Should Boys Fight Back?

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Bullying has been in the news a lot. Despite parents’ and teachers’ efforts to the contrary, bullying continues to exist, just as it has for, well, millenia. And while almost everyone now agrees that bullying needs to be stopped, I’m not sure sure we’ve figured out how to do that.

Sure, we tell our kids to treat others with respect. We tell them to intervene, to stand up beside the bullied in a show of solidarity. We tell them to report incidents of bullying to teachers, daycare providers and other authority figures. But is that enough?

Like it or not, our boys live in a culture that requires them to take a stand. According to the Boy Code, status and dominance are prominant, and every boy I know talks about the need to let other boys know that they won’t take any guff from anyone. I see it in my house all the time. Even at home, in a family environment of love and acceptance, my 13-year-old feels the need to stand up to the torments of his younger brothers. Why? In the words of my 13- year-old: “because they need to learn they can’t get way with treating me like that.”

I see where he’s coming from. But on a daily basis, I have a hard time reconciling boys’ need to stand up for themselves with my desire to teach them peaceful, non-violent ways of conflict resolution. Yet at some level, I wonder if telling boys to speak up, walk away and tell an adult is enough for boys.

In Australia, a school boy was  suspended after physically standing up to a bully. I know that fighting violence with violence is rarely the way to go. And the video is disturbing. But I’m willing to bet the younger bully leaves this kid alone from now on.

What do you think? Do you ever think it’s appropriate (or necessary) for bullied boys to “fight back?” How can we help our boys end bullying while respecting their need to prove their dominance among other boys?

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