By: Ray Hughes
I was that kid. Seems like yesterday; the mental and physical pain, the shame and humiliation, the powerless feeling. I remember staring at the clock, not wanting the last class to end because of the impending doom.
Not only is abuse horrible, but so is the hopelessness a child feels not being able to tell anyone for fear of making things worse. Most children have a hard time asking for help.
The majority of parents, when they realize there is a problem, try to fix it. Though some things can and should be done, such as identifying the bully and so on, the solution more often than not has to come from the child, for two reasons; first to resolve the current situation and second, to develop future skills.
Bullying comes in many forms and kids need to develop the skills to handle it. These skills are best taught, not just left to a child to figure out. It may take years for kids to sort it all out alone. Some never do. Then a parent’s worst nightmare can happen.
Plan and Practice
Kids need an actual plan to handle bullying abuse. Simply telling a child to walk away, ignore the bully, or fight back is not enough. The child must understand the importance of things like posture, eye contact and the power of words, and have some idea what to do if the situation turns physical. If not, they are left to flounder.
Along with a plan comes practice. As in most any endeavor, discussion is not enough. Role playing and rehearsal are necessary.
- Act confidently
- Be aware of surroundings
- Enhance posture and verbal skills
- Review potential bullying scenarios
- Consider such things as physical fitness and formal self-defense techniques
- Rehearse realistic posture and position (stance) in a confrontation.
- Work on maintaining eye contact. Role play
- Drill verbal skills; don’t touch me, back off, etc. Strong voice.
- Run through techniques for various confrontations, including physical altercations.
The parent can do a lot to help. Many parents have experienced bullying themselves and understand the importance of things like posture and confidence. They can role play scenarios with their children.
I recommend a great booklet, Bully Games, by Dana Sherman, PH.D. It covers bullying situations and strategies to resolve them. It’s available on Amazon.
Kids, however, need structured practice, theory isn’t enough. Parents can talk, but nothing beats some exposure to pursuits like wrestling, boxing, and martial arts to instill confidence. I have seen it time and again for forty years. When a child has some idea what to do physically, their confidence jumps. This, alone, will minimize bullying.
And if bullying results in actual physical conflict, at least the child with some training will have a legitimate chance of defending themselves. Martial arts programs often go further than sports like wrestling and boxing because they focus on drills designed to help children perform under pressure and manage stress. Actual role playing on conflict resolutions is also often part of a good curriculum.
In summary, the secret to help children be prepared for bullying situations – Plan and Practice.
Ray Hughes is the President of both USA Karate Arizona ASO and Arizona Wado, owner of Scottsdale Martial Arts Center, on the Governance Board of USA Karate, and editor of both the monthly international newsletter “Karate: Philosophy, History, & Events” and USA Karate Arizona ASO newsletter.