One of the traditional, misguided ways of dealing with a bully is to either tell your child to “just Ignore” it or to bring them into the backyard and teach them how to punch. Although ignoring is one option, and there is a lot of value in bully proofing your child by teaching your child actual self-defense skills, dealing with a bully involves a lot more than these two options.
In our martial arts schools, we teach the Five Steps of Bully Prevention. They are:
• Use your mind.
• Use your words.
• Use your legs.
• Ask for help.
• Defend yourself.
Use your mind – Teach your child to think ahead about all the things he can do to stay safe.
Use your words – Teach your child to use his words to talk his way out of trouble. In many cases, responding to a bully with eye contact and a confident voice takes some of the wind out of the bully’s sails. After all, it’s no fun bullying someone who won’t let you push him around or who does not seem to be bothered by it.
Use your legs – Teach your child to walk (or run) away from trouble when words aren’t working. This applies any time he is confronted by someone who is being mean to him and whom he doesn’t know, and who he’ll probably never see again. He could be at a park, mall, fair, sports field, etc. When using his words isn’t working and he feels a fight coming on, then he should get away … even RUN!
Ask for help – Teach your child that it is okay to ask for help if he is afraid or feels threatened. This is very important. Most kids don’t want to be a tattle-tale. They are afraid that if they tell a parent or teacher about a bully or troublemaker that the other kids will make fun of them. Asking for help in advance might be the solution. Remind your child frequently that it is okay to ask for help. Assure him that his safety is important to you and his teachers.
Defend yourself – Teach your child that no one has the right to physically harm him. If he has done everything within his power to avoid a confrontation, then he has the right to defend himself. Please understand that it’s important to teach your child to be 100% against fighting. But if his back is against the wall and he has no choice, then your child should be 100% for defending themselves.
It’s amazing to me that just the simple act of being prepared to defend yourself can often keep the fight from ever happening. In martial arts we call it “practice the fight, so that you don’t have to”.
FAMILY SAFETY PRACTICE DRILL: Have you child memorize the Five Steps of Bully Prevention by having him hold out his hand with his fingers spread. As he recites each rule, he brings one finger in to slowly making a fist. As he finishes the fifth step and closes his hand into a complete fist, have him say loudly, “Defend yourself!” and punch into the air.