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Can Bullying Be Stopped?

Bullying can be one of the toughest and most difficult subjects to talk about or to discuss with your children. There are many ways or thinking about and handling these situations. Obviously, many martial arts teach self-defense and can be very beneficial to helping children learn how to defend themselves. Many of our families have come to us to help teach their children how to keep them from being bullied. I’d like to share my ideas and thoughts on this subject.

I think the first thing you must do is identify a few things about this very important subject.

1. What is bullying?

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. 

1. Types of bullying.

There are three types of bullying:

Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
- Teasing
- Name-calling
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Taunting
- Threatening to cause harm

Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:

- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling other children not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public

Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:

- Hitting/kicking/pinching
- Spitting
- Tripping/pushing
- Taking or breaking someone’s things
- Making mean or rude hand gestures

The next thing I’d like to do is to describe our philosophy on how we can help stop bullying. The key is developing a strong anti-bullying mindset and culture, along with a healthy self-esteem, self-confidence and courage.  One way this is done is by repeating a few powerful words. 

Here is a quick overview:

1. “Should you ever let anyone hurt you?  Should you ever let anyone hurt your feelings?”
2. “The adults stop the big stuff but I have to stop the small stuff.” 
3. The Three Strike Procedure:

- Strike one:  “Jill, stop that!  I would not do that to you!”

- Strike two:  “Jill, I already asked you once to stop.  If you do it again I will have to report it!”

- Strike Three:  “Jill, I already asked you to stop twice.  Now I will have to report it?”  Never more than three strikes.

- Reporting:  “Ms. Smith, I don’t want to get Jill in trouble but she has been calling me names and it really hurts my feelings.  I have asked her to stop three times.  Could you help me please?!”

Once they can protect themselves they cannot help but protect others.

Bullies need two things to exist:  Silence and Secrecy.  When even just two kids in the silent majority speaks up the process of stopping bullying has begun.

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But back to what YOU can do as a parent.  In concert with what we teach them the most empowering and life-changing lessons you can teach your child are about “Entitlement” and “Responsibility”.

Entitlement:  I can imagine your first response was “Entitlement?  Isn’t that the problem with kids today?!”  Well you are right.  Many experts say instant gratification and a sense of being entitled is a problem for young people but the entitlement I am talking about is different and is the good version of entitlement.

You need to teach your child they are absolutely entitled to two things: 
1. A home, school, neighborhood and life where they are safe and free of mean treatment or bullying,

2. A home and school where they can expect and receive support from people of influence. Meaning you the parent, and their teachers at staff at school.

How can you do this?  I always say the most valuable classroom is “your ride home”!  During your ride home from the dojo turn off the radio.  Put down the smartphone and video games.  Take this weekly time to talk to your children!

What to say? 

First, get your child to trust and talk to you. 

How?  The most important thing you can do as a parent, and especially as a parent of a teen, is to learn how to “listen without judgment”. This is hard to do because you are a parent but if you judge, your child will never talk to you without having this feeling.  Parents are used to evaluating everything their child does or says, telling them it is right or wrong, good or bad.  Sometimes, you must learn to be quiet and just listen! 

Second, the most powerful technique to get your child to talk about bullying (and discover if your child is being bullied) is to talk to them in the third person.  You could start by saying “Emma, have you ever seen other kids in school teased or treated meanly?” or “Have you ever seen any kids in school sitting by themselves at lunch or who others do not play with at recess?”  While kids, especially boys, are reluctant to admit they are being bullied they are usually very willing to talk about others.  But here is the startling part.  Do not be surprised when while talking about what happens to others they may be talking about what is happening to them.

So back to how you teach entitlement.  Use discussions revolving around these subjects:   

- No one, and absolutely no one, has the right to hurt you or your feelings,
- You absolutely have the right to a school, neighborhood and life without bullying or mean treatment,  
- You have many, many adults and other kids around you that will stand up for you and protect you
- You were put on this earth because you are special and destine to be great – no one has the right to stop you from getting this. 
- You are absolutely entitled to all the above!

Your home is very important and a place that needs to be where you’re setting the standard and creating the culture of trust and safety. While siblings will always have disagreements and conflicts, they should never be allowed to tease, bully or mistreat each other.  An anti-bully and a kindness culture must start at home.  Also, watch out for that well-intended Uncle George that teases your kids in what he believes is a playful way.

Responsibility:  Again, use the car ride home to teach your child along with everything they are entitled to also have the responsibility to make sure they are not being bullied or mistreated AND they also have the responsibility to make sure no one around them is bullied and mistreated. 

Two powerful things will happen. 

- First, after standing up for themselves they cannot help but stand up for their friends. 
- Second, often children may initially find it is easier to stand up for others than themselves. 

Finally, teach them that not only can they change the world but they have the obligation and responsibility to do so!

But remember the best way by far, to teach entitlement and responsibility to your child is to model it yourself!  You need to be the change you want to see in your child and the world.

Yours truly for awesome and amazing kids,

Sensei Randy Kopke

          



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