This is what I will be telling my children about when it’s okay to hit somebody. Many parents tell their children, “It is never okay to hit.” and I think this is a huge mistake. Sometimes it is okay to hit, and children need to know when it is and when it is not okay, just like adults do. I will be teaching my children the nonaggression principle, which is that it’s not okay to use violence against someone when they have not violated your person or property, but it is moral to use violence in self-defense.
It is okay to hit somebody, or use other types of physical force against them, like kicking or biting, when they touch you first. While any type of touching during a conflict is considered assault, if all somebody does is touch you, like poke you, push you, bump into you, or grab your clothes, in a way that doesn’t actually hurt, it’s a good idea to give a warning first. Then you will have your bases covered and your actions will unquestionably be self-defense, not aggression. Say, “I’ll give you that one, but if you touch me again I will hurt you.” Look them in the eye and say it in a serious way. Then get ready to punch or kick incase they take you up on it and touch you again.
However, if the person touches you in a serious way, like hitting you, slapping you, kicking you, biting you, trying to drag you by the hair, slamming you into something, using any sort of weapon against you, even if it’s just a pencil, or touching your bottom or private parts, then don’t bother with the warning. Hit or kick them as hard as you think you need to to keep them from touching you again. Hit them multiple times if you have to. Then don’t hang around. Don’t wait to see if they’re okay. Leave immediately, and tell an adult. You won’t be in trouble for doing whatever you had to do to defend yourself, and if another adult is mad at you, I will be on your side.
Boys, some people will tell you it’s never okay for a boy to hit a girl. Ignore that. It is 100% okay to hit a girl if she aggresses against you first. If all she does is touch you and it doesn’t hurt, then give the warning first. But if she does something serious, like hitting you, slapping you, kicking you, scratching to draw blood, or anything else that hurts, not only is it okay to hit back, I want you to hit back and protect yourself. Never feel bad about defending yourself. Then tell an adult, like usual, even if the girl is acting like you’re going to be in trouble. You won’t be in trouble. I will be on your side.
Children, if you are in a fight with a friend or a sibling, or even a stranger who says something mean to you, it’s good to have a total hands off policy. No matter what mean things they say, no matter what they threaten, no matter how loud or in your face they get, no matter how mad you are, even if you’re just furious, no matter what they’ve done, do not touch somebody you’re fighting with. Don’t even put a single finger on them. There is a big, big difference between fighting with words and physical fighting, and touching somebody during a fight is crossing a line that it’s not okay to cross.
However, another time when it’s okay to hit somebody is to get your property back from a thief who is trying to steal from you. If somebody grabs your phone, or your money, or anything else that belongs to you and tries to run away with it, do what you have to do to get it back. That’s okay just like hitting back when somebody hits you is okay. But once you have it back, don’t do anything else to them, unless you think they might try to hurt you. Get away from them as quickly as possible, and tell an adult what happened.
By the way, this does not make it okay to hit siblings or friends who take your stuff, because in those circumstances you can go find an adult or other child who will mediate the property dispute instead. However, it is okay to use force to take your stuff back from a bully, who knows the thing is yours without question and took it from you anyway, especially if you think they might destroy your property before you can find an adult to mediate. That makes them a thief. You don’t have to give a warning, because obviously if they respected your personhood they wouldn’t have taken your stuff in the first place, but it will make any witnesses completely on your side if you say, “Give it back now, or I will take it back by force.”
If somebody does anything physical to you that makes you afraid for your safety, even if what they’re doing isn’t hurting you, I want you to do everything you can to hurt them and get away. If somebody, especially an adult, is holding you down on the floor or against a wall, if they’re trying to drag you somewhere you don’t want to go, or if they’re trying to pull you into a vehicle, I want you to go all out trying to hurt them. First say, “Get off of me!” or “Let go of me!” and if they don’t, start fighting immediately, even if you’re not sure how serious a situation it is. It doesn’t matter if you know them, or if they’re saying nice things while they’re doing it: if they won’t let go of you, hurt them. Hit, kick, bite, scratch, gouge at their eyes, spit on them, use any sort of weapon you can grab, and scream as loud as you can. Scream “Help me! Help me!” if you can. If you see anybody, call out to them, ask them specifically for help. Make it personal for them. Some people don’t see what’s happening around them until it’s called to their attention.
If somebody is making you uncomfortable, don’t worry about being polite. It’s okay to be rude when you have a bad feeling. You don’t have to let anybody touch you in any way – you don’t even have to shake hands with somebody if you feel uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter who it is, either – a doctor or a policeman, or a friend or even a family member – you don’t have to be around somebody who’s making you uncomfortable just to be polite, and you definitely don’t have to let anybody touch you, no matter the circumstances. Just say, “I need to go.” and if they try to stop you from going, say, “Leave me alone! Don’t touch me!” Don’t be afraid to say it loud so other people can hear, even if you’re in a place where you’re supposed to be quiet. Be loud even if you feel embarrassed. If they won’t let go, do whatever you need to do to make them let go. Then come and find me. I would appreciate knowing if anything ever happens that makes you uncomfortable, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, or even if you think you could have handled it better once you’ve had a chance to think about it. I will always be on your side.