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Ask The Good Enough Guy: My Son HIT Me!

Dear Will:

I’m embarrassed to even be writing this but I’m not sure where else to turn. The other day my 16-year-old son, Craig and I were having an argument. I wasn’t going to let him hang out with his friends because he’s been struggling in school. Well, he was yelling and I was yelling back and when he turned to storm out, I grabbed his arm. Craig wheeled around and though not completely intentional, hit me across my cheek!

I was stunned! But the physical pain wasn’t even close to the pain in my soul. I couldn’t believe my own child whether unintentional or not, would hit me.

He apologized right away and I could tell he felt awful but now there’s like a distance between us now and I don’t know how to make it better.

I know you’re going to ask so I’ll volunteer; Craig’s dad and I divorced years ago and Carl only sees his son a few times a year.

Will, can you help?

Bruised in Baltimore

 

Hey BiB,

This is a tricky one. The information you gave me raises a lot of questions. When I read lines like, “…he was yelling at me and I was yelling back…” and “…not completely intentional…” it tells me that this isn’t the beginning of your problems with your son; it’s just the next loop of a downward spiral that probably started some time ago. It’s also tricky because, as a man, what I would have done is something I wouldn’t tell you to try. As a matter of fact, this one sent ME looking for answers. I talked to men, women, friends, family, and even a couple of people I didn’t know who just ended up in the conversation. Honestly, I’m not even sure I found the right answer, but here’s the best that I could come up with.

WHY YOU’RE SO UPSET: When we smack our children on their hands (or bottom), we teach them that being hit, hurts and that if they don’t want it to happen again, they should do as they’re told. After a spanking, a child feels hurt, upset, and angry, but they probably will not repeat the offense that got them the spanking anytime soon out of fear of it happening again.

Well, that’s what just happened to YOU. You were hit. It hurt. You were angry, upset, confused and had no idea what to do next, so you did nothing. Now the wedge you feel is a big ball of pent up emotion; you feel hurt because your child hit you, you feel anxiety because you aren’t sure if it was an accident, you feel anger that he could have done this after all you’ve done for him, and probably a little fear as to what might happen the next time you two argue. You may even feel like you’ve lost the upper hand and that Craig may have gained it.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE ANSWERS I HEARD:

…From my best friend– “If the father isn’t around, doesn’t he have a brother, or an uncle, or some other male role model? That boy needs a man in his life to teach him to respect women.”

…From a friend (male)– “She should have called the police on him. Let him spend a day or to in a juvenile home. And when he gets out, if he still didn’t have it together, off to a military academy.”

…From a friend (female) “If my child would have hit me, hopefully, I would have caught myself before I put my hands on him. We could have talked it out… but… no… I’m pretty sure I would have had to put my hands on him.”

…Stranger (female) “She never taught him to respect her or he wouldn’t have been screaming and he wouldn’t have hit her. It’s too late now. Put him out.”

…From my own dad “Son, when you were sixteen, if you would have hit your mother, even by accident, I would have snatched a knot in your ass!” (Man, did that one take me back.)

…From me “If my son had screamed in my wife’s face and then slapped her, I probably would have torn the fur off of him.” (That doesn’t make it the right thing to do; it’s just me being honest.)

BUT THE BEST ANSWER I GOT WAS THIS ONE:  “Her son sounds like he’s scared. He’s a kid, and he made a mistake. If he apologized, he probably didn’t mean to do it. Now he feels awkward and embarrassed. He doesn’t know what to say to her so he probably won’t say anything. She probably feels embarrassed too, but she’s the mother so she has to be the adult. After he’s had some time to cool off and think about what happened, she should sit him down and talk to him. I can’t tell her what to say, but she needs to make him understand how he made her feel so that this won’t happen again. Then they go from there.”

I know it’s not perfect, but it made more sense than anything I, or any of others I asked, could come up with. This answer isn’t about blaming the mom or punishing the child: It’s about trying to save their relationship, which, in this instance, is probably the best place to start. By the way, this one came from my own 16-year-old son, Malcolm, who never ceases to amaze me.  I want to be just like him when I grow up.

Good luck, mom!

Do you have a question for Will? He’s got a wealth of life experience and can tackle anything. Click here to ask The Good Enough Guy.

 William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.

11 Comments

  1. Cody Williams

    October 22, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Smart son you got, Will.

    I’ve seen this one before. It’s time for son to go live with daddy. Mom has served her parenting penance. A lot of it alone sounds like. She needs a break and some me time. Like the next couple of years. Let dad take on this responsibility fulltime. Teach his son how to be a man. Teach that boy not to hit women.

    I was taller than my mom by the time I turned 13. Hit her? Not even in my wildest dreams. Raise my voice at her? Not gonna happen. Snatch away from her? Nope.

    As a grown man that woman had me still firmly in compliance.

    Why?

    1. By the time I reached adolescence she had firmly established her dominance.

    2. Dad had firmly established his.

  2. Will Jones

    October 22, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Cody,

    I thought of the father too, and it was actually suggested by another friend, but a couple of things held me off from suggesting it:

    1. I wasn’t sure under what circumstances the divorce had happened. If this boy is yelling and swinging at his mother, it may be because he’s seen it done to her before. If this father had some “issues” (drinking, drugs, abuse, etc), sending the boy there might make things worse instead of better.

    2. The mother says that the boy only sees the father a couple of times a year, which makes me wonder if the father really even wants the boy in his life at all. I can’t imagine only seeing my children once a WEEK, much less every few months. If this dad doesn’t want the boy or care enough to see him more often, or is not allowed to see him more often for some reason, living with him is probably going to end badly and the son will end up with the mother again… but with a much worse attitude.

    We were both lucky enough to have come from homes where rules and respect were established very early on. By the time I was 16, if I’d went to sleep and dreamed I hit my mom, I would have been scared to wake up! LOL

    Thanks for the comment and for complimenting my son.

  3. Cody Williams

    October 22, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Will,

    I don’t want to generalize here (would need more info) but often young boys being raised by single women act out in an effort to get to their fathers. To get their father’s attention.

    My ex-wife has already said she will quickly play the ‘go live with your father card’ if my son ever gives her trouble.

    To that I said “don’t send him to me after you have screwed him up. I’ll take him now.”

    We settled for join parenting.

    A lot of very responsible divorced dad don’t see their children but only a couple of times a year. Careers, an acrimonious divorce and new families often keep men separated from the children they love. Dad in this case might jump at the chance to finally bond with his son. It may take some major adjustments for all involved but it sounds like that needs to be done anyway.

  4. Karen Baitch Rosenberg

    October 22, 2011 at 9:57 am

    What about just a quick family visit to see a therapist? If the so has probs, it might get help him to get to the root of them, as well as learning some coping or anger management skills. If the prob lies between the dynamics between the two, it may help bring them closer. With all of the extended family dynamics in our world, it’s a shame to blame it on the divorce only. Plenty of sons are raised fine with only moms for sure …

  5. Tiffany T

    October 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

    If I was the mother in this situation, this is what I (hope I) would do:

    I’d tell him that his actions were inexcusable, no matter how sorry he felt. If he did feel sorry, I would give him the opportunity to apologize & I’d accept it (as hard as that may be).

    After that, I would let him that if he ever hit me again, I would call the police to arrest him for assault & that he would no longer be welcome in my home. And I’d leave it at that.

    My hope would be to establish a firm but loving upper hand on this situation so that we could get on with our relationship and so that I could ensure that it wouldn’t happen again. Obviously, it’s impossible to control someone else’s reaction, but if her son felt truly sorry about this, it might work. And if yelling is an issue for them, seeing a therapist might not be a bad idea, either.

  6. Will Jones

    October 22, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Karen- A visit to the therapist is never a bad idea, even when things are good and you’d like to make them better. And I agree about moms raising sons. It’s twice as hard on the mom, but most boys end up just fine.

    Tiffany- My friend suggested calling the cops but this mother did put her hand on him first (“…I grabbed his arm…”). If the wrong cop comes to the door, this situation could be blown waaaay out of proportion. Child and Family Services, legal fees, and possibly even the mom getting into trouble for grabbing the son (it may seem far-fetched… but it happens.) Of course, if it happens again, she may not have a choice. The mother did say he apologize right away. Hopefully he meant it, and it won’t happen again.

  7. Juli

    October 22, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I have a son who has anger issues. I was a single mom who made him my son from the foster system, so there was no father to straighten him out. I had him in counseling over his anger, but he still was aggressive and mean sometimes, especially when it came to me inforcing a rule or expecting a certain behavior (chores, homework, etc.) Aggressive and mean eventually turned to pushing and shoving. There were always tears and apologies after the incident. I would forgive, and subconsciencely give him a pass because of his early childhood trauma. Well one day after one of these incidents, I was talking with the counseler about it and he turned to me and said “I hope you know you are training him to be future wife beater. That’s what they do; they use fear and physical terror to control their woman. Next time he touches you, you need to call the law” By me allowing everything to blow over, I was giving him the okay to keep doing it when he wanted things his way. A couple months later I found myself in my kitchen with my sons’ hands around my neck because I took his book away from him because he had refused to do some chores I had asked of him. Fortunately another person was in the house and stopped him from attacking me, but he then went after the other person, and for once I called the cops. To make a long story shorter, I had to call the cops 2 different times. The second time, my son was charged with assault and violation of the very casual probation he had from the first incident THIS time he was put in a program called family reunifacation for 6 months. He had to earn the right to be with his family in different steps. He had a tremendous amount of counseling, bootcamp like training, and tools given to him to deal with his anger. He has never touched me since. I wont say that it cured his anger issues, but it did cure how he reacted to those feelings. But my point is, you don’t want to be raising a woman beater, and society wont care what his personal issues are when he is an adult. A man needs to know that he can’t get his way by being a bully to anyone, especially his mom.

  8. Juli

    October 22, 2011 at 11:48 am

    PS…Cops don’t consider a 16 year old a defensless child, and a parent has the right to physically redirect their child without hitting or kicking. My son was 6’2″ to my 5’6″. The police look at all aspects of the situation.

  9. m.e. johnson

    October 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Don’t have a shoutng match with your children. 1) Mine were taught “you don’t shout at your mama. Never. Unless there’s an emergency.” 2) If as a teen s/he forgets that, if you shout back you have made yourself an equal and s/he will treat you as such. You say calmly, with fire coming out your nostrils, “Boy, don’t you raise your voice to me.”

    Through counseling or whatever that boy needs to understand just who Mama is… his forever Queen.

  10. Will Jones

    October 23, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Juli,

    Wow! Yeah, if the son is eight inches taller than you, then you’re absolutely right; the cops will definitely be on your side. And in your case, calling the police was the best thing to do. That’s what made this question so hard to answer. Teens act up in a thousand different ways for a million different reasons, so there’s no general rule for the best way to deal with a situation.

    If I understand you correctly, you adopted your son from a foster home, and my hat is off to you for doing so. America’s foster home system saves the lives of a lot of children and most of the families in it are wonderful people… but sadly, not all. Many foster children are taken from an abuse homelife, passed from foster home to foster home, sometimes abused and/or neglected, and end up with a whole new set of problems to add on to the old ones. Your son was very lucky to find someone who loved him enough to ALWAYS be there for him, no matter how hard things get.

    And you’re right about another thing too; giving him a free pass will not make things better for him once he’s out in the real world. I told the mother above to try and communicate with her son first, because this was the first and only time things between them had ever gotten physical. You had already tried to talk with your son, and he was already in counseling for his anger, so my advice to you would have probably been the same as the advice that you got from your counseler. No matter how much we love someone, NO ONE has the right to abuse another person.

    It sounds like you may have saved your son, and possibly his future family, from repeating his early childhood cycle. That, in itself, is amazing. The world needs more moms like you!

  11. Will Jones

    October 23, 2011 at 10:13 am

    M.E.- “…forever Queen”!

    You’re from the old school, just like me.

    I love it! 🙂

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