Good Question: Should We Teach Our Kids To Fight Back?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s something no parent wants to have happen: their kid bullied by another. A suburban Baltimore mother got so fed up with it, she told her young son to fight the bully, and was caught on tape egging him on.

“Put your hands on him because I’m going to [expletive] cut him loose on you, buddy,” she said in the video.

But should parents teach their kids to fight back physically against bullies?

“If you’re getting bullied, it’s going to keep going unless you stick up for yourself,” said Dave, a Twin Cities dad of four. “I’m not gonna show them how to punch, on the same side, they should stick up for themselves.”

“I was bullied,” wrote Lisa on my Facebook page, “and I defended myself with one blow to someone once. It was the best action I could have taken because it sent a message. That person never really messed with me again, because it sent a message. That person, nor others, ever really messed with me again.”

“It’s a good question,” said Joe Cavanaugh, founder and CEO of Youth Frontiers, a Minneapolis nonprofit dedicated to training young people how to build respect and be courageous.

“It’s a hard thing to commit (to an answer). In any given situation, you need to respond differently,” he said, stressing that Youth Frontiers wants young people to make decisions that “build respect” rather than destroying it.

“We want easy answers,” he said. “Where is the book to tell us what to do? There are no easy answers.”

“Obviously there are some situations where a child has to act in a mode of self-defense,” said Marti Erickson, a nationally recognized parenting educator and co-host of the Moms Enough podcast.

She wants kids to take a stand, not take a swing.

“Bullies go for vulnerabilities. Kids need to role play how to stand up for themselves, instead of matching the bully in terms of physical violence,” she said.

Indeed, while there are plenty of examples when fighting back physically shuts a bully down, Erickson notes that there are also plenty of examples when the physical fight escalates things and someone brings a gun to school.

“Occasionally it does work. I just think the risks are too high to teach that as the standard response,” she said.

Both Erickson and Cavanaugh recommend teaching kids to make eye contact with bullies and stand up by calling out the behavior as bullying.

Cavanaugh noted that bullies make up 10 percent of young people, victims are another 10 percent, but bystanders make up the vast majority, 80 percent.

“They’re the problem,” he said.

Youth Frontiers teaches elementary students a technique for bystanders called ICI: “Interrupt, Compliment the Victim, and Invite them Away.”

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Mark from

    Jason, Well done story! Yes people should, but That Mother is so wrong in so many ways.

  • wendy

    Never throw the first punch but you always have the right to take some butt and kick some names. No one has to be pushed hit or talked down to by anyone for any reason and these people that think talking or ignorance is gonna solve bullying are crazy. Look at nature do you see a buck deer walk away or to rooster pheasants do you see them run from each other or go set to the side and talk heck no. KIDS STAND UP FOR YOURSELVES PARENTS STAND BEHIND YOUR KIDS. To the lady who stated she was never bother after defending herself you are right on target you sent a message of mess with the bull you are gonna get the horn. Let it never be miss understood a court room is for criminals not wasting thir time with petty junk lawyers and judges have better ways to waste their time.

  • Gilbert R.

    I think It’s a great idea to teach are kids to defend themselves, I have an 11and 6 yr old boys’ and i teach and tell them to fight back to defend themselves’ only.” You never go around starting fights because all you do is become that bully to someone else, if you didn’t like it just think what that other person feels”Not only that It may help them to defend them selves against a would be attacker or at least gave them a chance.That mother was wrong in what she did video taping it and encouraging her son on, it was as if she was using her son to get her anger out towards that kid.

  • lisa227

    I agree don’t start trouble but if it comes to you stand up. The first time someone touches you, you have the right to defend yourself.

  • Hmm

    I will teach my kids to never start a fight but to make sure they finish it.

  • mindless idiot

    So in the video, the skinny little kid – picked on the fat kid – the fat kid body slammed him – PRICELESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Kid had it coming! To perfect! Couldn’t help but laugh at the bully for his arrogance.

  • Esther

    I have a hard time understanding how the people pushing the PC version of dealing with bullies can do so with a straight face. To a child, a bully is not just another misunderstood youth searching for attention. They are a terrorist, bringing fear and shame upon them regularly. So while the adults of our county say turn the other cheek, they are at the same time gunning down our unarmed enemies in retaliation for a 10 year old crime. Why? Because if you don’t take a stand in the bullies language, and show them you are not going to tolerate their actions, they will continue terrorizing you. I believe we should tell our children to stand up for themselves, seek help when needed, and let their voice be heard. How many times have you heard about the victim of bullying having voiced their problems over and over and the teachers or adults in their life didn’t think it a problem, only for the victim to then snap. We need to take our children seriously, and their emotions seriously and back them up when they are feeling attacked. At the same time we need to educate our children to understand the difference between being attacked and just being offended. We don’t want more offended cry babies running around tattling on everyone around them, adults included.

    • mom

      I agree 100% with you on everything you have said, my son was teased last year during baseball practice because he has some muscle issues and has a hard time running, we have been going to endless numbers of drs to get the problem corrected but have not been successful yet, There is nothing more heartbreaking as a parent than to see your child being picked on and to see your carefree, fun, loving, and caring child change and not want to do things they once enjoyed because of fear. I think as parents you need to tell your child that it is ok to stand up for yourself but not always through violence. They also have to be careful because it is usually the one that fights back is the one that gets in trouble. Parents also have to teach their kids that it is not ok to pick on someone no matter what the reason is. We need to teach our kids to be compassionate and caring towards other kids. Maybe if more parents would be willing to teach their kids respect and understanding bullying wouldn’t be a problem.

  • Angel123

    I don’t understand why the whole nation is not rising up to stand against this plague that is affecting our school systems. I don’t even know who is worse, the school administrators who are not taking serious action or the bullies themselves. I think the whole school culture needs to change to make it a safe place for everyone. Releigious schools are the most hypocrites that hide behind the name of God and enable the bullies to do more damage because they want to keep the name of their school by downplaying bullying as a minor teasing or isolated incident. That is what happened to my son when we notify and complain repeatedly about him being bullied. I can not tell you how frustrated we are dealing with them over the years. May God have mercy on their souls.

  • AL

    I did teach my kids not to start a fight but to finish it. BUT, you havae to be careful who you stand up against. Some types of kids do NOT stand alone. A bully many times have friends to back them up and hang out together, you stand up to one and you’ll have 4 or 5 others helping him out. Some kids and adults aren’t man enough to fight one on one. They have to have their “posse”.

  • evan

    As a dad of four boys i taught them to defend themselves and each other. they know there are two rules tell the teacher first and don’t throw the first punch. I will never forget last year when my kindergardener had a third grader picking on him. he told the teacher and the principal and when that did not work, because it was on his walk home and not “at school” he told his big brothers. The next day i was up at the school pointing out that well he told you and did nothing so his brothers solved the problem. a bully needs to be stood up to for he or she to stop and some times there has to be a fight.

    • K.

      I really admire my younger brother. Many, many years ago (back when we were in high school), some kids were bullying him and he was pretty much a pacifist. But, one day it went too far. All he did was look the leader in the eye and said in a very direct tone, “I don’t want to fight you.” When the other kid asked, “Why, are you chicken?” My brother responded in the same direct tone with good eye contact, “No………I just don’t want to hurt you.” Believe it or not, nobody messed with him again.”

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  • David

    My 5th grade Son was sucker punched in the face when sitting down by a bully because he laughed at a joke another kid told him (not about the bully.) The bully thought he was laughing at him. My son then took the bully down and hit him 6 times before the teachers pulled him off. The school wanted to supsend both of them for 3 days. Think this is because bully’s father works at the school and the school. My son ended up getting supsended for 1 day under 0 tolerance after I went to the school. I have always taught him not start a fight but defend yourself. His punishment was a day at the Kennedy Space Center Watching the last Endeavor launch.

  • Bott

    Go skinny kid.!

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