By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Psychologist makes case for teaching kids to punch back
When you talk to your children about responding to bullies, the best advice you can give them is put up their fists and fight back. - photo by Jessica Ivins
DUBLIN When you talk to your children about responding to bullies, the best advice you can give them is put up their fists and fight back.

At least thats the controversial new argument made by an Irish clinical psychologist, who maintains that a child is less likely to be pushed, punched, kicked or physically bullied twice if he or she pushes back the first time.

If an initial physical attack is not met with some degree of physical response, then it tends to happen again, psychologist David Coleman wrote in an opinion piece for the Irish Independent. If another child discovers that they can push someone around, they often continue to do so.

Colemans article was a direct response to backlash he received after making his case for fighting back on an Irish radio show. Many listeners were shocked at his suggestion that children should resort to physical violence instead of the more traditional counsel to talk things out.

Coleman says that while he understands how some people may feel uncomfortable with the idea, his point has nothing to do with advocating violence. Rather, its about empowering a child to take control of a scary situation.

I want my child to feel that they can assert themselves, he wrote. I dont want my child to be aggressive or domineering, but I do want them to show that they are not willing to let anyone push them around.

If a child doesnt stand up for his or herself, they become an established target for repeated abuse, Coleman says.

By not fighting back they give a very clear message that they will not resist, he wrote. They give an equally clear message that they accept the other childs dominance.

Coleman argues that while its not OK to encourage your child to be the aggressor, it is healthy to teach them that fighting has its place and that its OK for children to believe that it is acceptable to push back against someone who has intentionally pushed them.

Should you choose this route, Coleman says, be sure to prepare your child and yourself, for that matter for a potentially painful consequence.

Your child might lose that fight, he wrote. They may get hurt. The attacker may get hurt. The teachers, mentors or adults in charge may get involved but I think its worth it if it prevents your child from being further poked, pushed or hit in the future.

Coleman also made the plea to schools and educators to empower victims of physical bullying by not punishing them when they choose to defend themselves.

They need understanding and an opportunity to stop their own proactive hitting behavior, he told Today.
Sign up for our E-Newsletters