Playing fields of Eton

Mrs. MC: Did you tell our son that he could head-butt Jerome [a boy in his preschool class]?

MC: No.

Mrs. MC: Why does he think you told him that?

MC: He told me that Jerome has been hitting him, and then he said he was going to push Jerome down. I told him that it was OK to fight back, but that he couldn’t do anything unless Jerome hit him again.

Mrs. MC: Why didn’t you just tell him to go to the teacher?

MC: Because I don’t want him to think that he has to depend on people more powerful than him for protection.

Mrs. MC: When I was a teacher, I always told kids to come to me rather than fight back.

MC: And from your vantage point, that made sense. You couldn’t countenance fighting back because you had to police the room, and wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between who was starting trouble and who was finishing it. But from our standpoint, it’s our kid who’s being picked on, and I want him to be confident that he can stand up for himself.

Mrs. MC: But if he fights back, he’ll get in trouble along with Jerome.

MC: [shrugs].

Mrs. MC: You don’t care if he gets in trouble?

MC: It beats having your own personal bully. Besides, getting in trouble isn’t nearly as bad as you think it is, especially after the first few times. [Editor’s note: My wife has never been in trouble with any authority figure in her entire life]. In the world he’s going to inherit, he’s going to need to be willing to accept some strong disapproval from the people in charge. He’s also going to need to be willing to fight and get hurt.

Mrs. MC: [extremely skeptical]. Alright. But I’m going to tell him no head-butting.

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