Tuesday, May 07, 2013

the Rules of Violence

I read this article, told in the form of a chronological narrative, discussing a father raising his son and the need to curb and direct a male's natural violent instincts.  The question arises and is answered as to when the application of violence is moral.  The ideal of eliminating violence itself, entirely, is unrealistic and in certain circumstances outright immoral. As a father he instituted proper rules.
what about my stance against violence? I had grown up with violence in my home. I had taken a strong, philosophical stand against using violence in any form as a way to solve problems. How could I allow this with my sons? Shouldn’t I be telling my boys that no violence is acceptable? After all, I’d always told them their rough and tumble play was okay as long as no one got hurt.
But then I realized I was not being completely honest. I did believe in violence in some circumstances. In fact, I expected and even demanded violence. Particularly from men. For instance, if a man is with or near a woman or child who is being threatened or harmed, I fully expect that man to step in to defend her or the child. If he did not, I would have no respect for him as a man, or even as a human being. Harsh, but true. I expect myself to be violent with anyone who would attempt to harm my child. The Mama Bear. I expect that of most mothers as well.
So, instead of simply forbidding violence, I decided to teach my sons the rules of violence:
  1. You may harm someone who is harming someone small or helpless
  2. You may harm someone who is harming you
  3. You may harm someone who is harming a female
  4. Do not strike first if at all possible
  5. Use the least amount of force necessary
I let them know, that these rules apply to them no matter where they are. I did not care if the school had different rules. They are human beings with the same rights to safety, self-defense and the defense of others, as every other human being. I would defend them to the bitter end if they decided to step in and do the right thing. After all, I would allow myself to strike someone who hit me. Why should my child have any fewer rights?
Well there are reasons to allow a child fewer rights, contextually. The fact remains though that at some point we must trust the judgement of our children. This is not generally a discussion of when to use lethal force, after all, but when to strike a human being on supposedly equal ground.

For all practical purposes this is about how to treat bullies, and how our children should treat their intended bullies.
One day, I got a call at work from the principal. He told me my son had attacked a boy in the locker room for no reason and would be suspended for a week. I didn’t believe that for a second. I demanded to speak to my son. Adrian was afraid of being a “rat” so he hadn’t told the whole truth. I promised him whatever he said would be kept in confidence, so he told me the real story.
Outside, during gym class, three boys were taunting him. He ignored them, so they ramped it up, ultimately informing him he would be “jumped” sometime during or after school that day. So, my son decided he was not going to live with that threat, and when they went into the locker room to change, he attacked the boy who threatened him, punching him hard in the head.
The boy who got beat up wasn’t very happy about it because he lost the fight. He told on my son and of course, left out the part about threatening to jump my son. My son had refused to tell that part, too.
When it was brought to the principal’s attention, he believed the original story. But no one else did. Every teacher and the counselor said that it couldn’t have happened that way because they knew my son was a well-behaved and respectful kid. I agreed.
I went to the school and advocated for my son. He ended up with a one-day, in-school suspension. I agreed he deserved a punishment of some sort because he did, after all, throw the first punch. I understood why he did it. I might have done the same thing. But he certainly didn’t deserve anything drastic. It was still, after all, self-defense.
When my son came home that day, I told him I supported his decision. I explained the error he made in hitting first and instructed him on calling the bully out. I told him, If a boy says he’s going to jump you, just tell him to do it right then and there. Then, if he tries to hit you, you can hit him back.
Since that day in 6th grade, not one single boy has ever bullied my son in any way
This is an example of how rules can be freeing, instead of restrictive.  Application of a just rule eliminates confusion and fear that would otherwise would curb a just action or reaction.  The fact is that bullies usually don't like violence either, they just desire power.

This sort of clarity that a contextual and conditional structure brings allows growth to the full and prevents fear from ruling our expectation, our reactions, and thus eliminates possible inaction.
I think that instead of teaching our kids NOT to be violent we need to teach them HOW and WHEN to be violent. We have so many stories of people standing around watching others getting assaulted or verbally attacked and we don’t know why. We have thousands of self-defense classes all over the country. We have anti-bullying programs that tell us to stop bullying but offer no concise steps telling us how. Honestly ask yourself, if you don’t know that you can physically defend yourself, would you really step in to verbally confront someone who is being physically and verbally threatening? I know I wouldn’t.
If we are to raise boys who are willing to step in when a girl is being attacked or fight back when a boy is being vicious, we are going to have to admit that we DO expect violence in some scenarios and teach them the fine lines to walk within. Why wait to learn self-defense as an adult? Why not let them learn it, as they are growing up, with the guidance of their parents? Maybe not all is violence is so bad after all.
It is probably best to read the article yourself, and in full.  If nothing else it is a tad more heart-warming.

Although an alternate route of spreading the same message is to quote a contemporary children's cartoon character:

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