In Sunday School a couple weeks ago, my third grader was shoved by a fifth grade boy in his class. In retaliation, my son stomped on the other boy's balloon (a treat class had been given), breaking it with a satisfying pop.
My first response was frustration and shame. I don't want to be the mom of a "brute" - a boy who retaliates in anger. I want him to be a peaceful person. I want him to be a mature Christ-follower who offers forgiveness and grace. That's probably way too much to ask of a nine-year-old. But I don't see his friends at school lash out in anger like that - although, maybe they do at home with their siblings and I never see it. My son doesn't have siblings to help him learn to negotiate things like this.
But there came a moment where a small part of me was proud that he stood up for himself. I don't want him to be arrogant or selfish, but I do want him to be confident enough to hold his own and seek help when someone tries to push him around or manipulate him.
As a mom, responsible (with my husband) for the social, emotional and spiritual education of our son, I am torn. How do we teach boys to be self-confident and stand up for themselves but not create brutes or bullies who use that confidence and power irresponsibly?