Now that we are sending our kids back to school, there is the unfortunate topic of bullying to discuss. Kid’s starting a new school or entering a new grade may come across school bullies are should be prepared if the situation arises. Yes, martial arts is a great way to help your kids “fight back” against the bullies but there are also some things that parents should know when it comes to why kids bully and other ways to help their kids deal with being bullied.
Why Kids Bully
Kids bully for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they pick on others because they need a victim, someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker, or is different in some way, to feel superior, popular, or in control. Although some bullies are bigger or stronger than their victims, that’s not always the case. Sometimes kids torment others because they think their behavior is normal. They may come from families where everyone regularly gets angry and shouts or calls each other names.
Signs of Bullying
Unless your child tells you about bullying — or has visible bruises or injuries — it can be difficult to figure out if it’s happening. But keep your eyes open for warning signs. Parents might notice kids acting differently or seeming anxious, or not eating, sleeping well, or doing the things they usually enjoy. When kids seem moodier or more easily upset than usual, or when they start avoiding certain situations (like taking the bus to school), it might be the sign of a bully.
If you suspect bullying but your child is reluctant to open up, find opportunities to bring up the issue in a more roundabout way. For instance, you might see a situation on a TV show and use it as a conversation starter by asking, “What do you think of this?” or “What do you think that person should have done?” This might lead to questions like: “Have you ever seen this happen?” or “Have you ever experienced this?” You might want to talk about any experiences you or another family member had at that age.Let your kids know that if they’re being bullied or harassed — or see it happening to someone else — it’s important to talk to someone about it, whether it’s you, another adult (a teacher, school counselor, or family friend), or a sibling.
If your child tells you about being bullied, listen calmly and offer comfort and support. Kids are often reluctant to tell adults about bullying because they feel embarrassed and ashamed that it’s happening, or worry that their parents will be disappointed, upset, angry, or reactive.
Sometimes kids feel like it’s their own fault, that if they looked or acted differently it wouldn’t be happening. Sometimes they’re scared that if the bully finds out that they told, it will get worse. Others are worried that their parents won’t believe them or do anything about it. It is important for you to praise your child for doing the right thing by talking to you about it. Remind your child that he or she isn’t alone — a lot of people get bullied at some point. Emphasize that it’s the bully who is behaving badly — not your child. Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together.
Let someone at school (the principal, school nurse, or a counselor or teacher) know about the situation. They are often in a position to monitor and take steps to prevent further problems. Because the term “bullying” might be used to describe such a wide range of situations, there’s no one-size-fits all approach. What is advisable in one situation may not be appropriate in another. Many factors — such as the age of the kids involved, the severity of the situation, and the specific type of bullying behaviors — will help determine the best course of action.
Take it seriously if you hear that the bullying will get worse if the bully finds out that your child told or if threats of physical harm are involved. Sometimes it’s useful to approach the bully’s parents. But in most cases, teachers or counselors are the best ones to contact first. If you’ve tried those methods and still want to speak to the bullying child’s parents, it’s best to do so in a context where a school official, such as a counselor, can mediate.
And of course, taking them to a martial art school is an option. Martial arts is one way that will help to boost your child’s confidence. They will learn self defense, how to stand up for themselves, and be surrounded by a great group of people who promote anti-bulling. Plus, kid’s may be more open to talking to their martial arts instructor about a bully than their parents because they feel the instructor is likely to believe them and help.