School age bullying is a major problem in the world today. Millions of kids around the world are victims of bullying on a regular basis. The effects of this bullying can be both costly and long lasting. Situations that frighten us when we’re very young stay with us throughout our lives. Bullying can keep children from learning how to relate with others. Being bullied can set a negative approach to life that affects a person’s relationships, preventing the development of a positive, healthy life. Children who are bullied, especially on an ongoing basis, take a negative belief about themselves that linger for the rest of their lives. Some victims of bullying resort to violence, either towards others or towards themselves.
Before addressing how to handle bullies, we first need to understand a little about them. A bully is usually not a happy person, not someone who smiles or is easy to get along with. A bully tends to act mean or angry and says things to frighten people. A bully is someone with a problem and being mean to other people is their way dealing with that problem. Bullies become bullies probably because someone once bullied them! At one time or another we have all been a bully. Everyone bullies for a reason: we’re tired, frustrated, angry, or disappointed. We can’t get what we want, or things don’t go the way we want. Bullies are trying to get a certain reaction from you.
There are many, many specific strategies for dealing with bullies in different situations but all of them require one thing: the self-defense mindset. This mindset is the same whether you are standing up to a bully or need to defend yourself against an attacker. In my martial arts specific blog, I wrote a piece on the self-defense mindset in a women’s self-defense setting. I encourage you to check it out.
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In a nutshell, the self-defense mindset requires one to be confident and believe in themselves. Bullies choose their victims based on who they can get the desired reaction from. Typically, this is a reaction of a scared or weak person so the bully can feel strong and dominant. People that are confident and can display this will not look scared or weak.
So, how can kids look confident? Here are a few ways to portray a confident demeanor.
- Walk with a purpose. Don’t walk fast paced, run like you’re scared, or walk slowly constantly scanning everything.
- Good posture. Keep your back straight, chin up, and shoulders back. Don’t slouch or look down at the ground.
- Mind your hands. Nervous, scared people fidget with their hands. Keep your hands at your side, swinging them normally when walking or still when standing.
- Eye contact. If someone looks at you, even a stranger, don’t look down or away. Look them in the eyes. Don’t stare them down but let them know you see them.
While this all seems easy to do, it is actually quite difficult if you are not confident to begin with. It is possible to fake it but sooner or later you will show some sign of your underlying lack of confidence. So, the best thing to do is build that confidence up. Just like muscles, confidence is something that takes practice and hard work in order to build strong. Here are a few suggestions of ways to help kids build the confidence needed for the self-defense mindset.
All styles of martial arts are great for building confidence. Kids get physically and mentally stronger in a positive, supportive, inclusive environment.
Find an Activity They Excel At
Martial Arts is not for everyone (unfortunately for me!). There is, however, an activity out there for everyone. Whether it’s dance, art, chess, baseball, swimming, archery, rock climbing, or any one of the millions of other things out there, you need to find it. Once you find something you’re good at, surround yourself with supportive people that encourage and compliment you.
It goes without saying that parents have a big role in their kids’ development. Helping kids develop skills and a mindset to deal with bullies is one part of that job. Building confident kids takes work. We need to encourage them when they do well and support them when they fail. Be sure to encourage and celebrate progress, not perfection. Your kid got 2nd place in a tournament? Awesome! Don’t downplay it because they didn’t get 1st. At the same time, don’t blow smoke up their you know what. If your child has been swimming for 3 years, hates it, and gets last place in every meet, don’t tell them they are a great swimmer. Help them find something they like and are good at.
Friends and Family
Along with parental support, the support of friends and family is important. Be sure to surround yourself with positive, non-toxic people. Have your kids spend time with their cool uncle that makes them feel good about themselves versus their cousin who only pokes fun at them. If consistently being around a negative, toxic family member, be sure to have a conversation with your kids before and after they spend time with them, so they know that what they are saying is not true.
After understanding the importance of the proper mindset, we can start developing specific strategies for handling bullies in a variety of situations. If you would like a free ebook on this topic, please email me.