You are right. You husband is wrong. Period.
I think you handled things most appropriately.
Just my two cents worth.
You did ask for an opinion.
The rules for adults are different from the rules for childhood. And your boy will understand the difference when he reaches majority. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a scaredy-cat when you are six or seven. Or even eight or nine. And you can't go around punching people out over trivia. It's called civilization.
You son should be taught the appropriate time to fight is when it is necessary to save another person's life or to intervene to prevent another from doing someone grievous harm. In all other instances, it is best to simply walk away.
Thank you for the response Caregiver, and I do appreciate your honest opinion. I find it almost fascinating how different my husband and I see this issue. For example, we are starting our son in a martial arts program (Little Tigers) for toddlers. My goal in this is because I believe it teaches discipline and self confidence, plus it's great exercise for mind and body. My husband thinks it will enable him to beat up anyone that messes with him..sigh. My husband is on the smaller side for a man and was bullied in high school. I suspect this is where this is coming from as he is a really good man who is a first class father. I believe that children will find anything to bully another child about, and that the best gift we can give our son is self confidence (we are trying) and that that is his best weapon against it.
If a kid is able to look someone in the face and say "You don't hit me," that is brave. It is not running away. All teaching a kid to hit does is convince him that the only way to handle aggression is by more overt aggression, a one-note approach when there are many notes that can be played, and an approach that only escalates things. That approach didn't really work for the complexities of our times even when we were growing up, and it certainly isn't going to work for the 21st century. It sounds like his preschool and everyone else who is teaching him besides his dad, are in tune with that. He will be better prepared for modern aggressions to come if he knows the way all other kids his age are being taught to address aggression. And it works better anyway. All hauling off and slugging someone does is make them madder than they were before.
As for the hill and the sliding, if a 2-almost-3 year old cries and holds out his arms for his parent, he gets his parent. If he does this at 12, then perhaps a gentle discussion of how to handle fear is in order. But at 2 or 3, it's normal. Your husband is jumping the gun, your son is 2.
I think it's great that he has a dad who will stand at the bottom of a hill and encourage him. Oops, you didn't say dad did that. It would be great if his dad had slid down the hill with his son in his arms. Oops, didn't hear dad did that. If Daddy wasn't there to act out how much fun it was to slide on a patch of ice, Daddy does not get to critique other people who were there. If Daddy was there and his motivation for telling you to yell to your son to suck it up and do it was worrying about whether his son like he was being babied, shame on Daddy.
I agree completely with all of the above. And I was raised totally "old school" in the late 40's and early 50's. We fought a lot. Waste of time. Besides its like I'd tell the kids on the playground. Its the kid who hits back that gets seen and then they get into trouble. And you are absolutely right that self confidence is the best gift that you can give your son!
Your all making me feel much more confident in the approach I am and wish to continue taking. Thank you. I do feel the need to say though that my husband really does mean well. He also does not spank or hit our child, he doesn't yell at him and he would do anything for him. He just is carrying the scars of some serious bullying when he was young. The problem is that in my husbands case he was a shy kid who didn't have any self confidence. There are a number of reasons for that that we talk about now. He is just so scared that our boy will also become a victim, and wants him to be able to stand up for himself. His motives are pure, his way of thinking perhaps a bit off.
Thanks again for the honest opinions. I will use many of the comments in coming discussions over this issue. I truly do appreciate it.