The issue of bullying has become so pervasive of late, the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit devoted to emotional issues faced by today’s child and his parents, has posted on its website a “symptom checker” for worried parents (https://childmind.org/symptomchecker/). This tool is aimed at moms and dads who have no psychological training, but who are intuitive enough to sense that something’s wrong due to changes in their child’s behavior.
If you’re reading this post, you may be one of these concerned parents; you may instinctively feel that your child is among the growing numbers of kids who are being bullied in school, around the community and even during organized activities where the child-adult ratio is so small, bullies take advantage of children they perceive as being weaker and more vulnerable.
Talking to your child is the very first step parents must take to see if they can figure out what’s driving these unusual behaviors, and there’s always a chance the causation has nothing to do with bullying. On the other hand, if that’s the issue, you want to be prepared to tackle this problem head on for your sake and for the sake of your youngster.
Is your child a target for bullies?
Sherri Gordon, writing for VeryWellFamilies.com, says that some children are more likely than others to be targeted for bullies and she offers these examples:
-Kids who are good at sports, academics, and theater. Bullies target them because they feel inferior.
-Gifted kids could be ridiculed by peers who are jealous of the attention bright youngsters get.
-Bullies have a knack for identifying youngsters who are quiet, anxious, introverted and who won’t fight back.
-Children with few or no friends are extremely vulnerable because bullies sense their fragility.
-Popular/well-liked kids can be targeted by those who crave the attention these children get.
-Special needs kids are extremely vulnerable to being targeted by bullies.
-Children whose religious practices, sexual identification or racial differences are exploited by bullies.
Want to know more? Access this link: https://www.verywellfamily.com/reasons-why-kids-are-bullied-460777.
What can you do if your child is being bullied?
Staying attuned to a child’s mood swings and behavioral changes is the first step to identifying potential bullying. The biggest red flag of all? “School refusal,” notes Katie Hurley, LCSW, writing for the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) (http://www.pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2016/10/child-bullied/). This sign is particularly worrisome if your child once adored school and now dreads getting on the school bus.
Hurley stresses the importance of avoiding assumptions and getting your head into a non-judgmental place so you can ask questions and ferret out the cause of your child’s reluctance. If you can’t engage him with dialog, listen especially hard for clues and keep an open mind.
And while some psychologists have recommended putting the bully, the victim, and their parents into the same room, this practice can exacerbate the problem and isn’t recommended by professionals because there is no trained adult in the room to mediate what goes on. You need to empower your child, not makes things worse. Giving your child martial arts training is the solution many parents turn to for a variety of reasons.
How martial arts empowers bullied kids
When the “Aiken Standard” newspaper sought the help of an expert to show readers how bullied kids in the paper’s zone were being trained to stand up to bullies, they chose Cameron Smith, a relatively young South Carolinian to profile (https://www.aikenstandard.com/entertainment/helping-put-bullies-out-of-business-north-augusta-sensei-empowers/article_904f40dd-4cd4-5b0a-8ba9-e20dd44b9406.html).
Smith runs programs for kids as young as 6 who call him “Sensei” because he earns their respect as he helps them cope with bullies. Smith shows kids that posture and voice–“rather than bruises and bloodshed”—can help any child stand up to a bully, and because he is so young and understands what it’s like to be bullied, he knows just what to say to kids to empower them.
In fact, the ancient skills he teaches his students are so effective, they may even work for children who have behavioral, learning and attention deficient disorders (https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/child-social-situations/sports/9-benefits-of-martial-arts-for-kids-with-learning-and-attention-issues). Parents who have run out of options and patience say that this type of discipline is nothing short of a miracle.
How does learning a martial art change a child who is bullied?
Whether they undertake judo, karate, tae kwon do or other training methods taught at martial arts studios, kids begin to absorb moves and maneuvers at their own pace. As they become proficient, their self-esteem increases, especially in kids who don’t have to have the skill sets other sports demand.
Children undertaking this type of training learn balance, agility, discipline, fearlessness and their eye/hand coordination improves. Because each child learns and masters moves at a comfortable pace, they don’t have to worry about matching the accomplishments of other students.
With the “competition barrier” removed, a child studying a martial art has no team to let down; they don’t have to compare themselves to anyone and as they are rewarded for accomplishments by earning colored belts for each new skill level, they learn how to set and achieve attainable goals. In sum, they build the confidence they need to blow off bullies and react to them in practical, non-threatening ways.
How you can help
As your child learns to think differently about herself and her place in the world as a direct result of this training, you can help bolster her ego by emphasizing progress, complementing discipline and behaviors as she internalizes and excels at a sport that gives her a safe outlet for her energy, frustration, fear, and anger.
Because the environment is healthy, negativity is not tolerated and peer support is heightened, you are the recipient of this bounty, so you can look for signs that her emotional health is getting stronger the more she engages in this healthy activity. Picking the right training facility is always a matter of convenience, scheduling, and affordability, so choose one that has the lowest child-to-instructor ratio, so she gets plenty of attention.
It helps to mention to studio staff that the reason you are enrolling your child has to do with being bullied so instructors can focus on addressing the issue in ways that will maximize her progress. And by all means, do what you can to get him or her the “fashion” that stands as a symbol of accomplishment. Few bullies are willing to go up against a child dressed for self-defense—even if that karate kid happens to be your feminine girlie girl!