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Double Standard: Violence, Child on Adult

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It seems very common for writers to let children hurt adults, especially if it's Played for Laughs and the perpetrators get away with it. On the other hand, any adult who hurts children tends to be seen as evil if said act is done, and tends to suffer Laser-Guided Karma.

One reason for that is that young children (not teenagers, who are much larger and stronger) are assumed to be fairly easy for most adults to subdue while doing little harm to the child if the child becomes violent, and there are few parents out there who would want to wreck their children's lives by calling the cops if they already have the situation in hand. Also, while kids can be cruel, they are also perceived as innocent as well as extremely cute, and since adults are considered big and strong and capable, the child is very likely to get away with whatever horrible things they do to adults because not only is it entertaining, we can also fault the adult for being too incompetent to handle a child.

Note that inversions do happen, as demonstrated by the Hilariously Abusive Childhood trope. The Enfant Terrible may be an aversion, but still expect heroes to show more angst about hurting a child than they would an adult enemy who was doing the same thing.

Related to Children Are Innocent and Kids Are Cruel. For a similar application of the logic behind this double standard when both the abuser and victim(s) are minors, see School Bullying Is Harmless. See Would Hurt a Child for when adults DO retaliate, and Hide Your Children, where children are noticeably absent in video games on similar ethical grounds. Can overlap with Annoying Younger Sibling if the child and adult in question are siblings. Compare Kid Hero.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Subverted in a particularly egregious story that revolved around a child psychologist selling Donald on the idea that beating the kids up was evil and that he had been stifling their creativity and should let them do as they please; Huey, Dewey, and Louie abuse the situation to extreme levels and act like whimsical, irresponsible brats. Once Donald catches on, he invites said psychologist home for dinner and a chat, and, while he pompously lectures Donald, the kids blow fireworks under his armchair. His clothes singed, his face a mask of fury, he leaps at the kids, ready to beat the crap out of them, while Donald looks on, a smug grin on his face.
  • Runaways plays with this frequently. Molly Hayes has punched countless adults and older teenagers, usually with only the slightest provocation, and yet it's treated as humorous or even adorable, yet any adult who so much as threatens Molly (or later, Klara) tends to be treated as a monster who's crossed a line.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The film Big Fat Liar tries to play the party kids and later Masher's son beating up Marty as a hilarious joke. Granted, Marty is a huge Jerkass, but those kids are only beating him up because they think he's a clown. Imagine if the adults did that to kids...
  • The Hulk Hogan comedy vehicle Mr. Nanny has a few gags that depend on this. Some of the pranks that the two kids carry out on Hogan's character include using a supermagnet when he's working out to mess with his 200+ pound barbell before letting it fall down from the ceiling. He dodges it in time, but it could have easily killed him. They also rig a device to electrocute him in the bathroom when he steps out of the shower. Of course, it's played for laughs because of the use of Amusing Injuries.
  • In Step Brothers, the lead characters Dale and Brennan are bullied by a group of middle school children, and it's played for laughs despite how miserable they obviously are. They exact revenge at the end of the movie, attacking the entire school and beating them up so mercilessly that it stays funny.
  • Subverted in The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. It's definitely ironic that the child is the one who sexually abuses his father rather than the other way around, but the abuse is still treated completely straight with Isaiah constantly gaslighting his father, threatening to kill him if he reveals their secret to anyone, and his father eventually killing himself after being so psychologically damaged by the prolonged abuse. In short, while a rare case, it certainly features a realistic take on abusive relationships, regardless of who the abuser and/or victim is.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Amalgamation", one of Mrs. Pryor's bratty child actors bites Mr. Conklin and rips his hat and jacket. Mrs. Pryor believes in the "progressive method", where it's forbidden to discipline or criticize a child in any way.
  • The Slap thoroughly deconstructs this from several angles. Spoiled Brat Hugo is cheating at cricket at a family barbecue, causing a fight with the other children and lashing out with a cricket bat. When Harry, the father of one of the children, steps in to stop it, Hugo kicks him hard on the shin, and Harry responds with a hard slap across the face. The whole rest of the plot deals with the ramifications to the various family and friends who get dragged into the ensuing hostilities between Harry and the boy's Beloved Smother.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia hilariously defies and averts this trope in a Season 13 episode where Mac and Charlie are being harassed by a group of boys who look like they couldn't be more than 11-12 at the oldest. Especially considering how Mac and Charlie are often the Butt-Monkey of the show, you might expect this trope to get into play. But instead of Mac and Charlie suffering Amusing Injuries at the hands of the children, when Mac and Charlie get angry enough to attack them, the two fully grown adults who are much larger and stronger utterly destroy the kids in a way that's far out of line and with a level of violence that goes way beyond what would be realistically needed to teach these kids a lesson. It is also utterly hysterical to watch.
  • Spencer from iCarly is beaten up by children quite a few times, most often by his archnemesis Chuck Chambers, who in "iTwins" flipped him over onto a coffee table, got on top of him and started slapping the crap out of him. While Carly reacts with horror upon seeing this on film, it's still Played for Laughs and she tells him "You really need to start working out", suggesting that it's Spencer's fault for being weak enough that a child could beat him up.

  • Illustrated in this xkcd, which shows how dark Home Alone would be if Kevin and the bandits' roles were reversed.

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • He has the following reaction on seeing an adult beating up a twelve-year-old in The Garbage Pail Kids Movie: "Dude, you're beating a twelve-year-old! What an asshole!". Then not a second later, it cuts to the scene where the roles are reversed: "Dude, you're getting beaten up by a twelve-year-old! What an asshole!", with the tone completely changing from shock to amusement.
    • He has the opposite reaction when he reviewed Mr. Nanny, where Hulk Hogan's character suffers abuse from the children he's supposed to watch over that would realistically have killed him.
      Critic: Okay, there's a difference between pranks and attempted murder.

    Western Animation 
  • The Boondocks:
    • Averted in "Guess Hoe's Coming to Dinner". Robert witnesses a child throw a horrible tantrum in the supermarket. He advises the boy's mother to belt him, which she does, and is seen as a hero by everyone in the store.
    • Averted in "Smoking With Cigarettes". Lamilton Taeshawn is a horrible delinquent, and the fact that he beats up his own grandma is taken very seriously.
  • Camp Lazlo: The Squirrel Scouts' attacks on Scoutmaster Lumpus and Slinkman are often played for laughs. This is averted in "Squirrel Scout Slinkman", when their manipulative and cruel behavior toward Slinkman drives the poor slug to become as nasty to them as Lumpus is with him, even after they realized how horrible they've treated him.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door revolves around this trope. Children beating up adults is played for laughs, while it's played as a Kick the Dog moment when an adult hurts a child. However, it is Discussed and Deconstructed in Operation: M.A.T.A.D.O.R.: While the "Bull Fights" are shown at first as slapstick, Numbuh 5 berates Numbuh 4 for taking part in them, stating that the KND only fight adult tyranny, and the latter discovers the sinister truth behind said fights (fathers are lured with promises of becoming better parents, and force-fed enough coffee to charge at anything) as he's pitted against his own father.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Vicky acts dominating towards her parents, causing them to fear her. This is always Played for Laughs. Imagine the reaction of the audience if the roles were reversed.
  • Family Guy:
  • Deconstructed in the King of the Hill episode "Hank's Bully." Hank is harassed by a 10-year-old, who goes so far as to destroy Hank's lawn with his bike. His parents, however, refuse to intervene, thinking their son's antics as adorable. When Hank actually retaliates against the kid and takes the bike, he gets the police called on him, but they don't believe Hank is being mistreated. Hank comes across a solution: sic Bobby on the kid's parents. After a day of the same treatment, the brat's parents finally decide to punish their son.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Almost all the beatdown victims are adult villains, mostly male. While these are often portrayed as heroic when the Powerpuff Girls dish it out, it's portrayed as villainous and straight-up abusive when the roles are reversed.
    • Averted in "Moral Decay": Buttercup decides to take advantage of beating up bad guys so she can collect their teeth and get money from the tooth fairy, even when they weren't doing anything wrong. Blossom and Bubbles are so disgusted with Buttercup's behavior, they let the bad guys break her teeth to repay the favor. As a final twist of the knife, the Professor uses her tooth fairy money to pay for her dental bills.
  • The Proud Family: On the Thingy episode, a group of toddlersnote  beat up Oscar and nobody call for help. Imagine the roles reversed.
  • In The Simpsons, episode "Two Bad Neighbors", George H. W. Bush is a guest character. The first act of the episode has Bart floating around the former president as a wannabe Dennis the Menace, simply causing havoc and Mr. Bush being unable to do more than fume while his wife is oblivious about Bart's antics and thinking he's a nice kid. When Bart shreds Mr. Bush's autobiography, the former president has had enough and spanks Bart's bottom once before sending him home to "think about what he had done". Bart's response: go to Homer and tell him that Mr. Bush had hit him, making both guys (who had been chums during the first act) go on the (increasingly serious) warpath. At least once during the next two acts, Mr. Bush tells Homer that Bart deserved it because of destroying his autobiography and other havoc and wants an apology, but Bart doesn't want to give it and Homer doesn't care about it; Bush hit his kid, and Homer wants payback (hypocritical because, you know, the throttlings).
  • This is implied in SpongeBob SquarePants in the episode "The Bully", with Flats bullying his father, and his father being scared.

    Real Life 
  • This occurs in school systems frequently. Minors, especially teenagers, are aware of the fact that teachers will put themselves at risk for termination, lawsuits, and/or jail time should they ever physically assault their students. So students exploit this trope by engaging in unruly behavior, such as disruption of the class, destruction of school property, theft of the teachers' belongings, fighting, yelling, insubordination, horseplay, and using fighting words to provoke adults to assault them. This is also because students are aware of the fact that they will not face any legal repercussions for their actions.
  • Averted in a viral video in 2018 where a 10-year-old boy was harassing and shoving an adult man. The man finally has enough and shoves the boy to the ground at which point the boy tries to pull a Wounded Gazelle Gambit. Luckily everyone saw what had been going on prior and everyone including people who saw the video was on the man's side.