Dear David Coleman: My son is being provoked into a fight. How can I help him avoid it?
Q My son is 14 and just starting 3rd year. He is getting lots of provocative comments from, and demands to fight, another young lad in the year behind him. I have spoken to my son regarding self-defence classes and have given him a strategy to bluff/talk his way out (obviously in their lingo). What worries me though is that he's so angry at this stage (which is the opposite to his character) and I feel like he could actually blow. Have you any suggestions or ideas?
David replies: It does sound like this other lad is being a total pain in the neck, so no wonder your son is so frustrated. Being angry makes good sense, with that kind of provocation! The more you can keep your son talking about his feelings, the more you will help him to regulate them, such that he doesn't explode.
He needs to have assertive statements ready, such that he always feels he can respond to any taunting, showing that he hears what the taunt is, but doesn't care and isn't being bothered by it. Appearing unfazed is the key and so that too requires him to be able to calm himself down.
Avoiding the fight is fine. It takes an equally big man to choose not to be violent. However, if he gets attacked by this other lad, you do need to give your son permission to fight back. While you don't want him to start a fight, it is okay to finish one.
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