Bullying has been a huge topic in our national conversation lately. Everyone agrees being bullied is a terrible childhood experience and should be taken seriously by adults. As parents we teach our children to be kind and compassionate, and to not bully. Schools and governments implement programs to end bullying. We can try to teach bullying out of society, however, that may be a Sisyphean task. The reality is that no matter what we do, as long as there are children, childhood bullying will occur.
Bullies have existed throughout all of human history and parents have dealt with this issue in different ways, with varying results. Labeling doesn’t solve the problem. Describing “toxic masculinity” as the cause for bullying doesn’t address the “mean girls” aspect does it? Also, how many times have parents been surprised to find out their child was a bully? The more important question for many parents is how can I protect my child from being bullied?
One thing that experts agree upon is that bullies are basically cowards who seek out vulnerable victims for their attacks. They pick on the easily intimidated to make themselves feel more powerful. So, the obvious solution to protecting your child is to teach them how to not be a victim.
Sifu Karl Romain, author and Martial Arts World Champion writes, “As a martial arts instructor, I’m often asked by parents about the best ways to help their children to deal with bullies. While there are many approaches to the problem, I think one of the best ways is to instill self-confidence in your children. And martial arts is just one way to instill self-confidence.”
Sifu Romain offers three important takeaways about the benefits of martial arts training in his book, “The Self-Confidence Factor: A Parent’s Guide to Bully Prevention”:
Role play: For the same reasons you role play to anticipate tough questions during a job interview, role-playing a few bullying scenarios with your child will teach him or her how to respond to a stressful confrontation. Taekwondo or another martial art form is not much different. When practicing martial arts, we are basically role-playing various self-defense scenarios. When practiced enough, the student can recall and instinctively respond if he finds himself in a dangerous situation. At home, you can simply role play some bullying scenarios to help your child practice for any confrontation. When he finds himself in a difficult situation, he will have more self-confidence since he’s better prepared to handle it.
Teach body language and communication skills: Martial arts stances exude confidence. In traditional martial arts training, the posture of the attention stance is body straight, eyes focused and feet firmly on the ground. Also, instruct your child to breathe properly (calm breath equals calm composure) and speak in a confident tone to help deflect any immediate threat from a bully. Any action taken on the part of your child should not be done in a manner that might be perceived as trying to challenge the bully. While standing one’s ground with an air of composure – despite the actual feeling of fear – should be learned, and practiced, children should also learn how to communicate and create rapport with others. Using words to defuse a situation can help prevent it from becoming physical.
Take to the mat: Consider enrolling your child in a traditional martial arts program, such as Karate, Kung Fu, or Taekwondo. The training at most self-defense academies does not promote the use of violence, however, having that knowledge will help your child feel more self-assured. And if your child does need to defend himself, his practice on the mat provides a level of safety by allowing him to perform the moves instinctively when threatened. Besides learning self-defense skills, and understanding when it would be appropriate to employ them, your child will take away life skills and leadership lessons that will bolster confidence throughout life.
While schools have implemented policies to address bullying, we as parents must prepare our children to face this serious issue. Enrolling them in martial arts training gives them the tools to deal with this issue and many others they will face in life.
For more information, visit www.BlackBeltAcademyMD.com.