The video starts with a pretty typical preteen scene: There is a young boy playing basketball as two girls ride past on bikes. The boy greets the girls and is met with a sour response: "F*** you." The boy's immediate reaction is to chuck his basketball at one of the girls as she rides by on her bike, causing her to crash in the street.
This 24-second YouTube clip is quickly gaining viral attention because something about it doesn't sit quite right. We're not just seeing boys and girls acting up when they play together — we're seeing the first signs of a much bigger problem.
Now, to be crystal clear, we don't know anything about this young boy. He could be a fine and upstanding Boy Scout type who made a mistake and acted immaturely, with his aggressive actions unfortunately caught on video. We also know these girls weren't on their best behavior either, but using strong language doesn't mean a person deserves a physical attack.
It's the bigger picture that's the real problem here. We've seen these boy-meets-girl attacks before that are normally brushed off by parents as "boys being boys" or "kids being kids." But what happens when the 4-year-old girl who was punched by a boy at school "because he liked her" grows up into the 18-year-old YouTube vlogger who says her boyfriend hits her because he loves her?
That's the big problem we're talking about. After watching a viral video like this of a boy hitting a girl because she didn't like him back, it's easy to brush it off or even get defensive. Why does everyone keep making a big deal out of small childhood moments? Isn't this just one more story that triggers parents to overreact?
For parents of boys and for parents of girls, this viral video is important. Parents of girls can look at this clip and realize how critical it is to teach their young daughters to respect themselves — and to respectfully stand their ground when rejecting a come-on — before things get physical. And as much as we don't want to hear it, parents of boys have an even bigger responsibility here. While no one's accusing this young boy of anything more sinister than being a teenage jerk, we can't ignore the fact that we're living in a culture where rape and domestic violence are routinely swept under the rug.
Fast-forward 10 years, and one young boy's "innocent" altercation with another young girl quickly becomes part of the problem if we choose to not talk about it.
Yes, this is uncomfortable to talk about, but it doesn't make a situation where a boy hits a girl because he doesn't get what he wants any less dangerous. The best way to approach this is the way we've climbed every other parenting mountain so far, starting with those sleepless newborn nights: one step at a time. Whenever a story like this comes up in the news, talk to your sons about it, and explore more appropriate ways to react. And when your sons get older, don't let "rape" and "abuse" be the taboo words that you never bring up in your house.
It's not overreacting to take any and every opportunity to teach our boys to respect women.
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