warriors in gardens: that one time my daughter punched a bully
I was raised to always look for the good in people, to turn the other cheek, to take the high road whenever possible.
This was not only a matter of keeping the peace, but of integrity and righteousness.
I was taught that I couldn't think of myself as a kind person if I wasn't striving to be as kind as possible to others.
However - I am raising my kids with a different ideal:
Do No Harm - but Take No Shit.
I notice that in public schools, their way of coping with the problem of bullying has been to punish and shame any sort of physical or verbal violence, including retaliation.
While I get that an eye for an eye makes the world blind, I also think often about the quote in this picture:
It's better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener at war.
Having the skills to defend oneself (and others) is an important thing to learn, I’ve come to realize.
I used to think that all violence was bad and wrong...but then, why did martial arts originate amidst peaceful monks?
Because they learned that in order to defend their peaceful ideals, they would need to set them aside and fight back when threatened!
Nowadays, kids are being taught that fighting and fighting back are the same thing.
When bullying is outlawed, only outlaws are bullies.
Nobody wants to be an outlaw, right?
Oh wait, except those who don't care, and who WILL continue bullying those can't or won't defend themselves.
Neither of my daughters have grown up with the public school's rhetoric of "don't fight back" - because they’re homeschooled.
When their repeatedly stated verbal boundaries have been crossed, both of them have hit another child before.
Shocking? Maybe - but the bully left them alone after that.
In both cases, their one act of self-defense was also impactful enough to extend protection to their friends, even after they had left the situation!
When Claire was around age 9 or 10, she and her cousin were playing with a group of older kids in their cousin’s neighborhood.
The bullying kids were older by several years - but school had taught them that to be labelled a bully is just as bad as being a bully…so they had never had another kid challenge them before!
They teased, and pushed, and said to her,
What are you going to do about it? You’ll get in trouble if you fight back.
The bullies had learned that most kids were more scared of getting in trouble for fighting back, so they thought they had a clear playing field.
They laughed when my daughter warned them that she’d punch them if they didn’t quit, and they were shocked when she actually followed through!
The kids came to the adults and complained, and were even more shocked when Claire told them what happened, truthfully - and did not get in trouble.
I am a peaceful person - and I teach my kids to be peaceful.
But we too often confuse harmlessness with pacifism.
If you are peaceful, that's a choice you're consciously making - until your own discernment tells you that it's time to defend that peace.
If you’re simply non-violent…that is, unwilling + incapable of being violent, then you’re not peaceful so much as harmless.
In that case, your peace is passive, a default setting.
It lacks the ability to sustain itself, so it’s not something you’re consciously choosing - and is easily undermined.
Being peaceful has absolutely zero to do with "keeping the peace" via voluntary self-submission, or allowing yourself to be mistreated by others.
That's actually the most ugly and dangerous kind of violence.
Self-violence is the opposite of peace - and needs to be called out as such.
This might be tough to hear, but you cannot call yourself a peaceful person if you're too mousey to object (or opt out) when you're being treated poorly.
This is a lesson I see being ignored in may unschooling circles, where siblings bully and control their siblings without intervention, for example - or where one kid in a social circle is so domineering of the others that they just fall quietly into submission.
It's not always enough, to simply observe this unfolding and say, oh well, they'll figure it out!
This is one of those unschooling-distinctions where "child-led" can end up being harmful - not only for any poor underdogs, but just as much for the kid who always gets his way.
THAT is a whole 'nother variation of harm - to be raised with such a sense of entitlement...but I digress.
Conversations need to be had with both the aggressor and the victims - not to shame or explain anything, per se...but certainly to share your observations in a non-judgmental way, and perhaps help them explore their feelings, and how they might act and react in future.
"I heard X talking to you earlier. How did that conversation make you feel?"
"What do you think would happen if you responded differently next time?"
"Don't forget that you are able to assert your own boundaries with people. I will support you if you need help."
Teach your kids to cultivate peace, absolutely. It's critical for their own happiness as well as for our planet!
However, please don't teach your kids that they must passively put up with whatever heinous mistreatment or violence comes their way.
A thorough understanding of nonviolence cannot ignore the fact that millions of bacteria die in our throats with every life-sustaining breath we take.
To be alive and sovereign is inherently violent in one way or another.
We cannot achieve true harmlessness, even in death, our body has an impact.
It’s time to understand and honor our potential for fierceness and self-preservation.
I’m teaching my kids that it is a sacred act to fight back when we are wronged, bullied, or hurt.
Do No Harm - but Take No Shit.
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