Bullying is something that touches almost everyone at some point in their lives, whether it's through personal experience or seeing a loved one face the challenges associated with having a bully. As a child I was bullied myself and understand how difficult it can be for kids who are going through it. As the owner and Chief Instructor of Aspire Martial Arts in California I've made it my goal to help as many kids become as bullyproof as possible and I'm looking forward to sharing some thoughts in this book.
Is Bullying Really a Problem?
This is a question I get asked a lot. Often it's by parents who either aren't sure if they should be concerned about existing behavior they're finding out about or who are worried about the potential for bullying to happen to their kids at school. As I already mentioned, bullying is something that will affect nearly everyone in some way. Because of this it's my opinion that yes, bullying really is a problem - one that deserves focus and attention in order to combat it.
Part of the problem I find with bullying is the way it tends to get swept under the rug until it's too late. On the one hand you could say that there are lots of news stories about bullying lately and that coverage about bullying is more prevalent in the media today than it's been in years past. All of this is true, but on the other hand we really only hear about bullying after the fact, after something tragic has happened. I'd like to focus on what happens before the tragedies and try to prevent bullying events from happening in the first place. With all of the technology and social media we have available now I think that there's a real potential to increase awareness and be proactive in order to lessen the tragic events we hear about so often. I don't think this solution will be able to eliminate bullying entirely because it's something that will always be around in some form, but I do think that we can get the number of incidents down much lower.
Being proactive in the fight against bullying is something we can all do, and the first step is to be as educated as possible when it comes to bullying. By being educated I mean do as much research as you can in order to form your own opinion about what bullying is and what it means to you. There are so many resources available today including online research, community groups, PTA groups, and local seminars. Once you have an idea about your own beliefs on bullying it's amazing how easy you'll be able to find supporting materials and ways to continue your education.
Another step to being proactive is being committed. Doing research or attending a single seminar about bullying isn't cause to pat yourself on the back and assume your job is done. As a parent trying to help your child become bullyproof you need to take that information and do something with it. You also need to continue seeking out new information and implementing it in your home so you'll be proactive in the fight against bullying. It will be much easier on you and your children if you engage in the process early and continue it as opposed to starting and stopping only when issues arise.
How to Get Educated
I mentioned that local seminars and groups are great ways to familiarize yourself with bullying and start to work on bullyproofing your kids. When seeking out different programs there are certainly a fair number of quality programs, but there are also some that aren't worth your time. If you're looking to find a quality resource to help your quest for bullyproofing there are some key elements to consider. First, did the program you're looking into come from a direct referral? Often those are the best because you'll be able to hear about someone's actual experience. You should also find out how long the program has been around, and if their up to date on any certifications or training that might be pertinent. Another big element to consider is if they're well versed on different types of bullying and if they'll be going over the different types in their presentation. There are many types of bullying including physical, verbal, cyber, and even teen and adult issues like bullies in the workplace. It's best to get some information about each of these areas, but it's especially important to find out what areas will be covered if there is a specific one that pertains to your situation in particular.
While finding a group or seminar that focuses on bullyproofing is a great strategy, there are also a number of things you can be doing in the meantime to help your child become bullyproof. One of the most important things you can do is focus on building confidence in your child so they have the ability to stand up for themselves if needed. Confidence is the number one deterrent of bullies because they'll almost always seek out weaker victims. If your child walks with their head down, speaks quietly, or can't tell someone to leave them alone then they may be a target.
My own issues with bullying were due to a lack of confidence and that's one of the reasons I recommend martial arts as an activity for any kids, but especially those who have confidence or self- esteem issues. I can say with 100% certainty that I'm a product of being bullyproof through martial arts because I gained the confidence I needed to not get picked on anymore. Just one example of how martial arts builds confidence is by working with someone who's bigger than you. If a child is working out with a kid who's bigger than them in the dojo and they see that they can hold their own then that builds up confidence in them. That transfers to a situation that may come up in school, and instead of being afraid they have enough confidence to stand up to a bully even if they're bigger. Again, this is just one of many examples of how martial arts can help with things like confidence, self-esteem, goal setting, and more. Martial arts may not be the right solution for everyone, but I can honestly say that I wouldn't be the person I am today without martial arts and I think it's something that all kids could benefit from.
Things That Don't Work
With so much information available about bullying thee days I think that one thing that happens is a lot of misinformation gets spread. One of the biggest mistakes I See with how people are handling bullying right now comes down to two three words - "just ignore it". These three words are often told to kids who are being bullied as advice for what to do, and in my opinion it's one of the worst things we can tell kids. Bullies look for weakness, and a victim who will just let them get away with anything they want is a prime target. If a kid comes to you looking for advice it's because they don't know what to do, and telling them to just ignore it is almost the same as telling them to get lost because you don't care. That's not what you mean, but essentially that's what your advice amounts to. Instead, take the time to listen to exactly what is going on and try to come up with realistic solutions that will last.
Again, it comes down to seeking out information so you can be educated and ready to deal with these situations.
"Just ignore it" isn't a phrase isolated to parents, though. Unfortunately it's also being used in many school systems. Some school systems actively choose to ignore bullying behavior as a way to avoid legal issues. They're afraid that if they acknowledge the behavior then they're opening themselves up to more issues than they want. Other times schools just ignore bullying because they lack the proper training and education to deal with it, and oftentimes aren't even able to recognize when behavior goes from bothersome to bullying. Again it comes down to being educated about bullying and taking a proactive approach to nip it in the bud before it leads to tragedy.
Limit What Can't Be Eliminated
While we're probably never going to eliminate bullying from the world completely we can and should do what we can to limit its effects, meaning that while there still might be bullying we can take kids and make them confident so they're much less likely to be bullied. It's not a process that will come quick or easy, but it will certainly be well worth it. I encourage anyone reading this book to take the next step by finding some type of activity or community group that focuses on bullyproofing strategies and learn as much as you can. Bullying isn't going away anytime soon, but with parents armed with knowledge and children armed with confidence we can work together to make the next generation as bullyproof as possible.
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