Every day, one of my three little boys comes tearing through the house screaming “Mommy, he hit me,” followed closely by another little boy screaming, “But Mommy he hit me first.”
Most parents of little boys know what I’m describing.
So when that happens, I’ll get both boys in front of me, scream at them not to use their hands (as I threaten to use my hands) and then send them back to playing.
I also have a daughter, and very often she comes racing through the house as well, screaming, “Mommy, he hit me.” But there’s no one running after her, no one accusing her of hitting them first. It’s just my daughter, tears streaming down her 6-year-old face, displaying her agony by hopping on one leg or hanging a limp arm, looking for me to exact justice on her behalf.
And when that happens, I’ll call the offending brother, ask why he used his hands and then tell him to stand still.
“Now hit him back,” I tell her. And she does ― hard.
I know there are a lot of people who don’t approve of that, who want to tell me I’m a bad mom (take a number, honey) or point out the evils of an “eye for an eye” mentality. But right now I need to tell my daughter to hit back. And here’s why:
Because she needs to know she’s strong: When she hits back it hurts, and she knows it. Her brothers get scared and she sees that. She realizes her strength, it builds her confidence and it reinforces the fact that she’s powerful enough to stand up for herself.
Because they need to know she’s strong: My sons are good respectful boys, but they need as many strong female role models as they can get. I don’t want them to think that boys fight back while girls run and cry or that boys defend themselves while girls look for saviors. When they see their sister fight back it’s teaching them that female does not equal weak.
Because no one’s allowed to put their hands on her: You don’t have to be “with her” to realize that the man who might soon be running the free world thinks men can grab women anywhere they want with no consequence. I need to show my sons, my daughter, and anyone who might ever feel entitled to inappropriately grab her that that’s not true, and I need to start now.
Because she needs to rely on herself: My kids’ school has a policy that if someone hits you, you cannot hit back, and my children have to respect that rule. But in real life there’s not always going to be someone to complain to, someone who’ll take care of it for you. And if she’s ever in a situation where she needs to rely on her own strength I want her to know it’s there.
But like I said, I’m sure there are a lot of people reading this who disagree and think violence is never an answer to violence, that two wrongs don’t make a right and that telling someone in charge is always the way to go.
And in response I assure you of this: I’ve taught my little girl to never be the aggressor and to only use her hands (or legs or elbows) in response to being touched first. So I promise that my daughter will never put you or yours at risk of getting pummeled.
All you have to do is keep your hands off of her.