“You’re Hurting Her!” A Story of Consent in the Santa Line

UPDATE Dec 14th 2015
Since this story was first posted it has been shared extensively around the world. We have received many comments, so many in fact that our website is experiencing difficulties, and is unable to display comments at this time.

Some people believe it is a made up story, or that it has been heavily embellished. Others have reacted strongly to the story and believe it is playing into unacceptable gender norms and other societal scripts.

The Consent Crew presents this story here as it is, an eloquently retold real life story of what a father experienced when he took his seven year old son to visit Santa. It does seem too good a story to be true- and yet sometimes amazing things do happen in real life. By presenting this here, we hope to generate discussion about the ways we teach and role model consent to both young people and adults.

We have added a short statement from the father at the end of the story.

Thank you for engaging in an interest in Consent Culture. 

This story was shared by a father, and is about his seven year old son, Sage.

“So, my son and I are at the mall, waiting for pictures with Santa. He starts chatting with a boy, and discovers they’re the same age. The boy is a bit obnoxious, so my son decides to play with the toddler behind us, instead. I will hereafter refer to the kid in front as “OB.”

The line moves at the usual snail’s pace. I hear “Hey!” and turn to see a young girl giving OB a glare. “What?” he says. “I said ‘hi’ and you were ignoring me. That’s -rude-.” My son also turns and looks.
Line moves a bit more. OB takes to yanking on the girl’s braid. “Scotty,” says his mom, indulgently, “that’s not nice.” He grins at her. I assume, at this point, that the girl is his sister, as her mom is nowhere to be found.
He does it again. Cycle repeats. -Then- the girl’s mom comes over from where she was chatting with her friends. And the boy does it again.

Santa lineup
Families visiting Santa in a mall

“Scottyyyyyy,” his mom says, looking amused. “That’s not a nice way to get her attention.” She leans into the other mom a bit and says, “I think he likes her.” The other mom smiles back, with that “Gosh, ain’t young love grand?” expression. The girl looks flustered, but not terribly hurt.

I look down to see my son looking up at me with a baffled expression on his face. I resolve, at that point, to intervene if he does it again.

He does it again. I’m trying to figure out something to say as the mom “Scottyyyyy”s again. Then my son says, “Stop that!” Everybody looks at him. “You’re hurting her!”

“Oh, sweetie,” the boy’s mom says, “he just likes her. He thinks she’s pretty. Don’t you think girls are pretty?”

I decide to let him handle it.

My son scowls enormously at the mom. “What does her being pretty have to do with hurting her?”

“Oh, he’s not really hurting her. He’s just trying to get her attention.” The girl’s mom is nodding in agreement. “Don’t worry, she’s fine.” The girl’s expression is the very image of exasperation.
And OB does it again. “OW! Stop it!” the girl finally snaps. “That hurt!”

My son steps forward, spins the other kid around by his shoulder, and punches him hard enough in the gut to drop him to his knees. “Oh my god! Scotty!” his mom yelps. “What do you think you’re doing?!” she yells at my son.

He looks up at her. Shrugs. And says, “I think he’s pretty. I just wanted to get his attention.”

The mom glares at me while she collects OB off the ground and pulls him out of line. “Aren’t you going to say something?” she yells at me.
I nod. Put my hand on my son’s shoulder. Look at him meaningfully. “Well-played, sir,” I say. He beams at me. “You PRICK!” OB’s mom shouts. My son looks shocked. “-Language-!” he says to her. They storm off.

My son turns to the girl, looks her up and down, and says, “You -are- very pretty. I’m sorry I let that boy pull your hair. That was not okay. He needs to learn about consent. It’s a thing.”

They spend the rest of the line-up chatting about consent while her mother looks embarrassed and confused.

My son gets to Santa. Santa asks him if he’s been good. “Weeeeellllllll,” he says, “I just punched a kid who wouldn’t stop pulling this girl’s hair.” Santa looks at me. I nod. Santa considers. “I’d say you’ve been -very good-, then.” He gives him an extra candy cane.”


A Follow-Up from Sage’s Dad:

Sage and I have been talking about this a lot.

One of the things that made him the most uncomfortable about that experience was that it turned violent. We discussed it at length afterwards — that there are different options to deal with these things. Compared to other kids his age, he’s remarkably non-violent. I have many memories of watching him stand by the side as a group of kids basically beat the crap out of each other.

As others have pointed out, kids don’t necessarily have the socialization we do. Violence is, frankly, more common for them. I viewed his response as measured and appropriate…for a seven year old.

In regards to the comments about “letting the boy hurt her” — he was apologizing for not acting sooner, not trying to rob the girl of agency. In the conversation we had afterwards, he was actually angry that none of the adults (including me) did anything about what was going on.

I don’t celebrate the act of violence. I celebrate that my son doesn’t buy into gender norms that say it’s okay to hurt girls and women, and that he was brave enough to act on it.

I think the reason the other mom looked so embarrassed when my son was talking to her was because he was pretty much repeating what we’ve taught him about consent. A lot of “you own your body,” and “no one should touch you without your permission,” etc. Which sucks, because I didn’t want her to feel humiliated. I kept hoping she’d pipe in to agree or something, but she just stood there and looked like she was personally getting crapped on. I made a few supportive comments, but it didn’t make a dent.

Of course, when I later brought up the whole “don’t you think punching him was an example of touching without permission” thing to my son, we ended up having a loooong talk about the few times violence could be acceptable.

Sage definitely doesn’t buy into the “boys will be boys” ethos. Never has, really. We’ve had to do a bit of de-programming to counteract the effects of television.

I had a fascinating discussion with him about de-escalation, and how women are taught to go passive in the face of male aggression. I come from a family of very strong women — while they do experience the same sort of crap other women go through, they immediately confront it. Sage has very strong female role models in his life, not the least of whom is his mom.

Little kids are learning about consent, but it seems to be from the viewpoint of “avoid” or “tell a grown-up.” These tactics don’t seem to do much good, as far as I can tell. Bullying continues to fly under the radar of most adults, who conveniently forget how brutally violent the lives of children can be.


97 thoughts on ““You’re Hurting Her!” A Story of Consent in the Santa Line

  1. Suzanne

    Kudos to your son, to you, and to Santa. How appalling that any mother would teach her daughter that physical abuse is not only acceptable but a compliment, and that any mother would teach her son that physically abusing a girl (or anyone) is not only acceptable but praiseworthy. And I was especially pleased to see the girl finally stand up for herself. We cannot just wait for a hero to rescue us.

    I understand why you mentioned that you did not have Santa’s consent in the context of this story, but the reality is that Santa already gave his consent for his photo to be shared in public when he accepted the position of department store Santa. If you wanted to post a photo of the man who played Santa, out of costume, then you would need his consent for that.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Omy

    I wish more mother were like you….. hurting girls starts at a very young age…. and learning to respect them starts at an even younger. I wish I could give you national recognition, because in which ever way you taught your child should be patented and pass along to the entire humanity population.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. AB

      The parent to be praised in this article is the father not the mother. Please not only read more carefully, by also reevaluate your preconceived constructs that only moms can teach their children well.


  3. I, obviously, don’t approve of hitting or pulling hair. But Good for both of you. I would put up with some shenanigans from my son’s harassing females was not one of those. I am surprised the mom didn’t step in and stop the hair pulling.


  4. Arianna M/

    Oh my, I was about ready to cry while reading this. So painfully true in our world that girls are expected to put up with this kind of behaviour because “he likes her and thinks shes pretty”! How do we expect these girls to know what healthy relationships look like and how to weed out problematic or abusive partners when we are literally teaching them to put up with non-consentual touching, violence, and harassment. This child deserves a million candy canes! Such a sassy and witty and appropriate response on his part and I am just so proud that he had the courage to do something!!!!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I liked the story. I liked a lot of it. But I didn’t like this:

    ‘My son turns to the girl, looks her up and down, and says, “You -are- very pretty. I’m sorry I let that boy pull your hair …”’

    I feel like why should be obvious, but I’ll explain.

    We know that one of the major issues around consent is that girls and women are often made to feel that they are not capable of doing things for themselves, that they need someone (often male) to step in and ‘save’ them when something goes wrong. It’s true that the girl clearly could have used some support, because her mom wasn’t helping, but the boy made himself sound like some hero who’s duty it was to save her. When he says that he ‘let’ the boy do that to her, it puts him in the control seat, and implies that she needed him. That is problematic.

    Perhaps it wouldn’t have sounded so bad if he didn’t look her up and down before saying it. If this were a situation between two adults, and I was the one with the braid, the other (your son) would have lost my respect as soon as he said that.

    He looked her up and down? Really?

    I think you are a great parent for teaching your kid about consent, but if it is divorced from a broader understanding of feminist issues, the impact is not going to be lasting.

    I just hope that from here you gently help your son understand why he was not a hero saving a ‘damsel in distress’ in that circumstance, but rather just a good person helping out a fellow human being.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Hi, I’m the dad in this story.

      I imagine there were many ways in which my son could’ve handled this that would’ve been better. I’d rather he hadn’t hit the other boy. I’d rather he’d have not mentioned that she was pretty, and that he’d been more conscious of the gender roles at play when he picked his words.

      However, I also recognize that he’s seven years old. There are certain limitations inherent in his age. There are many things I could’ve said, but a statement of significant complexity at the time would’ve undermined what he was looking for, which was approval in the face of an obviously enraged adult. I make no bones about giving him that approval. Broader issues around gender roles are a long term lesson.

      He looked her up and down because he wanted to ensure she was okay. It was not a “oh, hey, you actually are pretty” moment or anything else. What he said to her afterwards was intended to comfort her. He was trying to find something nice to say to smooth over the moment, and I suspect he mentioned her prettiness because it had been brought up already.

      He -does- view himself as a hero whose duty it is to help people, regardless of gender. He’s helped boys, girls, and kids whose gender he got dead wrong. His desire to help people is not gender-based.

      Liked by 17 people

      1. anatu13

        I’ve been in a few situations where I was the only woman talking with a group of men, a man said or did something completely inappropriate, and the other men did nothing. I appreciate that you’ve taught your son at an early age not to just sit there while these things are happening. Sounds like he helped the girl understand she could speak out for herself, too. Thank you!

        Liked by 4 people

      2. M

        I **love** that the boy said, “I’m sorry that I let that boy pull your hair,” because that sentence acknowledges that everyone who is standing around watching abuse and doing nothing, becomes a participant in the abuse, granting the abuser more rights to continue the abuse because of the now-established social allowance to do so.

        As a child of abuse, this sentence meant the world to me. Thank you.

        Liked by 12 people

      3. Good job, dad! I’m sure he told her she was pretty because OB’s mom said that OB thought the girl was pretty and he just wanted to make sure everyone knew that he agreed. And at 7 years old, I’m sure he didn’t “look her up and down” like some dirty old man!

        Sounds to me like you and mom are raising a respectful boy and I thank you for that!

        Liked by 6 people

      4. Briana

        Sounds like you’ve got parenting down in a way that many could learn from. Thanks for sharing and responding to the post above. Sounds like you are raising a wonderful little boy that will become an amazing man. Keep up the good work

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Rae Gerold-Smith

        Hi Sage’s Dad,
        Sage is awesome and so are you. I have a son – Dakota – who just turned 15. We began teaching him the same kinds of lessons from an early age with great results. So keep up the good work. And please let Sage know that a mom read your story and is very proud of him

        Liked by 2 people

      6. That was beautiful. Please give the little guy a hug for me. Good thing I didn’t tell the story of my son carrying the struggling elderly lady to her car from the Rippy Mart bathroom…you know, with personal space being violated and all. 😉 Why, emquizitive may have called for a public flogging.

        Don’t let the trolls steal your joy. 😉


      7. Heroes are gender-neutral. He must be a very mature young man of whom you are very proud. And a handful at home with that quick mind! (which I say with humor and sympathy as I had one of my own like that).


      8. Sage’s Dad.

        IMO Sage did nothing wrong. I agree that he was trying to comfort someone who was just sexually harassed and assaulted. He did try to use words first, told an adult, and continued to watch the young lady be harassed. Sometimes, its ok to use appropriate amounts of violence. Thank you to your son for breaking the pattern and stepping up. You and his mother are doing a phenomenal job raising him in my not so humble opinion

        Liked by 1 person

      9. If Sage is ever in the Stockton, CA area, he has a standing invitation for cookies and a play date with my mighty girl.

        It is important for *people* regardless of gender to speak up for those who are being bullied or abused. It’s a lesson a lot of adults could use.

        I assume Sage looked her over and told her she was pretty because it hadn’t really occurred to him to verify that before he intervened on her behalf- because everyone deserves a champion, not just the pretty ones. Nice of him to validate that she was pretty, but even better that he didn’t assess that until after stepping up.


      10. SusanneKY

        Bravo to your son! I think what he did was wonderful. When I was in third grade, a boy hid in the schoolyard and waited for me to come around a corner at recess so that he could trip me. I don’t think he liked me – he was just a brat and a bully. I fell and broke my wrist. I would have loved for your son to have been there to defend me, especially since my teacher did not think it was a “big deal” (you should have seen the look on her face when I walked in with a cast the next day). Please thank your son on behalf of someone who was bullied as a child. He is a hero!


      11. subjectsandpredikates

        I think this is parenting done right. Could you share any insight about how you’ve talked to Sage about consent in the past? It’s likely there are many parents out there who understand that it’s important to talk to their sons and daughters about consent, but are unsure how or when to do it. I assume Sage, at 7, isn’t necessarily associating consent with sex, as adults are inclined to.


      12. As a father victim of domestic violence, I’m glad he stood up for her. He showed her that real men don’t allow someone to be hurt, that hurting someone is not a sign of affection nor a compliment, and that real men can deliver a compliment in a respectful way.

        It just happened that they were in the typical genders of saviour-victim, but I suspect he would have defended another boy that way, or a animal, or an ‘ugly’ girl.’ The point isn’t the genders of helping someone in need, but the actual helping.

        Your son may be 7, but he’s a real man.


      13. Well said. I agree with you. Many of us have taken many years to learn what your son already has. You are both great parents. Even Dr. Joy Brown agrees with you that children need to learn to sort things out for themselves otherwise they will always be children. The discussion comes for a later time. This helped the girl with pig tails grow also. Her mom was not helping her self esteem by declaring what was happening was cute.

        I predict your son will do well in life.


      14. Irina

        I think your son handled it perfectly, don’t be sorry that he punched other kid and called the girl pretty,you’re son has a very good common sense and very smart boy!👍


    2. Seriously Lady….. Let the kid learn a lesson at a time…. If he is in a Santa Line I bet he must be young…… Also, chivalry is almost dead, i wish I had someone help me when I needed it. I am a Soldier, a veteran and can fight but I was still hurt and some men that were around could of have help me but they didn’t, so let the feminist bull aside and praise the kid by acting like a man at a such young age…..

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Clearly you and I have very different values, so I’ll pass on trying to debate you on anything. But I will reiterate for you the items in my comment that, based on your reactionary message, you clearly overlooked:

        – ‘I liked the story. I liked a lot of it.’
        – ‘I think you are a great parent for teaching your kid about consent …’
        – ‘… a good person helping out a fellow human being.’

        I would say the kid’s learning a lot, and that’s great, but learning to become a better human is a lifelong process, and I for one appreciate when people offer me tips along the way for how I can improve.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. On the other hand, you may be reading too much into this.

      He looked her up and down. That was followed by his comment, being nice and ensuring her that she was very pretty, but also divorcing that fact from the concept that it was okay for her to be hurt just because of that. Nothing in what was said, nor the way he acted suggested that he was doing it in any way that was even “benevolently chauvinistic.”

      Also, as to the part of “I’m sorry I let him keep doing that to you” isn’t a negative statement, nor does it perpetuate the notion of women being a weaker sex or any of that nonsense. You’re right, it did put him in the driver’s seat… but note that it spoke of the girl being younger. It’s generally accepted that looking out for those who are younger and less able to look out for themselves is “good behavior.” It’s also a known fact that there are such things as varying personality archetypes. Some people avoid conflict, even when it might cease harm being done to them. Other people belong to archetypes where “protecting others” is a part of their nature. The only thing we know is that he felt he should have stepped in sooner. We cannot assume just because he “looked her up and down” that it had anything to do with her gender.

      That’s the thing. If you look for something, it’s easy to see it. In this case, the reality is… he was a little hero. It wouldn’t have mattered if the kid was a girl, or a boy with long hair, or even a dog. The fact that he stepped in when they weren’t defending themselves shows compassion and a willingness to stand up for what is right. Even IF he did it “because she’s a girl”, the only reminder he needs is that “some girls, like some boys, are willing and able to protect themselves… some are able to protect others. Don’t be surprised if you try and protect a girl some day and she urges you out of the way to protect herself. Don’t take it to heart… just smile because it means that she’s like you.”

      And I think from reading the comments that Sage’s dad said something to this basic effect… and I applaud both of his parents. They’ve obviously got a good head on their shoulders, and have raised a boy with some seriously good values. Great job, guys!

      Liked by 2 people

    4. Alexander

      Frankly, I thought that the fact that he praised her beauty and took responsibility for letting the other boy hurt her was the best part — because it meant that he accepted the sort of feminism that affirms that women have rights, but not the sort that denies that men do.

      What Sage demonstrated here is a view of gender roles that gives men and boys a chance to be protective while still protecting girls’ and women’s autonomy, and to appreciate women’s beauty (as straight women, gay men and lesbians all do proudly in the case of the gender they like) while upholding their rights. That’s a view that gives both men and women the opportunity to respect themselves and one another, and it’s much better than the sort of zero-sum gender-warfare view that would demand that he protect her rights and not be proud of himself for doing it.

      Liked by 2 people

    5. cydianrake

      Yah, you are dead wrong. You are applying adult expectations to a child.

      Expectations that are entirely circumstantial already and totally based on intent and how something is taken.

      It is not a universal rule not to step in and help someone who needs help, in this case the girl was around 7.

      It is not a universal rule that you can’t look someone up and down and state your opinions about their appearance, that is problematic only if it is unwanted.

      It is factual that he was in control and could have been in control sooner, and he was a hero.


    6. Anonymous

      Abuse and bullying survive and even thrive because those that witness it do nothing. This is a point that feminists point out often. If this boy had stood by and done nothing he would have been criticized for being part of the problem. So now he acts and apologizes for letting it continue for so long without doing anything and still there is faultfinding? There are multiple ways the phrase “I am sorry I let him pull your hair” could be taken. I.E “I am sorry I was a passive bystander that did nothing” or as some would assume “I am sorry I was not your knight in shining armor that will only serve to further perpetuate gender stereotypes” is another. I personally want to give this boy that obviously thinks more mature thinking than some teenagers I have met (I taught high school so I am an informed source here) the benefit of the doubt. Especially since if his parents continue to educate them as they have obviously have been than if there is any more nuanced and mature thinking necessary for him on this issue I have no doubt he will learn it.

      Liked by 1 person

    7. Angel

      Holy chill out batman! Pretty sure this kid just meant he didn’t step in sooner. Seems to me he would have done the same for any child in that position. I hear “why didn’t someone stop that, why did no one step in?” But when they do step in its because they see the victim as helpless damsels in distress. A boy just can’t win with people like you.


      1. I am eager to respond to all of you on this topic, but I currently have no time to engage you in the way that I want to.

        Until I can address this further, I want to point out that my comment was far more balanced and less reactionary than many of those responding to me (including yours, specifically). I both criticized part of the response while showing great appreciation for the boy’s behavior in general. So I think “chill out, Batman” is misplaced (and reactionary and immature).

        I am also someone who is very critical of “outrage culture,” a great irony, since you and a few others are outraged at me due to your assumption that I am outraged. Nope. I’m solutions oriented. I’m growth oriented. I’m FEEDBACK oriented.

        You also seem to think I’m picking on a young boy. Nope. Not even close. Read again.

        I have more to say, but I’ll return in a few days when I can really sit down and respond to all this outrage. 🙂


    8. D W

      If the girl doesn’t stand up for herself *and* stop something, the it *is* a male’s obligation to “save” them when something is going wrong if it’s within their power to do so every bit as much as it is the duty of another girl to intervene if they are able. Just because a girl doesn’t stop something doesn’t mean that she’s incapable… that’s the difference between doing what is required, and doing what one ought to do. The girl *ought* to have stopped it herself.. if she can (we don’t necessarily know one way or the other with the information given), but the boy could.. and he ultimately did, just as he ought to have. He didn’t *have* to stop anything.. but he knew that intervening was the morally right thing to do, so he did it.

      So what if the boy looked her up and down? Telling someone they are pretty is hollow, shallow, empty, disingenuous, and possibly even deceptive if a boy does not take a moment to look first. How outrageous! 😯 Seriously though, I would scold any boy of mine if he told a girl she was anything without first verifying it, and being sincere about it when saying so. Empty flattery is worse than a useless gesture, and subtle things like the boy’s brief sizing-up was totally acceptable if he’s going to be honest.

      The boy was a hero because he saw an opportunity to do something noble and took it. The difference between a hero and not a hero isn’t when one *has* to be a hero… doing something heroic when it is required is not the same thing as doing something heroic when one has no obligation whatsoever to do anything at all. There’s a reason that soldiers who save their comrades don’t necessarily receive medals of honor, while soldiers who put their lives in grave danger to save their comrades do. They don’t have to put themselves in additional danger necessarily, that’s not required of them. Doing so is considered “above and beyond the call of duty”, and what is above and beyond is what distinguishes the sufficient (does what is required) from the exceptional (goes above and beyond what is required, often without any reward expected).

      There’s nothing wrong with a girl being “saved” by a good boy. There’s no automatic infringement upon her self-sufficiency because of that. The boy also was absolutely correct in stating that he was sorry he let the other boy pull the girls’ hair. The girl didn’t stop it up to the point the good boy intervened, so it was something that the good boy clearly could have stopped just as easily as the girl could have in theory. However she didn’t, and he could have too… his apology was that he did not intervene sooner (and acknowledging that he could have). Not that she necessarily needed it. Nothing wrong with any of that at all. Sounds like his parents are doing just fine to me. =)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. NevaJean jonespavia

    Kudos to the young man and to his parent or parents. OB was lucky it was not me when I was 7 whose braid he was pulling. As to preferring that violence had not been used, moderately applied violence often functions to get the offenders attention when nothing else will.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Marina

    Kudos to your son! It’s also worth noting that AS SOON as someone showed this little girl that she didn’t have to sit there and take it from OB, she spoke up for herself and told him to stop. Looks like lessons all around to me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Bethgael

      This is an important point. I see the “let” comment as an extension of the fact that the adults involved were defending OB’s “right” to treat the little girl badly, and that even if she had wanted to say “stop!” her own mother was telling her to keep letting OB do what he wanted to her.

      The moment Sage said “that’s enough”, the girl received a clue from outside her disciplinary sphere that it’s actually okay to not like what was happening and that she could say STOP.

      Her mother certainly didn’t, and Sage allowed time for the mum to stand up for her daughter before saying “all right, enough”. In context? That “sorry I let that continue” was quite appropriate. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Justin Fisher

    When my daughter was that age she took on the role of “protector of the weak”, and we had several calls from the school describing incidents of her knocking down boys who had been bullying other kids. 25 years later she is still a warrior for justice, now fighting for LBGT rights. Some kids absorb that ideal and it becomes a part of who they are.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. “My son steps forward, spins the other kid around by his shoulder, and punches him hard enough in the gut to drop him to his knees. “Oh my god! Scotty!” his mom yelps. “What do you think you’re doing?!” she yells at my son.

    He looks up at her. Shrugs. And says, “I think he’s pretty. I just wanted to get his attention.””

    I died laughing at this point.

    But seriously good for you for teaching consent.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love that Sage made a point of telling her “I think you’re pretty” without violence toward her. My daughter and her friends were active in “discouraging” bullies around them. I was always so proud of them when they did so. I hope Scotty learns that the difference between him pulling a little girl’s hair and a boy punching him in the gut hard enough to drop him to his knees, is only a matter of degree, not kind. Scotty’s mom sounds like a lost cause…as does the little girl’s mother. Here’s hoping the kids overcome those drawbacks.

    If we stand idly by while abuse happens, we *are* “letting” it happen. Congratulations to Sage’s mom and dad for teaching him that.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Green Swamp

    Everyone likes a misanthropic fable around Christmas time. This parable would be more realistic if the girl maced him, then got Tazered by the police and died in their custody.


  12. Laura

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. It makes me absolutely rage to see parents encouraging that sort of stupidity. It’s NOT cute, it’s NOT “young love”, and I heard far too much it as a child, while I stood with skinned knees and my dress dirty and torn from falling on the playground, waiting for my mother to pick me up from school because I had dared to finally turn and attack the much bigger boys who wouldn’t stop chasing me. And if you, the adult, had cut in, it would have turned into an argument about parents’ rights, & the girl’s mother being ticked because you didn’t think her capable of defending her daughter, blah blah blah. And all the while, that poor little girl getting it very firmly cemented in her mind that if she engages in even the most basic of courtesies (saying hello) with a male, she is then expected to take whatever he decides to dish out. But because your young man took the plunge, the little girl learned an entirely different lesson, that she IS allowed to say no, she CAN and SHOULD determine who is allowed to touch her and how, and just because the people in charge say something is okay, that doesn’t mean she has to allow it to continue if she doesn’t like it. Because it was your son who spoke up, the mother stood there looking embarrassed (for not defending her child) and confused (because she was being confronted by new thoughts), and lessons learned all around.

    Also? Yes, hitting is bad… but I about snorted coffee out my nose when I read “I think he’s pretty. I just wanted to get his attention.” Thinkin’ dude!!!”

    I didn’t read anything inappropriate into your son looking the little girl over, I took it as him checking to make sure she wasn’t hurt. “You *are* very pretty” and the rest seemed to me an age-appropriate communication that being pretty doesn’t have anything to do with letting anyone hurt her. This, sir, is parenting done right!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. K

    As silly as it sounds, I read the first few posts and was thrilled that people supported this. I was so thankful that there weren’t any crazy posts about how the boy being mean wasn’t old enough to know better because of his cognitive development. Kids know better unless they aren’t taught better. Good parenting mom and dad 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Frustrating beyond belief. Hello, mom, stick up for your daughter! When I was about 9, my mom went on a few dates with a guy, and his son (probably 8) liked me. At first, he was nice, although I just liked him as a friend. But then, at the company picnic, he started trying to kiss me in the pool–repeatedly. I told him several times he better stop, but he didn’t. We were sitting on the pool stairs, so I dunked him for a few more seconds than were probably comfortable. All of a sudden, his dad springs up, is paying attention, and how DARE I try to drown his son?! (I didn’t try to drown him.) My mom didn’t apologize for me because she didn’t approve of boys trying to kiss girls without their consent. Needless to say, that was the last date, and apparently eveyone at the office was lining up taking sides with my mom or the guy. More than a few agreed with me and my mom. Glad I had her in my corner.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. This was brilliant, and I applaud your son. Not for using violence, necessarily, but honestly? Your son recognized that in this situation the only way to get the other adults’ attention to the consent issue was to speak their language. In a manner of speaking. By the girl’s demeanor that you described, it’s as if she knew that the tacit approval of the adults meant if the boy was being cute, any self-defense she made would be disapproved of. How terrible that at 7 yrs old she was resigned to this until strangers let her know it was appropriate to speak up for herself and her bodily autonomy.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow! I am impressed…by your son AND by Santa. Maybe someday the Women’s Movement will even effect how babies are treated. Congratulations to you and your son. Sign me:
    An old feminist from Newburgh, NY.


  17. I meant to add to my previous post that I’m raising three daughters who are 15, 13, and nearing 10. I know that they all are self-advocates and advocates for others.

    Yet… my daughters ALL would appreciate a young man or indeed ANYONE standing up for them as your son did.

    I suspect that gender of the abused child aside, your son would have stepped in no matter who was being abused. I really hope the girls mother and that OB and his mother think about this and realize what they did.


  18. Kristy James

    Good for your son! You’re teaching him well. No matter what their age, girls should have a right to say no – whether it’s to braid pulling or anything else.


  19. The Lady from Yakima

    Works for me. I personally have no problem with an act of violence in defense of self or others. Sometimes it is literally the only way to end an attack on someone.


  20. Kelly

    My son is now 26 and grew up around family violence for the first years of his life, he would have acted the same way, I had a LOT of discussions with my children about violence, consent and abuse due to the fact they HAD to return to the situation thanks to the family court … however they have both grown up to be adults who are now teaching their children consent and to stand up and stand proud against this sort of behaviour… well done to this family and especially to the lovely young man for doing what is RIGHT!


  21. c

    kudos to the little boy, hopefully he retains those morals in life. the whole “they’re kids they are just teasing, it’s fine” stigma needs to change. 7, or 70 harassment is harassment.


  22. If my daughter had a boy pull her hair at that age, she would have no doubt hauled off and punched him herself. She had a short fuse. I had a girl pull my braid several times on the way home from school. My dad, being part Irish, had told me before that to defend myself. I took hold of one of her curls and gave it a good yank. She ran home crying to her mother. Her mother yelled at me and another neighbor who had seen the whole thing yelled at her, defending me. My daughter had strong women on both sides of the family also. I bet that bully will think twice after your son punched him. No bullying should be permitted. It’s terrible. The mother of the girl should have told the boy to stop it in a stern voice. It wasn’t a bit “cute”. That girl better learn to defend herself if her mother won’t help. 🙂 — Suzanne Joshi


  23. If my daughter had a boy do that to her at that age, she would have no doubt punched him herself. She has a short fuse. I’m wondering what was wrong with the girl’s mother. That poor girl better learn to defend herself if her mother’s that timid. My mother wouldn’t have stood for it. As a mother, I wouldn’t have stood for it either, but my daughter would have probably beaten me to it. Your son was a knight on a white charger coming to the aid of a maiden in distress. 🙂 — Suzanne Joshi


  24. I don’t think kids being mean to each other should be linked with liking each other, it gives kids the wrong message when they get older that in order for someone to like them they have to allow people to be physically cruel to them, this would lead to more abuse.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. cindy

    I think u are a great dad and I would have done the same thing if I had a son who could see that it is not ok to touch someone without consent . well done my young friend u will make a good friend for any girl it is also a form of bullying so I say hats off to u


  26. The reason women are programmed to “go passive in the face of male aggression” is because we can face rape, assault and death if we protest. There are not always “Sages” and we are not always with or around people who see this as assault (FEW do). Even those of us with good parents have learned from repeated exposure to abusive males that it’s safer to ignore and compartmentalize. It truly is a miracle more women don’t become mass murderers from suppressed rage.


  27. Martha

    Thank you for continuing to share this true life experience. I am grateful you allowed your son to handle this situation becuz O.B. most likely had a better subconcious message wih a “peer” teaching him how to behave than an adult. THANX FOR BEING A COMPASSIONATE PARENT!


    1. De-escalation isn’t really the issue here, is it? This was about children who were in need of some life lessons that they couldn’t have learned from their parents: How to stick up for others even when others do nothing; How to stick up for yourself even when others support the bully; How to use your words to try to de-escalate a situation, attempting reason before anything else; Resorting to force in kind as a matter of self-defense or in defense of someone else because the bullying party chose to escalate the situation; The bullying boy learning it’s inappropriate to touch others without consent; The bullying boy learning his actions have consequences among his peers even if not from his own parents

      Would this lesson have been learned as well had parents stepped in? Parents were indeed watching, and blood wasn’t drawn. I doubt that any of the parents would have allowed their little ones here to scratch, bite, and spit at each other, and I also doubt that anyone was traumatized. I do NOT doubt that all of the children will remember the incident for a long time.


  28. Angie

    Wow! I couldn’t agree more. I do not condone violence either but………….it’s not like the kid wasn’t warned…….several times. The reactions/remarks/comments from both mothers in this case were terrible. They did not handle the situation at all really, never mind properly, which is why the situation escalated! I agree with your views on the whole bullying issue. There is so much “anti-bullying awareness” in schools etc. which promote exactly what you said “tell an adult”. Well in my experience it does no good. First of all the bullies are sneaky little buggers and know enough not to “get caught”. Second of all, the adults either don’t do anything or when they do confront the bully, often times it only makes things worse for the victim. Kids need to learn at an early age that there are consequences and reactions sometimes to our behaviour(s). As an adult the consequences will be legal actions and if police are involved they’re not likely to be gentle about it. Personally, I think that young girl should have turned around and popped the kid or pulled his hair back and see how he liked it. I also commend your son on being brave enough to step in and stick up for the girl. The world needs more kids AND adults that are brave enough and willing to do that. Too often kids/parents sit on the sidelines because they “don’t want to get involved”. As for the mother appearing to be embarrassed……….well……….she should be……….she didn’t defend her daughter. She promoted, like you said, that girls should become passive to the aggression of males. What a horrible thing for a young girl to learn from her own mother.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Sometimes parents and teachers and adults have to be proactive. It’s not enough to let kids work it out on their own. Adults should treat it as a teachable moment.


  30. Brittney

    I love this. Bullying is a plague. Sometimes, telling a grown up is not feasible while in other circumstances, children are not equipped with the necessary skills on how to deescalate situations on their own. This says a lot about his parents. Kuddos and job well done in my opinion, for helping your son build the confidence to confront this issue square in the face and stand against it. My only hope is that I can do the same for my own kids. I hope they will not simply passively watch someone be bullied, but rather confront it and challenge it. Much the same with such gender norms as suggested in this story. Such things are simply unacceptable.


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