One of the most difficult challenges we can face as a parent is to help our child develop the appropriate social skills necessary to deal with a bully.
Let’s face it. We all have to learn how to interact with others in a complex variety of relationships and settings. We begin to acquire these skills almost from birth. Each attempt to communicate our needs elicits a response from our parents and we slowly learn to adapt our self centered behavior to incorporate the needs of other people.
But these skills don’t happen by accident. Children begin life being engaged with and interested in the people around them but are largely incapable of empathy. In other words, they lack the social skills required to put themselves in another person’s place, to recognize their impact and consider the feelings of others.
Bullies often share some common characteristics. They are most often focused on themselves and try to intimidate other people. In general, they have poor social skills and questionable judgment. They seem to have no empathy or interest in other people’s feelings.
Most bullies think they are cool and in control but others put people down to make themselves feel good because they are insecure. When your child is faced with a bully, the following are some behaviors that can help:
- Practice being confident: ways to you can practice ways to respond to a bully verbally or through your behavior both by yourself and with a friend or a parent. The most effective thing you can do is to practice feeling good about you, about being confident about who you are.
- Talk about it: if you are being bullied it can help to talk to a parent, a teacher, or a friend about your feelings and frustrations. It’s always a good idea to ask for help when you feel insecure or threatened.
- Don’t get angry, walk away: When someone is bullying you it’s tempting to get angry and fight back. But if you don’t respond and walk away, sooner or later they will probably get tired of harassing you. Be confident and walk away proudly. Body language like this sends them a message that you’re not vulnerable.
If you know, or suspect, that your child is being bullied, you can help them to build the confidence to walk away and learn to deal with the situation appropriately. Martial arts training can help them to develop the necessary skills to stand up to bullying with self confidence and a thoughtful response.
Although we sometimes talk about confidence as something that a person “has,” confidence actually involves a very specific set of behaviors.
Identifying these traits as desirable is the first step. Children need a clear set of expectations that they understand are important and know they must follow.
To help them recognize the importance of the goal, these qualities must first be labeled as positive.
Let’s take good posture, for example. In martial arts class the instructor would say, ”Black belts have their backs straight and chests out. You do want to become a black belt, don’t you?”
Or, ”I know you are good looking, so let’s accentuate it!”
Or, even point out the negative: ”When you’re slouching like that your posture looks so weak and I know that’s not case. You are a strong person, so back straight and chest out. Go!”
Stating the issue, explaining its importance and giving children a clear directive will help children understand the link — in this case, that standing up straight makes them project the look of confidence.
So, you’ve decided that your child is ready to learn something about self defense. Where should you start? What kind of skills and behaviors does your child need to know for adequate self defense and safety and where can they get them?
As a parent you may already be personally skilled in the art of self defense and understand the principles of personal safety. If this is true for you then you have probably already shared your knowledge and skills with your child and may be participating in a formal martial arts or self defense program yourself.
If not, here are a few tips for helping your child to learn and develop these skills for themselves:
- Develop a plan with your child. Rehearse commonly unsafe conditions with them and help them to learn how to use appropriate responses like running away and telling a trusted adult, yelling loudly or fighting back.
- Ensure that your child has several trusted contacts and safe places to call or run to in the event of an emergency situation or unsafe condition. Help them to memorize phone numbers and addresses.
- Identify and teach your child several basic physical self defense moves to use if they are being attacked like kicking or punching.
- Sign them up for a martial arts training program in your area. Most martial arts schools incorporate safety awareness, stranger awareness and simple physical tactics for dealing with an attack as a part of their program.
The basics of self defense and personal safety really begin at home so, as a parent, you are your child’s first, best teacher and role model. You might consider enrolling your entire family in a good martial arts program to ensure a consistent and supportive environment in which you can all learn to practice good habits for safety and self defense.
As a parent, there is nothing more agonizing than knowing your child is suffering from the emotional abuse of a bully.
If you, too, were bullied as a child, you know yourself that the scars can take a lifetime to heal.
Sadly, children who are quiet, shy and unassuming tend to get bullied. For such children, it is essential that they turn their attitude around and learn the steps they must take to avoid this problem.
Martial arts schools teach children exactly how to make the bullying stop — and it doesn’t involve fighting. Along with the martial arts skills, children learn how to deflect verbal and physical confrontation through role-playing exercises and guidelines.
We clearly spell out the procedure to use in dangerous situations: When they are harassed by a bully, children need to understand there is a very specific course of action that must be taken.
Martial arts students learn how to be in control during such situations – so on the playground, bullies get the message.