, not a boy.”
    So why is there a rule that specifies “You may harm someone who is harming a female” Is he supposed to ignore someone who is harming a male?
    Shouldn’t rules 1 and 3 be as simple as “You may harm someone who is harming someone else.” Or: You may use force to stop someone from harming someone else?

    Posted by Kathleen | May 7, 2013, 10:33 pm
    • Kathleen, you raise a valid point. Many would agree with you. I happen to be a very strong and independent woman who raised a daughter who is even stronger and more independent than myself. I personally believe that it benefits women to have strong men who are invested in standing by and with us. I want my boys to see women as valuable, special and unique. This does not take away from the value of men. It does not devalue women. But I want them invested in the best interests not only of their mother and sister, but everyone else’s as well. This is just a part of our family values. I wouldn’t lump women into the “weak” category because to me, that is more offensive. I think anyone would be able to discern if a woman was clearly prevailing in a physical altercation. The rule states “is harming a female.” The key word is “harm.” I don’t expect them to be the law enforcement of the entire world. But in most cases, a female will be at a disadvantage in a physical altercation. And as a man, my son would have the ability to correct the disadvantage. I want him to know that is the correct thing to do. But I don’t want him to do it because she is “weak.” I want him to do it because she is strong. And it is simply right.

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 9, 2013, 12:34 pm
  22. I enjoyed the read. I disagree with rule 5 but only in a minor and technical way. IME and IMO whilst one must be slow to violence once one is forced to it the best approach is to use overwhelming violence. Whilst there are limits even here it is better to apply max force upfront in a quick overwhelming burst as it tends to at the end of the day result in less harm than a more graduated approach. I guess it is personal form of shock and awe. It comes from experience.

    I like how John Wayne summed up the general idea of male relationships. “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I expect the same from them.” (The Shootist)

    I also believe that a man must rise to defend those who cannot defend themselves. (Regardless of gender)

    Good read though

    Posted by Dave May | May 7, 2013, 10:36 pm
  23. thanks for this! Admittedly, I did kind of skim parts, but I got the gist. My boys are 6 and 3 and I was getting to the point of totally losing my cool because of their seemingly violent behavior – until I realized that the bigger deal I made about it, the more it seemed to have a malicious undertone, the more I ignored it, the more good-natured it became. Boys sure are confusing! But, I totally understand the movie ‘Fight Club’ a lot better than I ever did before having boys! LOL!

    Posted by Michelle C | May 8, 2013, 2:10 am
  24. Why not:

    You may harm someone who is harming a MALE.

    ???!!!

    Your boy will also grow up one day. Will he become disposable then?

    Posted by Fahad Ali Khan | May 8, 2013, 4:30 am
    • Fahad, I appreciate what you are saying. At some point, a line has to be drawn between defense of others and vigilantism. If two persons, in a fair fight, have decided to engage in physical contact, then he doesn’t need to risk his personal safety to intervene. Unless, of course, he enters the field of law enforcement. It is the point at which a person is at a clear disadvantage and is clearly being harmed, that he MAY harm that person. It’s not that he SHOULD harm that person, but if that is what it will take to stop the harm from happening, then he is allowed to do so. This is about balancing out power. These are older children who are able to discern their ability to prevail in a physical manner and the proper timing and application of various interventions. My hope is that if my son becomes involved in a physical altercation, and he is at a disadvantage, that some other boy (or man) will step in to help him. At the same time, because he is being instructed and is allowed to practice, he just may be able to defend himself.

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 9, 2013, 12:39 pm
  25. His response to the girl ““I don’t think you need me to do that, but there’s no way he’s going to disrespect you like that in front of me” is not a positive. This is the reason we have wars, because out dignity is assaulted? Do you like the Hatfield and McCoy feud? Do you like honor killings? If not, then don’t go with this logic. Protect yourself because you’re being assaulted and there’s no other way to protect yourself?: then maybe violence. The girl is right: he didn’t need to do that for her or for himself. It’s male arrogance (she’s my woman, all women are “my woman” and you can’t disrespect my woman). That’s not a positive. In Aikido, the principle is: neutralize the attacker but never bring harm through redirecting his/her violent energy in a direction away from you and into a harmless spinning out of the energy. Now that’s violence with which I can live because it’s not about killing.

    No I don’t think your logic is correct.

    Posted by Donald Blumenfeld-Jones | May 8, 2013, 8:51 am
    • To make a comment like this, you have never met an abused wife / girlfriend / partner: they defend the abuser and excuse the behaviour. I would step in without question; although, I may not act physically in the first instance (much like Aikido – I would deflect the energy with words).

      Posted by Michael S. | May 8, 2013, 2:25 pm
      • For a while in high school, I was harassed by a large male who would smack my rear (among other taunts and abuses). I would have given anything to have had someone step up and tell him to back off. Nothing I did made a difference. Kudos to your son–especially since the girl obviously has no respect for herself–and raspberries to those who think he was wrong. You’ve got a wonderful man in the making!

        Posted by Beverly | May 8, 2013, 7:21 pm
  26. I think it is most important to learn to do all you can to AVOID violence, including and not limited to: ignoring, turning the other cheek, reporting, running, negotiating, etc…. When violence must be used, it should only be in response to physical force, where there is no other choice but to defend against serious bodily injury of yourself of someone else, particularly smaller, weaker people. However, becoming the enforcer of good behavior is too much. A girl getting slapped on the butt is not acceptable. However, punching the person who did it is WORSE. There are a multitude of other, higher minded, less violent, more effective ways of handling it that lead to a safer and more peaceful end. If everyone else behaved this way, the schoolyard, the home, the world would be a much more violent and dangerous place.

    Posted by Anonymous | May 8, 2013, 9:39 am
    • Well said Anonymous. I agree that all steps should be taken where possible before physical force is applied. But I do think the author points out something important, for boys in particular (because putting political correctness aside for a moment, men are more able to defend than women), that they need to have permission to use their strength if required to defend their own integrity and that of others, preferably in a way that not does not inflame the situation worse. In some ways just knowing you can stand up for yourself if you have to, can diffuse violence. Bullies tend to instinctively pick on the defenceless.

      Posted by Karen Grace | May 8, 2013, 9:09 pm
  27. After reading this i have devised the following work in progress for my son:
    Rules of Violence
    1. Use your words to express your feeling before engaging in violence
    2. Try to use words to neutralize a heated situation
    3. Do not initiate a violent engagement
    4. Use the least amount of force necessary to neutralize a violent offender
    5. You may use violence to neutralize someone who tries to harm
    a. You
    b. The helpless
    c. Those in your care
    d. Your family
    e. Your friends

    Definitions:
    – Engage: to enter into conflict or battle
    – Neutralize: make ineffective or harmless
    – Violence: rough physical force, action, or treatment

    Posted by Bryan C | May 8, 2013, 10:08 am
    • I like the idea of using words to defuse first but an in complete agreement about the right to step 4 and 5 if 1 and 2 fail. I have found that 1 and 2 can cause the abusive person to stop and think; it is the thinking that can often defuse things.

      Posted by Michael S. | May 8, 2013, 2:22 pm
    • Nicely put, Bryan!

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 9, 2013, 12:40 pm
    • This is a much better list of rules. I have a young son, and I anticipate having to teach him (and any other children I may someday have, of any gender) about force, violence, power and responsibility. I greatly appreciate you posting these rules as it’s helped me to clarify my own position.

      Posted by Name | July 6, 2013, 9:04 am
  28. I don’t think you’re describing the situation where the boy smacked the girl’s behind well enough. If they’re all friends and the girl was not happy about what your son did afterward, it certainly sounds possible he may have overreacted. You should of course be proud of him when he defends the helpless, but if he intervened in a situation violently where he could have just as easily said “Never do that again. Or you’ll regret it,” it sounds like your priorities have gotten jumbled and you’ve gone too far in the other direction.

    Similarly, preventative violence in the bullying situation seems to have solved the problem in this instance, but I wonder if you would be singing a different tune about violence had the older brother of the boy your son punched come and retaliated the next day. Violence begets violence.

    I have two young sons myself, just 2 and 4…and I fully intend to teach them to defend themselves and help those who need it, but the harder part is teaching them to judge who “needs” it. And I struggle to see the value in EVER throwing the first punch.

    Posted by Paul | May 8, 2013, 4:11 pm
  29. Oh,my god,you are EVERYTHING that’s wrong with masculinity.Boys aren’t taught to cultivate an indentity that is defined independent of women.WHY should boys play the knight in shining armour and risk getting their ass kicked to protect a women.I hope that when your son grows up he’ll reject the toxic shit that you’ve forced down his throat.Whats even more offensive is as a women you’re trying to define what makes a man a man,and to you that means self sacrifice and no acquiescence with value as a human being.

    It’s sad that you wouldn’t respect your own f-ing child if he wasn’t willing to serve as a punching bag.You disgust me.

    Posted by Bob | May 8, 2013, 7:53 pm
    • So, real men spew hateful garbage like this? Please tell me you don’t have children. I must assume you are also one of the ones on the sidelines holding a cellphone watching someone get the crap beat out of them. I would argue that you didn’t have enough masculine male influences around you when you were growing up. :(

      Posted by Faye | May 8, 2013, 8:34 pm
      • I’m not going to let a traditionalist sperm receptacle define my worth as a man.If being a man means being the white knight who will get his ass beat to protect a womens honour then i don’t want anything to do with your definition of manhood.Women aren’t children,they have adult agency and by no means are they innocent.It amazes me how gynocentric some women are to think that they have the right to define masculinity based upon how it benefits them.”Real men” is a shaming tactic used by women to chastise men who aren’t willing to sacrifice.

        Posted by Bob | May 8, 2013, 9:37 pm
        • Spoken like a truly entitlement minded troll. I didn’t write or define the rules of human nature. I simply recognize them. It was my husband, the sperm deliverer, a real man that said the writer was correct in her stance. Thank you for affirming just how real of a man he really is. He would never spew such vial things at a person he didn’t know. He treats men and women alike with respect and dignity. You should find a real man and take some lessons. Maybe then you’ll have more to do with you time than troll. Have a blessed day!

          Posted by Faye | May 8, 2013, 11:13 pm
    • It doesn’t sound to me like he ‘forced’ anything down his son’s throat, exactly the opposite. And you make quite a broad and sweeping, inaccurate condemnation that he doesn’t ‘love his child if he isn’t willing to serve as a punching bag.’ He let his son make his own decisions and face the consequences of those decisions, which is exactly what he should do as a parent. Unfortunately that subtlety is lost on you. Your rose colored, overly hippy-esque view of the world seems quite naive and tired. Frankly, I’m embarrassed for you, especially when some day you could find yourself regretting you haven’t ‘learned a little violence’ yourself.

      Posted by Colleen | May 8, 2013, 9:44 pm
      • If i’m going to use violence it’s going to be to
        A.defend myself
        B.Hit a female who hit me first

        The belief that male life is equally as valuable as female life is something that is contrarian to modern discourse.The only reason you’re defending the author is because you RELY on the protection provided by selfless females.

        Posted by Bob | May 8, 2013, 10:20 pm
        • What? Female life isn’t as valuable as male life? Colleen is defending the author because she relies on the protection provided to her by selfless members of her own gender? What does that even mean? Either you’re a troll, drunk, or have yet to discover proofreading. No matter though, it doesn’t seem you’d be worth taking seriously in any case.

          Posted by weatherweary68 | May 8, 2013, 11:21 pm
    • Bob, I don’t know if it will help to dispel your hostility at all, but I did mention that this was a process of changing my attitude to adapt to my son’s needs. My position was informed by their stepfather who happens to be in law enforcement for nearly 30 years. This is really the opposite of me forcing them to accept my beliefs. It’s me adapting to their world and coming to accept the reality of my internal belief structure and what I accepted to be true about men based on what my boys were telling me and what their stepdad was telling me. This is a woman walking in to a man’s world, not a woman forcing her world on a man. Hope that clarifies it a bit for you, even if you disagree with the philosophy.

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 9, 2013, 12:44 pm
  30. I totally loved this article. Men are built different than women. Everything about them is different including what makes them tick. My hubby just proved your theory. I was telling him the story about the locker room and before I could even get to the part where I disagreed with him making the first move he completed your story just as you told it. I had to ask him if he’d already read it lol. He was like “eff that, the boy had already been threatened and he took care of business before it got worse. That boy will be respected for that.” He also says he’ll get more play with the girls too lol. He really surprised me because the hubby is actually far less aggressive that me. I totally thought he’d agree with me. We’re just built different because I still think he should’ve waited for physical provocation. This is why I let the hubby teach the ‘man stuff.’ ;)

    Posted by Faye | May 8, 2013, 8:28 pm
  31. I’d love to see girls taught very similar principles.

    Posted by marymactavish | May 8, 2013, 10:35 pm
  32. loved this and your stance on things.

    Posted by Debbie McCormick | May 8, 2013, 10:41 pm
  33. Love the article! I’ve got 2 girls who are 12 and 9 and then a 3 year old son. I’ve always wondered how much “boys will be boys” was ok and how much wasn’t. Thanks for helping to clarify it in my mind. I’ll be sure to remember this when my son is older.

    Posted by Wendy | May 8, 2013, 11:11 pm
  34. I don’t step in for women for two reasons.

    1) When I was getting my ass beaten by 4 guys in front of a beauty salon filled with 10 women, not a single woman did a damned thing to stop it. No one called the cops, no one came outside, they just sat there and watched. It finally stopped when a man came over and helped me run them off. Ironically, I was getting beaten by the asshole brothers of my ex-girlfriend because I kicked her ass out of my apartment after I caught her [removed] a guy in my bed. She told them that I’d hit her.

    2) Once I tried to stop a man from hitting a woman, and got sliced in the back as a result. I didn’t see that she had a knife in her hands. She was attacking him, and he was trying to knock her out so that he didn’t get hurt.

    Odds are that if a woman is being hit, she did something that would cause the other person to want to hit her. Let’s not forget that a majority of non-reciprocal DV is perpetrated by women, and that non-reciprocal violence makes up half of the cases of DV. The other half is reciprocal. Most people don’t just hit somebody for no reason.

    I do step in for humans though, if I think that they didn’t do something deserving being hit. That’s the lesson learned from the time I got knifed. I don’t base whether or not I help someone on their gender. You should teach your son the same. It’s the “Men shouldn’t treat me as different, unless I benefit from it” crap that I see from most feminists. A real man helps those he can, no matter who they are. But he doesn’t sacrifice himself blindly just because the person’s a woman.

    Posted by Bobby | May 9, 2013, 6:25 am
    • I don’t agree with several of the author’s points, but this?

      “Odds are that if a woman is being hit, she did something that would cause the other person to want to hit her. ”

      This is the dumbest thing I’ve read all week.

      Posted by Paul | May 9, 2013, 12:43 pm
      • How is it dumb. Most people aren’t going to reach out and hit somebody if they aren’t doing something to them. Most men aren’t going to hit women unless they are putting them in danger. When you see a man hit a woman, there is probably a good reason behind it.

        Posted by Bobby | May 10, 2013, 1:55 pm
        • The initial statement is dumb because it’s obvious and superficial and hints at excusing acts of violence. Your follow-up is even dumber because it’s no longer hinting. I suppose in your mind women who dress a certain way are just asking to be raped, too.

          The only “good” reason to ever hit a woman would be if she was attacking you AND she was bigger and stronger than you. If a woman is smaller than you and you can’t stop her from attacking without hitting, you’ve got a problem. Like, you only have one arm. Or brain damage. Or there’s a gang of women attacking you, in which case you are probably a royal asshole, because women don’t tend to attack in packs.

          You’re a ticking timebomb, my brutha. I feel very sorry for the life you’ve led, the examples you must’ve had, that have brought you to this truly mental headspace. I hope there are no women in your life currently, and hope there never are until you’re healed from whatever wounds you’re nursing.

          Posted by Paul | May 10, 2013, 4:38 pm
  35. I’m sorry, but it sounds like you are raising your son to be a white knight douchebag. Also, when did dinosaurs become a boy thing? When I was a kid, everyone thought dinosaurs were cool.

    Posted by Todd | May 9, 2013, 2:00 pm
    • Pink used to be a boy color (red was masculine, pink was the childish equivalent) and crying used to be considered manly (you were man enough to be so moved by [whatever])

      And yeah, I remember when everyone was into dinosaurs. Looks like they’ve been put in the “boy” box now.

      Posted by Name | July 6, 2013, 9:18 am
  36. I have to say I disagree. I think that there are other ways for people to communicate without violence. When your boy was told he was going to be jumped, that was bullying pure and simple, and he should have reported it to the school, immediately.

    If a girl is being harassed by someone, a person can walk up and use powerful words to break up the fight. If the person throws a punch at the rescuer, or if the words don’t work, then violence would be justified.

    The only reason I see violence being okay is to “cut off a finger to save a hand” (to hurt one to save many),or in self-defense when someone else throws the first punch.

    And saying girls need physical violence to defend them? As a woman that offends me. I’m martial arts trained. I can hold my own. If you keep the other rules, the one about weaker and smaller suffices.

    Posted by Kristina | May 9, 2013, 5:36 pm
  37. “You may harm someone who is harming a female.”

    What makes you feel females are special and entitled to male protection? Do you hate men?

    Posted by Jeff | May 9, 2013, 7:00 pm
  38. I agree with some aspects of this–that it is OK to teach kids to fight if it’s necessary for self defense or defense of a third party. Never throwing the first punch is a nice idea, but if you are up against somebody who can knock your teeth out the back of your head with one punch, then nobly giving them that one could get you killed.

    What horrifies me about this, though, is the *blatant * and *active* sexism. You end with a scenario in which your son used violence which was clearly retaliatory, not defensive, on behalf of somebody who didn’t want him to do it, just to prove what his own concept of manhood was.

    Put another way–he robbed a girl of the chance to confidently stand up for herself and to handle her own problems in her own way.

    What you described was a situation in which one boy dehumanized a girl by using her as a prop in his own display of manly prowess; and then another boy dehumanized her by using her as a prop in *his* display of manly prowess.

    Most likely, the first boy thought that he could get away with it because are too timid to take care of themselves….and certainly the second boy thought the same, because he didn’t give her a chance to do so. Not to mention that he admitted afterward that it didn’t much matter to him whether she “needed” his defense–her desires, her abilities, her *agency as a human being* are less important to him than his own display of power.

    And you rejoice I’m this? You exclaim “this is the kind if man I want to raise”? This display was utterly chauvinistic, and barely discernible from the original display which provoked it.

    How about this:
    You may defend yourself when violence is necessary.
    You may defend other people who are attempting to defend themselves and are too weak/overpowered to do so.
    You *must* respect other people’s rights to handle their own problems, in the way they they see fit, so long as number 2 doesn’t apply.
    All of these apply to people of any gender.

    Posted by Rebecca | May 10, 2013, 9:06 pm
    • Rebecca, I appreciate your insightful response and point of view. I realize some have taken the rule to protect a woman who is being harmed as sexist. I view this rule as the polar opposite. I want my boys to feel invested in standing up for and with empowered women. I didn’t include women in the “weak/defenseless” rule because I personally find that offensive. That would imply all women are weak and defenseless. To help a woman who is being harmed means that as a man, it is his business to support women.

      As to the incident with the girl. All three kids were friends. My son witnessed his male friend slap his female friend on the rear end. That was a sexual assault. I don’t think we should underestimate the seriousness of a boy violating this girl’s body in such a vile manner. This could be and has been, prosecuted as a felony. His statement to his female friend was not demeaning, in my opinion, but the proper attitude. He saw his female friend as empowered to handle her own problems. He knew she could handle it. He did not view her as “weak” or “defenseless.” However, when he saw his male friend commit a sexual assault against his female friend right in front of him, he did not turn away with apathy. His male friend received a powerful and succinct message that a sexual assault on a female was completely unacceptable. And would not be tolerated. This is a male telling another male he will not accept sexual assault against a female. This supports the respect of women.

      The following articles add nicely to this discussion as well:

      http://www.upworthy.com/a-ted-talk-that-might-turn-every-man-who-watches-it-into-a-feminist-its-pretty-fantastic-7
      http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/11/what-bystanders-can-do-to-stop-rape/

      Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 11, 2013, 7:53 am
      • You keep using the terminology, “man needs to protect woman” which is inherently sexist. It’s sexist against both men and women, as many other comments have already pointed out. It’s also very primal thinking. You said they were all friends, so don’t you think that the female would have been able to speak up for herself? How is violence EVER a good idea with something like this? If they’re friends, that’s something that should be talked through. Violence makes it worse. If the female had a problem with it, being friends with the guy she should have no problem speaking up for herself if she had a problem with it. Instead, your son used violence. We are not told the circumstances of the butt slap, what her response was, or anything so we are missing key elements to the story, but nowhere does it say that the female friend’s life was in danger. Therefore there was nothing for self defense or defense of someone who was helpless, but full on battery and assault. In a court of law, your son would have no defense and would be found guilty. It does not tell women that he respects them, but actually on a primal level shows that he’s showing dominance and that he makes the rules. In the most primal level, it even indicates ownership of the female. Just watch a nature show, that is exactly what is portrayed here.

        We are humans, we have the ability to communicate through words, and many times we’re intelligent enough to actually speak instead of hit. There is no justifiable reason for your son to have hit his friend.

        Posted by Joan | May 11, 2013, 11:07 am
        • Joan, I realize that not everyone agrees with me and that’s okay. However, I also think about incidents like the Steubenville rape case. Do we really not want our boys to feel that they are personally accountable to intervene against their friends who are perpetrating sexual assaults against girls? The boys in that case made statements saying that it didn’t appear to be violent, it didn’t seem forcible, etc. They thought it might be “like rape” but they had no idea what to do. I am uncomfortable leaving my boys without a clear concept that they have a responsibility to act as allies for women.

          Assaulting a boy who has just assaulted a girl could easily be classified as “defense of other” and I would have defended my son on those grounds. The girl in Steubenville wasn’t about to die but she was clearly assaulted. She deserved to be defended, no matter what the cost, no matter how. My son’s respect for women was evident in the fact that he would not tolerate a sexual assault perpetrated by his friend. I don’t know if he had warned his friend previously. He may have. My son has not been in trouble for fighting since the one incident in 6th grade, almost 3 years ago. I can only imagine he is using his words an awful lot. But if he feels that it is appropriate to strike someone who has just sexually assaulted a female, then I am absolutely okay with that. He is taking a stand to change the culture amongst his peers and that is brave and noble. Only boys can change how boys perceive themselves and what is acceptable. If he can be a part of increasing respect for girls, I don’t see how that can be a bad thing.

          Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 11, 2013, 2:06 pm
          • If you think about it in an adult situation, your son would not win in court if the friend pressed assault/battery charges against him. It is not justifiable because the girl was not being beaten up, her life was not threatened in any way, she was not being raped. She could very easily press charges against the male friend. I cannot understand how you can condone flat out punching someone. No self defense instructor I know, no law enforcement officer, no soldier I know, would condone that behavior. My very violent army friend who has no problems fighting when necessary, no qualms about violence, would still confront with words first in a situation like that. Violence should not be a first response unless seconds matter.

            Posted by Joan | May 11, 2013, 9:25 pm
      • Yes, it was sexual assault–not denying that. But if nobody was in danger of being seriously beaten down, then why was violence the best way to communicate that message? I would think that, among kids who grew up fighting playfully, a punch would be a less powerful message than, “Dude. You get a warning the first time–I don’t hang out with jerks who treat girls like that. Try something like that again and we’re through.”

        And none if this changes the fact that often, the best way to respect women is to *cut out the habit of taking their lives away*, stand back and let them handle their own business.

        I have had to hear this message myself, from a girlfriend who tends to attract people who want to do her harm (not her fault–she is disabled and very feminine. Wannabe scum see that as easy pickings). Here is the conversation that played out, after she was harassed by some guys who looked very much like they wanted to do her real harm.

        Her: “…They were getting out of their car, so I just held eye contact with them and glared, and said, ‘You *really* don’t want to do that.’. They went quite and decided I wasn’t worth the trouble, got back in their car and left.”

        Me: Jeeze that’s scary. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there. I’m glad you can take care of yourself if I’m not there to help, though.

        Her: That feels….really bad…the way you put that. I don’t want that to be your first response. It’s backwards. It’s not your job to defend me. It’s *mine* to take care of myself, and yours to back me up if I can’t. If that’s how you’re going to react, I’m not going to want to tell you when things like this happen.

        I know if I was in a fight,and handling it the way I wanted to, and somebody jumped in and took it in a direction that I didn’t want to–maybe I was sufficiently in control of the situation to stick to joint locks and pins, which would be my preference unless striking was necessary, and somebody came up, got in front of me and punched the person– I would not feel the slightest bit protected, respected or cared for. I would feel incredibly frustrated that I was asserting myself, confident and in control, and somebody came and stole that away from me.

        Taking away another person’s problem and trying to handle it for them is not any kind of respectful. I know I don’t like it when people do it to me, my girlfriend didn’t like it when I started trying to do it to her, and I’d bet that you don’t like it either. Ever had a man come up when you were confidently plugging away on an issue, and insist on taking over? Tends to happen a lot if the issue is related to cars or heavy lifting, right?

        This is the exact same thing. The most empowering thing a girl can be told–and *all* children are told this far too rarely, but girls in particular almost never hear it at all–is “You are strong and capable, and I trust you to handle your own life, and will respect the way you want to do that.”

        For the sake of other people’s daughters, please teach your son to actually treat women with *that* level of respect, instead of the piddling, “don’t hit them and stand up to people who do,” which is merely the line between “abusive chauvinist” and “common chauvinist.”

        Posted by Rebecca | May 11, 2013, 11:09 am
        • Rebecca, first I want to say that I do appreciate this discussion and your input very much. I believe we actually agree on many things. The way I would relate my son’s story to yours and why I see it’s different is, your friend would have been upset had you intervened on her behalf. I respect that. However, would she also have been upset had the man’s friends come up to him and intervened, telling him to knock it off? My son wasn’t defending the girl, per se. He was keeping his friend from furthering a sexual assault on her. I wasn’t there and I don’t have details. I can only assume he acted immediately and didn’t wait to see what would happen next. I don’t think that is inappropriate, offensive or demeaning to anyone. My boys won’t be chauvinists. That means to believe you are superior to the opposite sex. They have been taught quite the opposite: to support, cherish and protect. Much how I’ve treated them their entire lives. I am a strong independent woman who has raised a strong independent woman. This has been modeled to them as well. I want them to be supporters and allies for all women. Not just passive observers. I realize not everyone will agree, and that’s okay. But I don’t mind a man offering to help me or even trying to help me. I take it for what it is. His heart is in the right place. And to me, that’s a good thing. Whether I need the help or not. I have no problem saying no. No attempts at helping me will ever undermine my own strength. That’s mine and mine alone. But I’d rather my boys be helpers who aren’t needed than bystanders who are. I hope that makes sense to you.

          Posted by unnecessarywisdom | May 11, 2013, 1:39 pm
          • Well, I can’t answer for my partner, but I can for myself. If somebody was threatening my well-being, and his friend punched him off, I’d be glad that his friend stood up to him, but I’d still prefer that he’d have at least let me *try* to handle it myself.

            If, rather than threatening me, the guy was bothering or harassing me, and his friend came up and punched him, I’d want nothing to do with either one. Both put their hands where they don’t belong, both are engaged in this stupid power struggle. One just openly disrespected me and the other uses his fists to communicate–gah–knuckle-draggers, the both of them.

            You say you don’t know the details, but presumably you know the kids involved, and you say they’re all friends with each other–do you really think the other boy was going to rape the girl, or do something comparable? Do you truly believe she was in physical danger? Because you said above that the punch communicated a message to the other boy. If the purpose was communication, and not defense, then we are getting into the realm of….well….violence as communication: spanking, public execution, hate crimes and bullying. Violence which serves the purpose of reminding people what their place is and that their place and behavior will be enforced with the threat of harm.

            Now of course, the boy *was* out of his place, but unless somebody was actually in danger, why couldn’t that have been expressed in words or nonviolent actions?

            And if she *was* in danger, then she deserves a chance to reclaim her dignity and sense of safety. Most people feel better about emergencies or crises in which they had a role and helped correct, then one where they were merely a victim and had no active part. Forcing her to have no active role and only be a victim would inflict more damage on her.

            You seem to be falling into a false dichotomy in which a person has to be either bystander or participant in a crisis, and can never change roles. It’s completely possible to watch for a moment and see if help is needed, and then step in only if you will be useful and not harmful. I wish more people would do that, really, having been on the receiving end of plenty of “help” that did more harm than good.

            Which brings us to whether it’s helpful when people “help” when it isn’t necessary. I don’t think I’m unique, in that my life goals are *active.* I want to learn things, do things, form relationships, build skills, be competent, be confident. It is not merely unnecessary, but *harmful to my personal growth* if people rob me of chances to experience something important. If you push me out of the way while I’m trying to fix my car, and say, “Oh, I can do that! There done!” Well…great. I had a chance to learn a useful skill, and you stole that. I would have been a lot more confident and happy about this situation if I had overcome the problem myself, but you robbed me of that. You forced me to be a bystander in my own life.

            That is another kind of assault. That is a kind of social violence, and I am becoming much more second-wave feminist than I prefer, but it’s true–it is a way of enforcing people’s places in society as “those who *do*” and “those who *are done to.*”. It is a form of violence which reinforces the view that it’s improper for a person with a certain genital configuration to take active control over their life.

            And that is dangerous, and it is violent, because it leaves those people less able to deal with problems when they’re on their own, because they have had fewer opportunities to learn how to cope with their own problems.

            Posted by Rebecca | May 11, 2013, 2:39 pm
        • I agree with you completely Rebecca. We seem to forget how powerful words can be a form of force.

          “Dude, that was not cool! Why did you do that?”

          “What? I was just playing…”

          “No man, no. That was seriously not cool.”

          “Alright, okay, just chill…”

          “What were you thinking? Geeze, I thought you were cool.”

          “Hey, don’t be like that. I’m sorry, okay?”

          “Seriously don’t ever do that again.”

          Posted by Name | July 6, 2013, 9:31 am

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