Why you shouldn’t tell your kid to fight back

As a teacher, I often find myself in the position of telling a parent (most often a father) that it is a bad idea to encourage his or her child to fight back if confronted with aggression.

I understand the instinct. As a teenager, I got in my share of fights. Most often, I was battling an aggressor or defending my honor. Even though I didn’t win every fight, it always felt good to stand up for myself. It let people know that if they messed with me, there would be consequences.

No one wants to raise children who cower in fear or are unable or unwilling to defend themselves when necessary. Though you would never hope for your children to end up in a fight, you’d like to think that if pressed into battle, they would stand their ground, protect their physical being and defend their honor.

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This instinct is wrong.

In nearly every fight that I have seen or participated in throughout the course of my life, the option of running was always available. This is what I tell my students to do. I advise that they “fight with your feet.”

“Run away as fast as possible.”

The reason is simple:

As soon as you begin fighting, you risk seriously injuring or killing your opponent. That may sound overly dramatic, but it is not. Fights result in serious injury and death all the time. Even the single, one-handed shove from an elementary school student can result in a life-altering head injury. A head can hit a desk on the way to the ground. It can strike the floor at an unnatural angle. It can smack against a concrete floor or parking lot. 

Sometimes even a single punch can kill a person, like a high school student found out last week when, unhappy with a referee's decision during a soccer game, punched the referee in the head.

Two days later the man died from bleeding in his brain.

The high school student is expected to be charged next. week.

A man is dead.

A family mourns his loss.

A high school student’s life has been changed forever.

I am certain that the high school student did not want to kill or even injure this referee. Regardless, a life has been taken.

Please don’t tell your child to fight back. You could not give him or her worse advice.