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


  1. Louise 11/06/2017 / 9:51 am

    I hate that we even have to think about this. No one wants to say fight back but I think that is the way that bullies understand. I actually had a run in at the park with one of my sons. I walked over to a piece of equipment expecting the kid to run off when he saw me. No he carried on saying names and taunting my son by swinging his leg back and fourth. Then he was trying to stare me out after I asked him to move out of the way and stop being silly. I honestly don’t think the walk away approach will work with this child. We are writing to the school to express our concerns so they are at least aware of the situation xx

    • This glorious life
      11/06/2017 / 11:38 am

      It’s just awful isn’t it. I can’t believe that boy carried on doing it right in front of you! x

  2. Bread 11/06/2017 / 11:44 am

    I think this is something my wife and I will disagree on too. I’m all for walking away up to a point but sometimes you gotta just punch your way through. #kcacols

    • This glorious life
      23/06/2017 / 8:01 pm

      I think that’s it isn’t it, sometimes you have to do more than walk away if you want it to stop. x

  3. Oldhouseintheshires 11/06/2017 / 9:19 pm

    It’s so tricky isn’t it?
    I truly feel that at 6, we should be teaching children to talk about their feelings and this means walking away and asking an adult to help them with these feelings. Children of this age don’t have the words to really talk about how they are feeling and do need to seek adult support with situations like this. If a child persistently pushes and shoves another it may be because they are feeling sad or left out or it could just be that they are having a really bad day! We all get them. Obviously they can’t go around hurting others but they also have to learn that this behaviour is wrong. At 6, children were will have very different feelings of empathy. Some may not have any at this age to be honest. They may push because they want to be that child’s friend but don’t know how to go about it. If they are then pushed back, it won’t help the situation.
    I do think that at aged 10 things will be very different but at 6 I would teach children to seek help.
    I am a teacher and teach this age group.
    I hope this helps.
    Thanks for the great post. X #kcacols

    • This glorious life
      14/06/2017 / 2:01 pm

      Thank you so much for commenting, it’s so helpful to hear from the perspective of someone who works with this age group. x

  4. Amy 12/06/2017 / 11:41 am

    It’s so difficult, I tell him to walk away and try to avoid it, but to fight back if he has to. I don’t want him to lie there and take it, I would rather he stood up for himself a bit. #kcacols

    • This glorious life
      23/06/2017 / 8:03 pm

      That’s it isn’t it, we don’t want our children to fight but in the end they need to be able to stand up for themselves. x

  5. Amy @Arty apple 12/06/2017 / 1:49 pm

    I would always encourage my children to walk away and tell a teacher or another grown up. You are right in that it is the child who hits back who is more likely to be seen and then get in trouble. Perhaps when they are in Secondary school I will feel differently but for now while they are little I do not want my kids hitting back or pushing others x

    • This glorious life
      23/06/2017 / 8:04 pm

      I think it is a very different situation when they go up to secondary school isn’t it. I think I will feel more that they need to be able to fight back if needs be when they’re older, but for now my instinct is more to tell them to keep walking away and telling a grown up. x

  6. Cheryl @ Tea or Wine 14/06/2017 / 9:57 pm

    Really interesting point. My daughter is coming up for 6. My initial thoughts were that I’d tell her to walk away and tell a teacher, but if bullying kept happening, I’d want her to stand up for herself, so ultimately, I agree with your final thoughts. Such a tricky dilemma it has to depend on each separate situation. Thanks for linking up with #KCACOLS, hope to see you again next time.

    • This glorious life
      23/06/2017 / 7:13 pm

      It’s so tricky isn’t it, and the thing is, I’m not sure there is one clear cut answer that would suit every situation. x

  7. Jeremy@ThirstyDaddy 16/06/2017 / 4:26 pm

    we’ve had this debate as well. The littlest is a push back type of girl and I like it…for now. The teenager is not and there have been a few times I wished she’d stood up for herself. There are also times I’m glad she walked away. I think its so situationally dependent that its really hard to know what to tell them. #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life
      23/06/2017 / 8:07 pm

      I think that’s a big part of the problem isn’t it, so much of it does depend on the situation. I just hope as they get older they learn to judge situations and decide for themselves the best way to handle things. x

  8. five little doves 17/06/2017 / 9:41 pm

    It’s so hard. I always tell my 13 year old to walk away when possible, but if it’s a situation where he’s in danger and walking away isn’t an option, I tell him to fight back with everything he’s got. #KCACOLS

  9. Ali Duke 21/06/2017 / 2:47 pm

    I would always tell my children to walk away. Only fight back if they really give you no other choice. It is a hard situation, I wish no child had to go through this.

  10. Katy 27/06/2017 / 10:31 am

    I was bullied in school. I would still advise my children to walk away, though I think DH was also bullied and would perhaps advocate defending yourself more. Thing is, there’s a difference between the way girls and boys bully, too. DH was hit by fellow pupils and had the option of hitting back, which I think he did. I was rarely physically abused, it was all catty, bitchy put-downs, whispering behind my back and such. You can’t really hit back with that so easily. That said, when I finally told my family why I was so miserable and they reported it to the school, the school were excellent in their response; the ringleaders were rounded up and spoken to by the head of year. They never bothered me again; I’d have loved to know what was said in that meeting.

    If all schools could be as effective I would always advise walking away. I don’t want my kids held responsible for something they didn’t start.

    • This glorious life
      04/07/2017 / 9:42 pm

      I think you’re so right, there’s a big difference between hitting back if you’re being physically bullied and throwing the first punch when the bullying itself isn’t physical. x

  11. Will 29/06/2017 / 10:34 am

    My son started senior school a couple of years back. He was constantly being picked on by this other kid, who would make up stuff about him and belittle him in class when he spoke up, trip him up in corridors etc. We tried reporting it again and again. The school had his parents in on 2 occasions. It would stop for a while, then a few weeks later, off he went again. This went on and on for about 2 tears. The kid just wouldn’t let up, and my son was hating avaery moment of school. What right has someone got to control someone else’s like like that?

    Then, one day, right in the middle of a particularly nasty bout of teasing, my son just turned around and slapped the kid (open handed) really hard across the face. He’s not a violent person – he just snapped. This obviously went right up to the head. I had a go at my son telling him that as he threw the first blow, he would probably get suspended etc.

    In fact, what actually happened is that my son got a detention, because the school figured out what had been going on. To date, the kid hasn’t been near him again, or any of the other kids he had been picking on.

    So, from my perpective, put up with it for as long as possible, but when it really comes down to it, don’t be afraid to put someone well and truly in their place. Psychological bullying, as well as physical bullying can damage for life

    • This glorious life
      04/07/2017 / 9:40 pm

      I think psychological bullying can potentially be so much more damaging than physical bullying. I’m so glad to hear that your son didn’t get in too much trouble for standing up for himself, just so awful that he had to go through so much nastiness before he snapped. x

  12. Natalie 29/06/2017 / 5:59 pm

    We tell our son to walk away and tell someone. I think him having the confidence to say, “this is not on” and then making a proactive step to remove himself is more helpful. We did have a short period of time where he stood up for himself physically and like pp, it ended up with him being punished not the bully. It did ease the picking for a little while, but we didn’t like the change in his personality and when we told him that he didnt have to play with those children, and to find someone who was kind, he seemed really relieved. Now he seems to have the confidence to say I’m not putting up with this.

    • This glorious life
      04/07/2017 / 9:37 pm

      See that is my gut instinct about the whole thing, and I think that’s because I don’t like conflict so would rather walk away myself. So much depends on the individual situation though, I’m not sure there is a one size fits all answer to this. x

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