Shall Your Boy Fight?
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
MOST fathers answer this question in the affirmative. Few mothers do so without anxious thought and grave doubt. It would seem a nobler thing for a little fellow of ten or twelve to refuse to fight and to endure hard knocks with patience, than to hold his own on the playground by returning blow for blow. Yet the lad who does this, whether he be younger or older, is likely to be misunderstood, and observation, in my judgment, shows that in boy-life it is often necessary to win peace by personal valor. A boy who is known to be ready in the art of self-defense is not often molested by the bully, the latter being generally a coward. A mother hates to see her little man of ten disfigured by a black eye, though there are many worse things that may come to him, and she should not too hastily condemn him if he stand up for himself at need in a fair fight. A boy should never tyrannize over one who is younger and weaker than himself. He should never fight a smaller boy. He should not hesitate for an instant to fight, if fight he must, preferably with his fists, in self-defense or in defense of a dumb animal, a little girl, a cripple, or a smaller boy. At least, this is the conclusion which I have reached after a good deal of thought on the subject.
Moral courage is a far higher quality than physical, and there are many times when it is braver to decline a fight than to accept one. Still, in a world full of perils, physical courage, inclusive of readiness, steadiness, poise and quickness, should never be at a discount. I should be ashamed of a boy who would not fight to save a cat or dog from persecution at the hands of cruel tormentors. I should equally regret to see in a lad the sort of bluster and boasting that goes about with a chip on its shoulder, ready to pick a quarrel with any one for the mere sake of strife.
Taking boys in general, we find them quite able to manage their own affairs without too much interference on the part ,of their elders. They have a robust love of fair play. Last summer, in conversation with a ministerial friend who understands boys and boy life, I was interested in his point of view. "I usually stand aside," he said, "when the boys have a dispute. As a rule, I find that if they are allowed to settle their own differences, even if the matter reaches the crisis of a fight, they shake hands and are good friends afterward."
Our boys are preparing for life in the larger world. Almost before we know it, they will be in college, in business, some-where in the thick of the great fight that is always going on. We want them to be morally and physically fit for the conflict. In settling for ourselves the question, Shall the small boy fight, or shall he refrain from fighting? we must think of his future. The one thing he cannot do is to run away. He must not show the white feather. If he declines a fight, he must be strong enough to show in other ways that he does it through no lack of courage.