First published in the Fall / Winter edition of Family-TLC Magazine
Unfortunately back-to-school means back-to-bullying for far more children than any of us like to admit. Bullying is a very real problem but, fortunately there is a solution.
Bullies target those that are easiest to bully, and the easiest target is the child lacks confidence and is least likely to stand up for themselves. Unfortunately this is a hard thing to do for most kids, or even adults for that matter.
So the key is confidence; a person that is confident is far less likely to be targeted by a bully. A child that can verbally, and if necessary, physically stand up for themselves is going to be more trouble for a bully who is looking to boast their own confidence at the expense of others.
So how do you help your child become bully proof?
- Praise everything. Children hear far more negative statements then positive. "Don’t do this", "Don’t touch that", "keep quiet", etc. The general rule coaches learn is 3 positive statements for every negative one. This is a good rule to carry out of the gym or off the field as well. If your child is constantly being told they are good, and doing amazing they will become what they are told and gain the confidence of it. To strengthen this effect, surround your child with other people and put them in activities where they will hear those same things from other sources. The more different places they are hearing positive statements the stronger the effect.However the goal is not to simply praise for the sake of praising, it needs to be specific towards what you are trying to encourage. Praise effort, attentiveness, focus and other traits you want to develop.
- Teach them "Verbal Judo". Must bullying can be stopped through words, saying the right thing at the right time. Calling the bully on his statements and actions, making them hold responsibility for their actions. Simply having the confidence to ask the bully to stop, or asking them why they are doing what they are doing.Speaking confidently and saying the right thing can make all the difference, both with bullies and in life.
- Teach them to help others. Little things add up, and realizing that they have the ability to help others is a big part of being a confident person. Teach them to open doors, help with the yard work, and volunteer in the community with you. Lead by example and remember to thank them for what they do, even if it is small.Another great way to do this is have them working with younger kids in some regard. The act of "teaching" others not only improves their knowledge of what they are teaching, but also builds their confidence in themselves.
- Give them the physical skills. With bullies the ultimate threat is being beat up. Bullies use the threat of violence as a way to keep power over others. If that threat doesn’t frighten your child because they understand how to defend themselves. If they know, without question, through direct and repeated experience, that they are capable of protecting themselves. That they can control a bigger, stronger and older opponent because they do so every week against bigger, stronger and older (but less experienced) kids in a martial arts class, they will have the confidence in how they respond verbally because that fear won’t be there.
Martial Arts is only part of the answer though. It can teach them to be physically stronger and confident in their ability to defend themselves. It can teach them to stand in front of a class and perform. But the real secret lies in the way the child is taught, not just in a martial arts gym, but everywhere they interact with leaders.
It’s also never too early to start, don’t wait until your child is a victim to teach them how not to be one. A confident child is not only bully proof, but primed for being unstoppable in whatever they do.
Andrew Green is head coach at Innovative Martial Arts and can be reached at 204-505-2787, or through http://innovativema.ca