Is it ever OK teach our boys to fight? [video]

I warn you, the video below is incredibly disturbing. It hurt my heart so much to watch that I barely made it through the entire 1 minute and 39 seconds.

No baby animals die. No small children cry. No terrible car accident happens while teens are laughing, texting, and driving the family SUV. It's just a teenage boy starting a fight with another kid he says has been taunting him -- while his mother cheers him on.

The mother's aggression is not just disturbing to watch on video. A passer-by is shown intervening in the fight and asking the mother why she would encourage her son to fight with another kid and what kind of role model she is for them both. It plays out like a slow-rolling train wreck and the consequences are more than bloody noses.

One repercussion was the arrest of the mother, Jennifer Zuniga, 33, from Ceres, California. After police reportedly received an anonymous tip on a crime helpline, Zuniga was arrested and now faces charges for child endangerment and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

"Jennifer can be heard and seen in the video yelling and encouraging her son to batter the other juvenile. Jennifer is heard yelling a barrage of profanities and enticing the fight," Ceres Police said in a released statement.

This follows the arrest of a Florida mother last fall. That parent could serve up to five years for allegedly encouraging her son to fight.

Police intervention and possible jail time isn't the only outcome of the fight involving Jennifer Zuniga's son and another boy. As Zuniga goads her child by yelling things like, "You better handle that sh-t!" and "F--k him up already!", a really uncomfortable question remains -- what is the lesson here?

Perhaps this disturbs me so much because I have a boy of my own and although he is only six, we've already had to address the issue of when to fight and how to fight. I had no idea that would start in preschool. I also had no idea it would be something recurring and so important, or that, as a single mother, I would be addressing alone.

It began when he was being harassed by a smallish kid with big manipulative skills in pre-K. My son was four at the time, the bully was a year older. Guided by a wonderful preschool teacher, we tried to deal with it many ways. There was a Wheel of Choices that included options for responding to conflict that ranged from walking away to choosing a new friend to saying that the act resulted in hurt feelings and asking for an apology. There were class meetings in school and role playing at home. There were discussions about what kinds of friends to choose and boundaries of behavior and nonviolent ways to react to hitting and taunting. Then, on the last day of school, that kid punched my kid. My son tried to tell a teacher but was dismissed. The bully lied and made it all worse.

"He punched me right in the heart," my little boy said to me through tears. And I felt the blow, too.

After all the work we'd done all year, after all the ways my boy tried to stand up to him and duck away, I said words I never anticipating saying.

"If that boy -- and only that boy -- ever hurts your body like that again, I want you to hit him back as hard as you can."

There was a nod in agreement. There was a feeling of decisiveness and empowerment. That bully transferred schools but after another child has pushed the line, I certainly have wondered when we will have that conversation again.

I grew up knowing full well how mean girls can torture their classmates. But the retaliations and responses my mother helped me craft were mostly snappy retorts and eye rolling and trying not to care. Amidst the seven years of phone call hang-ups and lies and gossip and insults, the prospect of physical violence never once occurred to me. Now, I feel both protective and lost in guiding my son through the strange world of standing up for yourself.

Many of the men I know told me during that time that I'd have to accept that he'd eventually get into a fight and I might even have to tell him it was OK, possibly even show him how to throw a punch. It terrified me. My head screamed with "no no no, not my boy" and "there has to be a better way!" and all kinds of answers I am sure they thought were very mama-ish. I signed him up for Tae Kwon Do instead, choosing the "peaceful warrior" route rather than the "closed fist" route. Martial arts speaks to his small but expansive soul and I'm grateful he has a teacher who talks regularly about how to react to bullying like a black belt.

So far, it has given my son words and actions that support him in developing character and integrity and core strength. That works. Of course, he's only in kindergarten and first grade (or sixth or ninth) could be much more complicated and intense.

When I see him on the mat, practicing combinations and high kicks, I can envision him in the future. It makes me proud. This is what I thought of when I saw Jennifer Zuniga's son, throwing punches and being taunted by his mother for not going at another kid hard enough. What kind of man is she asking him to become? Where will this lead? Thinking about Jennifer Zuniga's son, rolling around in the grass with another teen who apparently taunted him, made me feel just as badly as I did to hear my own boy had been punched. Perhaps he was bullied by his mother, not just this other kid.

Or maybe it was only a fight, one like most boys eventually get in. Except that his mother not only said it was OK (perhaps as I did with my boy), she pushed and pushed for it to escalate. There's a line there that she crossed. But let's be honest, it could be a fine one.

How do we, as parents (and particularly mothers), teach our children (and in these cases, boys) how to stand up for themselves, to be strong, to be assured without going as far as Zuniga did?

When is it OK to tell our sons they can raise a fist to a bully? How long and hard do we have to nonviolently resist before we sanction a bloody nose? What are we telling them if we advise backing away and what are we telling them if we push them forward?

It's complicated. It's tough. It's navigating in a whole new world, at least for me. And even in the most healthy of situations, it feels like a jab to the heart.

So what's been your answer, at least so far, in parenting: Is it ever OK to approve of your child getting into a fist fight?