“I was just defending myself.”
I hear this frequently from clients who were in a fight. When I ask for the whole story, if often sounds a little like this:
“The guy called me a name and I called him one back. This happened a few times. He then pushed me. I punched him and kept punching him till the security officer pulled me off.”
I work with the kid to understand that most of his account of what happened shows that he was not defending himself. First, I help him see that he had options to stick up for himself without calling names back. I teach people to be assertive instead of aggressive.
Next, I help the client understand that I never want them to be physically harmed nor feel that they have to do nothing when someone is physically aggressive with them. (I understand why schools give consequence when both kids hit even if only one kid truly started it. I have seen though, that those really defending themselves receive minimal consequences compared to those who become the aggressor.) I connect, for them, the minute they stopped defending themselves and became the aggressor. Can you spot it? It is when they punched the kid repeatedly.
We have a right to do what is necessary to get someone away from us and get ourselves to a safe place. We do not, have a right to completely beat up someone when we are no longer in danger. This is especially true in a school or another location where there is help nearby. So I would understand a kid pushing the other kid back or even throwing one punch. I can’t justify my client repeatedly punching another student.
Lastly, I try to work with my client to see if the situation could have been avoided. Were there signs that a conflict was going to occur?
I know others may disagree and would love to hear some opinions.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.