Don’t Back Down

This is Part One of a two-part discussion. Before you read my comments, you’ll want to be familiar with “Tough Little Boys”, a country song by Gary Allan that has been bouncing around in my head the past couple weeks. This is an extremely touching song that any parent will relate to, especially dads, but even my ten-year-old daughter gets it.

Here is the video, followed by the lyrics, followed by my comments.

Tough Little Boys – Video

Tough Little Boys – Lyrics

Well I never once
Backed down from a punch
Well I’d take it square on the chin
But I found out fast
That bullies just laugh
And we’ve got to stand up to them

So I didn’t cry when I got a black eye
As bad as it hurt, I just grinned
But when tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again.

Scared me to death
When you took your first steps
And I’d fall every time you fell down
Your first day of school, I cried like a fool
And I followed your school bus to town

Well I didn’t cry, when Old Yeller died
At least not in front of my friends
But when tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again

Well I’m a grown man
But as strong as I am
Sometimes its hard to believe
How one little girl, with little blonde curls
Could totally terrify me

If you were to ask, my wife would just laugh
She’d say “I know all about men
How tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again”

Well I know one day, I’ll give you away
But I’m gonna stand there and smile
But when I get home, and I’m all alone
Well, I’ll sit in your room for a while

Well I didn’t cry when Old Yeller died
At least not in front of my friends
But when tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again

When tough little boys grow up to be dads
They turn into big babies again

Tough Little Boys – Commentary

Today’s post is about the first paragraph, about the importance of standing up to bullies. I don’t think the typical adult is subjected to messages about bullying, and the bullying adults face is more subtle than with kids. Many people face bullying on the job that is harder to recognize as such than “Give me your lunch money or I’ll smash your brains into lizard spit!” More often, there is the underlying risk of losing one’s job or of being passed over for promotion if one doesn’t…

  • Work lots of extra hours
  • Fetch coffee for the boss
  • Sleep with the boss

I would like to think such occurrences are extremely rare, but I suspect they are somewhat more common than I would like.

Adults could learn from the kids’ messages, and sometimes it’s worth risking a job loss or promotion loss rather than a loss of dignity and self-esteem (I know, I know, this is not always an easy call).

I recall just four fights I was in as a kid. Just four because I was a coward. Yes, I would do just about anything to get out of a fight. But there were four times that my inner coward lost the battle.

Once the kid hit me good in the jaw. But I didn’t hit back. Just as in the song – “As bad as it hurt, I just grinned” – and after that first punch, it was over. I guess he didn’t know what to do with someone who doesn’t hit back.

I met the same kid a second time, just off school property after school, just as he challenged me to. He didn’t hit me that time. He said something about respecting me for showing up, and he let it drop.

The third time (I think I have these in chronological order) was a different kid, who also punched me in the jaw and broke his hand. I don’t know if it really broke, but he did go see the school nurse – either way, i like my memory’s version and I have no need to learn whether my jaw really was a fist-breaker or not.

The fourth time, I did run – but I will beg your forgiveness. The other boy did not try to hit me. Son a moved out of the way. He ran after me and tried to kick me. So I moved out of his way. Like this, he chased me around the school yard for about ten minutes before giving up. I actually recall him getting more and more frustrated and angry and I was finding it harder and harder not to laugh.

Kids have to learn to resist bullying, but so do adults. It’s worth watching some kids shows and learning from them. There are a lot of basic life lessons that many adults still need to learn, too.

This post was included in the Saturday Show & Tell – 8th Edition


  1. I wouldn’t call it cowardly to avoid fighting, I’d call it remarkably mature and able to handle yourself. Both adults and children are still frequently bullied, and yes, it is often the boss, who has financial power over you, who does it. On more than one occasion, I have left a job due to employer bullying (once, I quit on the spot, another time, I planned my exit and got a significantly better job). Our society does a very poor job of teaching boys, particularly to stand up for themselves *without becoming the aggressor*. Sounds like you threaded the needle very well.

  2. The concept of bullying gets a lot of attention these days, but I’m glad you point out that adults do it, as well.

    Thanks for taking part in the Saturday Show & Tell blog carnival over at Mental Mosaic: Even Home is a Travel Destination. Hope to see you there again!


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