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If your child comes home with scratches and bruises from being hit at school, you’ll have a few responses.

First, you’ll want to know who did it. Next, you’ll want to show that kid a thing or two, but you’ll go for the more parental route and you’ll probably let the school administrators know what happened. And you’ll cross your fingers and toes hoping they will talk to the kid and the kid’s parents. But will you teach your kid how to fight back in case it happens again?

Marta has two older brothers who were protective of their little sis. When she was in grade school, a girl continuously threatened to beat her up. Both of her brothers, who also trained as boxers, spent time teaching her how to block a hit and throw a nice little punch in case she did decide to get physical. (She did, her brother’s tips worked, she — and the other kids — never bothered her again.)

We spend so much of our time as parents teaching our little ones that “hands are not for hitting” and to “use their words.” But stuff happens. Words and walking away don’t always work.

When is the appropriate time to teach them that if someone is going to physically hurt them, they need to physically defend themselves?