My nine-year-old son headbutted me the other day, and it hurt him more than it hurt me. In fact, a goose egg emerged on his forehead within a minute, and when he realised what had happened, he began to cry. Holding him in my arms, I dried his tears and congratulated him on a well-timed collision. The Independent reports.
I taught him how to do that.
He is strong and tall, with large bones, like his father. We have discussed the whole Spider-Man “with great power comes great responsibility” adage, and my son understands if he is bigger than the other children, he has to be more careful when engaging in that puppy-like behaviour kids seem to get into at this age.
He and his classmates learn at school that they must respect one another and be helpful and nice. At home, we have open discussions daily about what it means to be a good friend and why it matters that we are open-minded and considerate to all. He is kind and empathetic, a rule follower who wants to do the right thing. I am encouraging that, because I want him to be kind.
I also want him to be able to protect himself and others fiercely when necessary. And, perhaps, I want him to have the advantage of self-defence in the hope he will be able to protect himself – and others – from assaults like the ones I have experienced.
Maybe – probably – I am drilling him on self-defence as a way to cope with my own history as a sexual assault survivor. Our rough-and-tumble practice gives me a small sort of comfort that maybe if he were in a compromising situation, muscle memory would take over and give him the tools he needs to escape.
“Having only one tool in your toolbox in any situation doesn’t work,” family doctor and parenting expert Deborah Gilboa says. “Teach kids to interact with empathy and kindness first. Try to understand where someone is coming from. Give them the option to walk away from a touchy situation. And also, explain to them when it’s acceptable to hit back.”
“There will be times in a kid’s life when he will be so angry he wants to hit something,” says Gilboa. “If you give kids context on how to handle those feelings and when fighting back is appropriate, they can avoid losing control, along with accompanying feelings of rage and shame. Talk through situations and consequences with him and make it clear that if an adult is trying to hurt him, all bets are off. He can use all of the tools in his toolbox and go berserk if it means getting away from a bad guy.”
Read the full article Why I’m teaching my son kindness, compassion and self-defence.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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