Well, I’m so glad you asked! The idea is to empower your child and give them confidence (to be both; a deterrent for a bully & know how to handle one). But first, lets identify the problem…
Every year thousands of children fall victim to the persecution of bullying and every day over 150,000 students miss school because of the fear of confrontation. It is estimated that more than half of the kids that attend public school are at one point targeted by a bully and many children are bullied on a regular basis. Bullying by definition is intimidation or domination toward someone perceived as weaker, a way to establish superiority through coercion or force, and can come in many forms including a new trend developing on social networks. While some people may see bullying as a normal part of the childhood experience, parents need to understand the long lasting effects and impact that a bully may be having on their children.
Many of the children who are constantly harassed by bullies understand that they need to say or do something but simply lack the confidence or skill to take the necessary action. This passive attitude towards confrontation fuels the bully’s power over the child and breeds long lasting fear that can effect grades, and attendance at school in the short term and often leads to issues with self confidence and social interaction later in life. In some cases it has even been reported that the threat of a bully can cause extreme depression and even thoughts of suicide.
I recall coming across this story of a 14 year old boy who took his own life on September 18, 2011. This is just the most recent atrocious result of Bullying. Some stories never get told. Or sometimes they’re told – and no one ever listens. As an example, this 14 year old – Jamey Rodemeyer – had just posted on his Facebook 5 days before his death:
“I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens, what do I have to do so people will listen to me?”
Think about that for a second. Here was this 14 year old – reaching out to someone…anyone…to just listen to him and help him with his being bullied.
So, lets start here first. This isn’t the “sexy” answer that we all look for when it comes to “bully-proofing” your kids (that part is coming a little later, no worries). The most important role you have in all this is to care for each other. If you are a parent: be involved…be so involved that your child isn’t seeking an ear out in the social networks because they have one at home. If you’re a peer/child/student: socialize outside of your circle. I know this is easier said than done – I remember school days and it’s not the easiest to separate from the cliques. However, if you pride yourself in being a leader – than take the lead here: reach out to other kids that you normally wouldn’t…a simple “hello, how are you?” goes a long way. It may not seem easy at first, but soon you’ll find your peers looking up to you and you can inspire others with your actions.
There’s are 2 Mother Teresa quotes that I always loved that say: “There is no greater sickness today in the world, than lack of love” & “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved”.
We must make it our responsibility to encourage and love one another (family, friends, acquaintances, strangers). Without this, some are left with this ‘most terrible poverty’.
So, we’re identified the problem.
We’ve identified our personal responsibility.
Now is time for the empowerment!
This section is primarily for those in a situation where they want to empower their child to have more confidence in their everyday life – including how they deal with their peers/friends (creating LEADERS instead of followers) and how they deal with bullies& adversity.
For this, I HIGHLY encourage enrolling your child into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). I know, I know: “What is this Brazilian thing you just proposed in which I can’t pronounce the 2 ‘J’-words??!”
Jiu Jitsu translates in Japanese to “The Gentle Art”. It is a Martial Art & Self Defense system that focuses on grappling and ground fighting.
So, no – I’m not proposing your child become the next Ultimate Fighting Champion. However, Jiu Jitsu is a little different than just “Self Defense”…I like it referred as “Soft Defense”. Defending oneself without necessarily injuring, striking or attacking another individual.
It’s also not as simple as teaching them a couple moves and letting them run wild. There is a full system to Bully-Proofing your child:
The main function of the Bully Proof Program is to make children more confident in their ability to deal with conflict by giving them the physical skills and mental training to stand up for themselves. Studies have shown that the most effective method to neutralizing a bully is to take away their perceived power by eliminating fear through direct confrontation. In many cases simply telling a bully to stop an action is enough to discourage further harassment of a child. Yet, in some cases a verbal confrontation will not solve the problem and as a last resort physical action may need to be taken. Throughout the Bully Proof Program an emphasis is placed on conflict resolution and the appropriate rules for engagement. Children learn the three T’s Talk, Tell and Tackle as a last resort. It is very important that your child understand that violence is not the primary or preferred solution and that only after they have tried to talk to the bully and told an adult about the problem and expired all options should a tackle and grapple using specific training in leverage, locks and holds be used to subdue the bully in a relatively non-violent fashion be employed.
The program is not designed to encourage violence or turn the bullied into the bully, only to give children the skills and knowledge to handle challenging situations.
I sincerily encourage you to look into enrolling your child into a local Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym (as example: Gentry’s MMA & Fitness, where I belong) or checking out the Gracie Acadamy’s Bully Proof program (a dvd/online interaction course for you to work on with your children from home) – or reach out to me, Sean, to help train your child if they’re local to Atlanta, GA. I would love to help bring out the very best in your child (I follow the Gracie Bully Proof program for my children)!
Some additional information on the Bully Proof program:
The Character Development Program:
Aside from preparing your child to deal with bullies, the other objective of the Gracie Bullyproof program is to instill in your child the character traits that will lead to success in all areas of life. There are six chapters in the Character Development Program: Responsibility, Health, Respect, Citizenship, Manners, and Caring – each of which your child will study for two months. We dedicate time in each class to address the featured trait and the simple things they can do to make the trait a part of their everyday lives. The secret to the success of this program is a very powerful point-based reward system that encourages each child to make the small character changes in their daily lives – on their own!
And to show a bit of my dedication to this very subject, here’s some work with me and my girls (oldest 2 are 4 & 3 years old):
Learning about the 3 T’s on their chalk board: