Defending the Goal

Last week, I was sitting on the sidelines during one of Bean’s soccer practices.  He was playing goalie with some friends on his team while we waited for practice to start.  After about five minutes, this other kid from his team comes up and stands right in front of Bean and yells, “I’m the goalie now!”

Eh, big deal.  In my mom mind, that doesn’t really hit to Richter scale for being mean.  Kids will be kids, after all.

But Bean had an issue with this.

“Hey!” he yelled.  “I’m the goalie!”

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Then the kid turned around and put his face right up in Bean’s face (which meant he had to bend down a little because this guy is couple years older than Bean and significantly bigger).

“No, Michael,” he said with his teeth clenched.  “I’m said I’m the goalie.”  And then he turned around and continued to block Bean.

As this is happening, the rest of the kids are continuing to play and I’m still debating about whether this has crossed over into Mom Territory.  A big seven year old face shoved into Bean’s five year old face starts to wake the Momma Bear in me.  But I didn’t even have time to respond before Bean, without missing a beat and very uncharacteristically, steps around the kid and says loudly, “NO, I’M THE GOALIE.”

I was a little shocked at first.  Bean is a small dude and is pretty laid back about this kind of thing (which, let’s be honest, happens all the time on playgrounds and soccer fields).

Then the kid puts his face right back in Bean and he said, “Michael, I’m bigger than you, and I want to be the goalie.”

It was like a line straight out of “Saved By the Bell.”

But then, he pushed Bean.  And THEN!  THEN!

Bean pushed him back.

Now, you probably have to know Bean to know that this behavior is EXTREMELY uncommon for him.  Speaking up for himself is a stretch, but pushing back or becoming physical at all is sort of like the Dalai Lama punching someone.

Before I could get over there and break it up, another parent who was standing nearby called out, “Joey, Michael is our goalie.  Go on, now.”  And Joey did go on and that was the end of the story.  In real life, it took about 4.6 seconds for this episode to happen and it was completely insignificant.  Kids play like this all the time, and I don’t think the episode said as much about Joey as it did about Bean.

It WAS significant for Bean, although, I knew he didn’t even recognize it.  It was the first time I have seen him stand up for himself.  Bean is a well-liked, happy kid, but he’s smaller than most boys his age and I think he subconsciously backs down from things every now and then because of it. Someone takes his toy, he goes to get another one.  Someone cuts in front of him in line, he steps back and makes room.  He isn’t one to make a stink, and that makes Chris and I both proud and a little nervous.

To see him stand up for himself – even the shoving, to a certain extent – was almost a relief for me.

That night as I tucked him into bed, I sat down next to him and said, “Hey, dude.  I saw what Joey said to you at the soccer goal today.”

“Oh,” he said, searching my face to see if he was in trouble.

“And I saw him push you a little bit.”

“Oh,” he said, still not sure if he was in trouble.

“And I saw you push him back.”

“OH…” he said, lowering his eyes.  He knew he was about to get it.

“I’m really proud of you,” I said.

“You ARE?” he said in this super high pitched, surprised voice.

“Yes, I am.  I was proud of you for standing up for yourself, buddy.  Don’t let people push you around, Bean.”

“So, if someone pushes me, I can push them back?” he asked.

Immediately, every parenting article or piece of advice I’ve ever been given ran screaming through my brain.  I knew this was a critical question.  One of those parenting questions that actually MATTERS.  And I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to say.

Actually, that’s a lie.  I knew I was supposed to say, “No, we never push.  You should go find an adult.”

But the truth is that sometimes there aren’t adults.  Sometimes, kids can’t stop and go tell someone.  Sometimes, kids get pushed around MORE when they stop to tell someone.  So, instead, I said, “Yes.  If someone is being mean and they push you, you can push them back.  But only once, and then you need to go find an adult.”

In my teacher mind, I said to myself, “Well, what happens if EVERYONE pushed back?  Look at the precedent you are setting.”

In my spiritual mind, I said to myself, “Way to teach him to turn the other cheek.  Look at the values you are giving him.”

Maybe later I’ll realize that I gave the wrong advice.  But I’ve been thinking about it for over a week now, and I still think I would say the same thing again.  Why is it fair for some other kid to get to push and for mine to have to stand there and take it?

So, yes.  I told my kid it was okay to push back.

And I think I’m okay with that.

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23 Thoughts to “Defending the Goal”

  1. Beth

    Katie, you were SPOT on in your advice. It is the same thing we have taught our kids. Others may not like that I agree. Kids need to learn the stand up for themselves. I would write more but I have decided to let my mouth only accommodate 1 foot instead of the 10 it usually does.

  2. Katie

    You have him the perfect advice. He needs to have the confidence to defend himself when he is being wronged, and know that you will be there to support him. Our rule was our son was not allowed to start a fight, but was allowed to defend himself. Bean needs your confidence to know that your support him. Good job!!!

  3. Jen

    While I think it’s important that we teach kids it’s not ok to fight, it’s also not ok to be a punching bag. It’s a fine line between standing up for yourself and fighting but I think you did a great job. There’s no right answer and it’s bound to change slightly as the situation varies but hang in there! {high five!}

  4. AndreaC

    We have been going through something similar with our 5 year old. And this is pretty much exactly what we told him.

  5. Dessi

    Oh how I love this post! I think everything in life requires a bit of balance… Even hitting! Sure we don’t want out kids being the bully but I’ll be damned if my kids are bullied and do nothing about it! Well done Bean!

  6. Brooke

    Great post! Way to go bean for standing up for yourself!!!

  7. Maren

    I was always told, and I’ve told my son, that you don’t ever start a fight…but if someone hits you, you finish the fight. Basically what you told Bean. And I think it’s the perfect answer.
    As Jen ^ said, there’s a fine line and I think it’s perfectly acceptable to teach your children that it’s ok to stand up for yourself and others.

    My son had after school detention in fourth grade for ‘fighting’….another boy had been bullying my son and his best friend. Then the other boy hit my sons friend with a rock and drew blood so my son pushed the other boy down and held him there until a teacher intervened. He did his detention because the school rules are no fighting, but then we took him out to dinner because you always defend your friends.
    I still get teary telling this story, I’m so damn proud that my son stood up for his friend.

    1. I LOVE that you took your son out to dinner. If I was sitting in the same room as you, I would literally applaud you for that.

      1. Maren

        He’s a good egg. He stands up to bullies frequently. He’s actually a little cocky about it. He’s also 15, so that could be some of it.
        I blame karate…but in a good way. Karate gave him so much self confidence…maybe too much! :0)

  8. Mae

    My 5 yr old, Parker, has gotten picked on in the past and I’ve always been of the mind set that “we don’t hit, go find a teacher”…until He came home and said he was punched…and then there was the time he was bit. Like you, the Mama Bear in me woke up. Both issues were addressed w/ the school, but I ended up telling Parker (and my now 3 yr old Avery) that if somebody hits/kicks/punches/shoves/bites you FIRST then you can push them away and tell them “please don’t touch me” and walk away. Parker who is sometimes a goody goody (w/ an evil side too) has asked me to talk to his teacher and the school director and tell them I said this was ok. All I told him is that he won’t get in trouble w/ me if he pushes someone to protect himself or his sister, but if he does it first then he will be in trouble. I told him he might go to time out at school, but I would make sure to talk to his teachers then. I don’t want my kids to be bullies, but I def want them to be able to stand up for themselves. This has worked and the kid that punched/bit Parker hasn’t touched him since he started standing up for himself. Oh, and way to go Bean!

  9. Jenna

    Yeah Bean and Mama! There are some things worth defending and this sets a great precedent for that notion. I love the stories being told here too. Your thoughts give me something to keep in mind as I parent my little guy!

  10. Tabs

    I’m with Jenna! Love this post and love all the stories being shared! Grwat advice for us parents inching closer to these situations.

  11. So do you think Bean has a future in cage fighting?
    I’m kidding..so, so kidding.
    It’s good to see you posting more often. I should take a hint.

  12. In martial arts, the small kids are taught how to respond to a bully with an interview stance and “I don’t want to fight” loudly. Usually, if there are adults around, that yelling of “I don’t want to fight” will quickly get their attention, and the kid with his hands up (not clenched into fists) will show that they are the victim. As they get a little older, we teach that if someone continues to attack you, defend yourself. As a parent, I know that defending yourself may get you in trouble, but I would rather you be in trouble than seriously injured. Plus, martial arts gives most kids at least a small dose of self confidence which translates into how they carry themselves.

    Good advice to Bean. It’s hard to stand up for yourself, and even harder to push back. 🙂

  13. Amy

    Like, like, like, a million times over. I think you handled this brilliantly.

  14. Casey

    Right on! As a Mom of all girls, I don’t worry about this too much but my older two know it’s ok to fight back.

    We did have an experience last year with a few boys pushing my daughter down at recess and while she was still down on the ground another boy stepped in and pushed them away to help her up. I wanted to go find that boy and his parents and hug them all.

    It is always, absolutely ok to defend yourself and others. Had I been taught this at a younger age I probably would have gotten through middle school a little easier!

  15. Our rule has always been: if someone hits you, you are encouraged to hit them back. You won’t be in trouble at home. Which is not to say you won’t be at trouble at school and we will fully support any and all consequences enacted there because rules are rules. But while you’re sitting at home during your suspension, you won’t be punished.

    You know what?

    We’ve only had one incident. A kid hit Hayden and Hayden turned around, put him in a headlock and took him down. Which technically isn’t hitting, but he definitely defended himself.

    I think that just KNOWING they have permission to defend themselves, makes kids more confident and less likely to get punched in the first place. If you don’t think of yourself as a victim, I believe you’re less likely to become one.

    1. Maren

      I agree wholeheartedly Mindee. My husband was forbidden by his mother to fight, AT ALL, and was bullied to the point where if he rode past the school he would vomit. Until his father discovered his mother had forbidden it and things got better…but damage was done. And there is still damage from all those years of being bullied and picked on.

  16. Sandy

    Just curious how you would feel if the aggressor had been a girl. Our son was bullied in elementary school by a (much bigger than him) girl. When I addressed the issue with the school I was told she also bullied the teachers! Since it wasn’t my proudest moment, I won’t go into how I handled it, but what would you tell Bean if that were the case?

    1. Maren

      I don’t know about Katie, but I don’t care if it’s a boy or girl bullying my child, I want them to fight back. And know they have my full support for defending themselves or another child.

  17. Way to go mama! You are not alone! We’ve taught our 2 boys- 6 and 4, the same thing. Don’t start it, but you have every right to defend yourself and if that means hitting or pushing, then by all means!

  18. Becky

    LOVE this!!! I really don’t think Bean’s size causes him to “…subconsciously backs down from things every now and then…” though.

    I think Bean has been given the confidence to stand up for himself when it’s something important to him. He just lets the rest go because it really doesn’t matter to him. <3

  19. Let’s teach love to all children. Kindness is a virtue that is unfortunately dying away.

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