Should we teach our children to fight back or walk away?

I’ve been a parent for 6 years now.  

For the most part my husband and I have been in agreement up to this point, when it comes to all things parenting.  Our natural instincts when it comes to the best way to raise our children are pretty similar.  At least they have been up till now.

Now that Rhys is getting older I’m realising that there is so much I don’t know, so many questions that I don’t have answers for.  I have a feeling there will be plenty of nights spent up talking together about how best to handle different situations, about what to tell our children about how to handle different situations.

For now our big debate is to do with playground pushing and shoving.  We’ve talked a lot recently about whether we should teach our children to fight back or to walk away.



My gut reaction is to tell my son to walk away.

If someone pushes or hits him, or does something he doesn’t like, then he is to tell them to stop.  If that doesn’t work he should walk away and find a teacher and tell them what has happened.

My husband, on the other hand, feels that we should tell him to push back, or hit back.

The thing is, we’re coming at this from two different perspectives, and two different experiences growing up.

I was lucky in that I was never bullied when I was younger.  And I never really got in trouble.  See, part of my concern is that if Rhys hits back he will end up getting in trouble at school.  More often than not teachers will see the child who hits back, rather than the child who hits first.

I don’t want him getting in trouble at school for something he didn’t start.  I would prefer him to walk away from the situation.

My husband on the other hand has experienced being picked on.

For a long time he walked away.  He told grown ups.  And nothing changed.  Until the day he finally snapped, and hit back.

After that it stopped.  And it of course makes you wonder, could he have avoided all those months of feeling miserable if he’d just hit back sooner?

The thing for me is, there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer to any of this.  There are so many variables, so many different situations that I’m not sure exactly what to teach Rhys.  He is only 6 and I’m not sure he has the skills yet to make a good judgement call on when it’s ok to hit back.

I asked a few other bloggers for their thoughts on this and got some really interesting answers.

“Me and my hubby feel just the same. I say walk away and speak with someone about it. My hubby says stand up for yourself. Which my son did once at school after being bullied and he was the one in trouble with the head teacher”

Sarah from Champagne and Petals


“I’m really torn. As a teacher, I know I should be teaching them to walk away and that’s the best thing to do In most situations but my gut instinct sometimes is to fight back (I’m a mouthy cow at times!), or come back with a really sarky, smart arse put down!”

Rachel from Coffee, Cake, Kids


“Its a tough one. Having a boy who has been through (lengthy) bullying with next to no action from the school I would say this; I want my younger 2 children to have the maturity and the resolve to be able to walk away where possible and also the right hook to teach the bully never to push it too far. Their self esteem is going to be harder to find than a new school.”

Natasha from Mummy and Moose


“It’s so hard – I think it’s entirely dependant on the situation, but I would say walk away. There is more strength in rising above than there is in violence, and always speak to someone – don’t just let it go, tell someone every single time.”

Emily from Babies and Beauty


“I think we should be teaching children to sort out their disagreements using something other than violence – sometimes it does need an adult to model how at first. I used to have quite a few aggressive boys in my Reception class so we made a ‘thinking station’ where they could go to sort out their problems – the focus was on taking turns talking and explaining how they felt, how the other person had made them feel etc and sorting out how they could make it better and solve the problem. I had loads of resources to help such as images of different emotions, recordable microphones for taking turns speaking and little ‘feeling slips’ where they could write down what happened and how it made them feel. It worked really well – I had to model how to use it and help them take turns in the first few weeks but after that the violent episodes were almost non existent. I think we need to teach children to behave how we expect others to behave and treat them as we expect to be treated”

Sarah from Arthurwears


“Oh we are having this problem at the moment. My son is doing the right thing and telling the teacher but I’m afraid I am with your husband on this one and think he should stand up for himself. Even my older son said if they are trying to annoy you and you tell them it upsets you (as per school process) they will just keep on doing. I hate that I even think this but I fear if he doesn’t it will carry on and get worse”

Louise from A strong coffee to go


It’s clearly a subject that people have mixed feelings about, and it seems to make a lot of people feel like bad parents for teaching their children to hit if necessary.  Naomi from Tattooed Mummy has these conflicting thoughts, saying “I always taught dd to give 3 clear warnings, then punch hard and fast” but that doing so makes her feel like a terrible mum.  From her own personal experience though, walking away doesn’t always put a stop to things.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading threads in various parenting forums about this issue, trying to gauge what the general consensus is.  

And I’m still no closer to an answer.

There are really valid arguments for both approaches.  The thing that I noticed though is that it seemed that everyone who has either experienced their child being bullied or who has been bullied themselves felt that fighting back was, ultimately, the answer.

I suppose it’s very easy to say just walk away and tell a teacher when you’ve never experienced the situation yourself.

I’m not a fighter by nature.  I don’t like confrontation and I believe that love is stronger than hate.  I want my children to use their words rather than their fists to resolve conflict.

But I’m very aware that this just isn’t always realistic.  The school playground is a very unique place, where children are learning about social rules, and trying to find their place in the world.  I just know that I don’t want my son to be a victim.  I want him to be strong in who he is, to stand up for himself and what he thinks is right.

For now I think what I will tell my son is this.  

If someone pushes you or hits you, you tell them to stop and you tell a teacher.  If it keeps on happening though, and he seems to be becoming a target, then I will tell him to defend himself, to stand strong and fight back.

What do you think about this?  Do you tell your children to walk away or to fight back?


Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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