My students were having small group discussions when out of know where two boys started punching each other. They would take turns slugging each other in the shoulder in some kind of macho domination game.
I called them over to talk with them about what they were doing. Because I don't believe in rewards or punishment, I have to start off all of these kinds of conversations by asking why they were doing what they were doing.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: Boys, why are you hitting each other?
Them: We don't know. But we are friends. We don't mind. Really.
Me: Hmm. I've asked you before to not hit each other or be violent towards each other, and you said you would refrain from hitting each other.
Them: Yeah, but we are friends. We really don't mind.
Me: When I was a boy your age, I remembered playing these games. I would get hit and I would hit back. But I can distinctly remember wishing the hitting would stop because deep down it really hurt. But I can also remember not knowing how to end the game without coming across as a sissy. Even if one of you felt like I did, would you say anything?
Them: Probably not.
Me: You might be thinking to yourself right now that you are in fact, deep down, okay with the hitting. Maybe you are the one that is okay with this. But if you are the one that is okay with it, does that mean the other guy is the one who is not.
Them: Yeah but how will we ever really know?
Me: Maybe you'll never really know, so I have to ask you, are you willing to take the chance of making your friend feel this way.
Them: We never thought of it that way.
Do they still hit each other? Yes, occasionally they still throw the odd punch, but it's not very often. Not nearly as often as they used to.
They are learning.