Why I encourage my boys to fight.
Physical fights between children, particularly siblings, is normal.
Fighting between brothers is a natural and dare-i-say-it healthy occurrence.
In our house there is an almost daily punch-on in one form or another. It could start as simply as being breathed upon too heavily while sharing an ipad. Or by copping a rogue footy in the nuts.
There is rarely an intent to kill.
My wife thinks it’s because they watch YouTube clips, play video games and watch movies with violent content.
I think they are just two normal little boys who get frustrated and have yet to fully learn how to control themselves. I would be more worried if they never fought.
Regardless of parental locks, there are many opportunities around them to watch and experience violence. In this day and age it is impossible to totally prevent exposure of brutal content to children. I challenge anyone to prove their young children have never seen a violent clip through the news, playground, friends, magazines, video games, internet or YouTube.
It is not a case of teaching them not to fight. But how to.
Wrestling with your kids is encouraged. I wrote about why in a blog called Payback.
There are similar lessons to be learnt from siblings fighting each other:
- Self control
I choose my involvement in both their physical and verbal fights carefully.
I remember the day I decided to take a step back.
I had just separated them from trying to rip each other’s heads off. I was struggling to keep them apart.
With one reaching out from one side and the other wriggling free I thought. Fuck it. If they want to punch each other’s lights out, let them.
So I did.
“Stand toe to toe and if you really feel the need to hurt each other then go for it”.
It was quite underwhelming. Like wrestlers at the start of a match. Cheeky grins on their faces. Wirey little arms with fingers outstretched circling each other.
By that point they did not want to fight. They had forgotten what it was about. But for bravado they had a wrestle, turned their back on each other during some of the fiercer blows and did a bit of hand flailing. I made them go again and again until finally they told me they had enough.
We then had the talk about the need for fighting. It’s better to walk away. Be the bigger man…..bla bla bla.
All the while I’m thinking how important it is to be able to learn how to fight. How they need to get much better at this. To not turn their backs. To stand toe to toe. To defend themselves. To be strong. Courageous. At some point their life may depend on it.
Schoolyard fights and bullying are reasons enough to learn how to look after yourself. They are at an age now where walking away or saying “stop it I don’t like it” is not always enough.
Then there are the pedophiles, the molesters, the crazies and the opportunists that they need to be aware of on a daily basis.
Fighting is more than just the physical. Learning to fight properly is also learning how to talk yourself out a situation or to run away. It is about being aware of your surroundings, learning what to look for, moving away from dangerous situations and spotting the triggers. Being a good fighter gives you the mental toughness, and more importantly the confidence, to walk away.
My boys are only 9 and 10. I don’t expect them to be Jack Bauer.
They are much more worldly than I was at their age. They have instant access to anything they care to dream about and watch. They live in a more dangerous time.
Nightclubs beckon. Jealous boyfriends are only a few years away. Drink and drugs will become part of their surroundings. It’s not that long. And it takes years to develop, not only the skills to defend yourself, but the mental capacity to use these skills properly. To know you can defend yourself yet choose to walk away. To accept you are not invincible.
The king hit, sucker punch and now more befittingly dubbed as the cowards punch is a shocker. A disgusting, cowardly, pathetic way of assaulting someone. Encouraging friends to look out for each other. To pull each other up, to make them walk away when violence looks probable is a great initiative that I hope continues to work.
The world is more violent. Each city has their own brand. Being brought up in Glasgow where a ‘square-go’ is as common as a chip butty I have seen it all first hand.
So for the most part I will not stop my kids from fighting. I will not pull them apart or fight their battles. I will not mollycoddle them when they get hurt. And I will not punish them for belting a bully.
With knowledge and skill. With an emotional and intellectual understanding of right and wrong. With experience and through mistakes. I hope they make it through safely. Live a long and healthy life and watch their children and grandchildren fight with each other too.