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September 7, 2009

When It’s Okay to Hit Someone

by Dan

A while back, I found my boys arguing with each other. As I was about to intervene, one hit the other. Normally, this happens only when something incredibly important is at stake. In this case, I think it was over who got to play with a particular Lego figure. R2-D2 is pretty cool, so I can see why they were arguing. :)

I took the hitter up to his room and explained that hurting his brother wasn’t acceptable. After some time to cool down, they were friends again and everything turned out alright.

The conversation got me thinking though. There are times when it is okay to hurt someone else. I realized I wasn’t being fair to my kids by telling them it was never alright to hit people. I don’t want them to shy away from protecting themselves or others who need it, if that time ever comes.

I knew that discussing the principle of justified violence would be over their heads. So I came up with 3 simple rules my kids need to follow before hitting someone.

  1. They are hurting you or someone else
  2. You ask them to stop and they don’t
  3. You try to get away and can’t

As far as I can tell, these rules cover the situations where I’d want them to act — mostly in defense of themselves or others who are being hurt. When they get older, I’m going to teach them how to hit so they won’t be afraid to act if they ever need to.

When one of my kids has forgotten the rules, I’ve been able to review them as part of the discussion about why they’re in trouble. And they get it. Even my 4-year-old understands.

The list has worked well for us. It helps my kids pause to think before acting when they’re angry. And each of them realize there is a line beyond which they’re going to get smacked without any protection from Dad. :)

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