Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I’ve been seeing so many articles recently about bullying in schools- and today, in the news, I saw a story that was very disturbing.
Apparently, a nine year old girl died from a blood clot on her brain after getting punched by another girl at school.
I have kids ages seven and nine and they have told me that bullying goes on at their school too, on the playground and in the halls.
When I asked what was being done about it, they told me that none of the kids want to tell the teachers, and even the teachers seem to look the other way.
My daughter says that it’s better not to say anything because it’s not her business, and she’s afraid of retaliation if the bullies find out.
This is making me very uncomfortable. It’s one thing for children to be facing a bully who wants their lunch money… but these days, bullying seems to be a life threatening challenge. What can I do to protect my children?
Dear Peace Keeper,
Humans are both territorial and social animals. Bullying is part of our territorial side, and, despite all of the money and social programs being devoted to wiping it out, it always will be part of our lives. Humans in any group situation, at any age, have a tendency to form pecking orders. Bullying is part of pecking order behavior. The truly dangerous, sadistic bully is an exaggeration of these behaviors. Such people often have troubled lives which encouraged and reinforced violence.
The trick is to teach your kid how not to fall to the bottom of the pecking order, as well as basic conflict strategies. This is important, as where one ends up in the pecking order early on tends to continue throughout one’s life. If you allow yourself to be treated badly and taken advantage of as a child, you more than likely always will. It becomes integrated with your body language.
For the most part, all that’s needed is good self esteem; but I recommend for every child some form of martial arts program. One needs to know one can fight in order not to have to. Most conflict is played out before the first word is ever spoken. One’s body language invites or deters bullies.
In the worst form of bullying one needs also to be able to react quickly even before thinking. Life threatening conflicts such school shootings have increased in recent times. Martial arts teaches as a first line of defense: get away if you can; or if you can’t, stay calm and don’t draw attention to yourself, play dead etc.
Most bullying situations are not life threatening but there is a clear difference between a bully, a bully with friends, and a gang. Sometimes one needs to stand up to a bully, other times one needs to get the police involved immediately. Again a good martial arts program should address these distinctions.
So enroll your child in a martial arts program but In the meantime I would bring the bullying status at your daughter’s school up to the principle. There are educational programs available that can change the overall tone of the school:
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I agree that the study of martial arts can be very valuable as a means of creating self confidence and personal power. However, I see it as only a part of the training necessary where bullies are concerned. I studied martial arts for ten years before I took up the study of self defense. There are specifics as to the focus of self-defense which are not so clearly addressed in martial arts training.
In martial arts training, the techniques themselves are the main focus of study; these skills can requires year of pursuit in order to gain mastery, along with an aptitude for the art.
Self defense teaches far simpler physical techniques which are within the capability of your average person. They do not require years of training, although they certainly require some practice. They are far more blunt and to the point than martial arts technique.
Another important aspect of self-defense training is that it not only mentions the idea of avoiding confrontation rather than resorting to physical defense, it also gives extensive training on how to diffuse potential danger. Martial arts provides no such in depth training, nor does it provide a forum for the personal psychology involved or the statistical logistics of rape and violence.
The biggest problem with most self-defense courses is that they are not nearly long enough; the problem with martial arts is that it can take too long.
Here’s two immediate tips I will give to any child who is being bullied: 1) There is strength in numbers. It is most often the lone child who is preyed upon by aggressors. Bullies often come with their own entourage. If you are being bullied, whether by an individual or a gang, they will be much less likely to approach if you have your own show of force. Learn the value of friends, and travel with them whenever possible. 2) Do not EVER let bullying go unreported for fear of retaliation; this is exactly what the bully is counting on. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are a coward or a sissy for letting an adult know what is going on. High self-esteem can drive kids to feel they can or should handle everything themselves. There is a saying: “things that thrive in darkness cannot stand the light of day.” Turn the lights on! Don’t be afraid to expose the bullies. It is what THEY fear.