Bullying - a word that strikes fear into any parent.
LET’S GET THINGS STRAIGHT, BULLYING IS SERIOUS
Did you know, in 2015 an international study, “Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study”, found that South African Grade 5 students reported the highest occurrence of bullying out of the 49 countries surveyed. Majority of students (44%) reported being bullied weekly and 34% reported being bullied monthly.
The study also showed that students in public schools were bullied more than those in private/independent schools.
It’s noted that the study didn’t include all the countries around the world, but I think it’s safe to say the sample is big enough to draw a conclusion, in that...we have a major problem.
Even around the world there are alarming statistics.
246 million children and young people experience school violence every year.
30% of children never report they are being bullied.
Less than 10% will report it to their teacher.
THE CONSEQUENCES ARE ALARMING
Here's a list of what bullying can cause in a child...
Destruction of their self worth and self confidence.
Communication problems develop
Academically they slip
Anti social behaviour develops
Risk of suicide
HOW CAN I TELL IF MY CHILD IS BEING BULLIED?
It’s quite common for kids to keep quiet about being bullied. Often they might feel they should be able to stand up against the bully, and this results in silence.
Here’s some signs to look out for:
They don’t want to go to school (or make excuses).
They don’t want to drive/walk to school alone.
Their grades decline
They ask for extra pocket money because someone has “taken” their money.
They lose items (eg: clothing, shoes)
They might have torn clothing or even bruises
They’re abnormally more hungry after school - indicating that their lunch money or food might have been taken from them.
They’re showing anxiety.
Might have anger outbursts
Signs of sadness/depression.
They talk about suicide. “I wish I was dead”, “I wish I wasn’t born”, etc.
They have stomach or head-aches.
Their sleep patterns change and they have frequent nightmares.
A BULLY TARGETS CHILDREN BECAUSE...
They think the target is “different” - the ones they think don’t fit in.
The target seems unable to do anything about being bullied. Usually a child who is being bullied displays low self confidence. The bully wants social status and to be recognised for their rebellious ways in front of their peers.
They are jealous of the target.
A bully is a coward. He or she identifies those who lack self-confidence and prey on it. A bully has insecurities and usually uses aggression (physical or verbal) to try and hide their own feeling of weakness.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Let me pre-frame this by saying, no you do not tell you child to walk up to the bully and punch them in the face. As someone who grew up in an afrikaner household I can tell you that this is how I have been taught and that level of violence is not always the right way, and certainly not the first thing you advise your child to do. Back in my childhood days that might have worked, but today it can get both you and your child into trouble. Rest assured there is a manner in which to deal with this.
Remember, retaliation is not self-defense. In that circumstance your child has become an attacker and could land in hot water.
First, look for the signs (as already listed above)
Make sure your child understands that they’re not to blame.
If you find out your child is being bullied, you need to have a very important conversation with them (take a deep breath first). Your child needs to believe that differences among people is a beautiful thing. It’s the very differences between us that make us so unique and interesting.
If your child is really young, you can use contrasting examples of super heroes or any iconic figure they admire!
- Batman is very different than Spiderman. Different powers, different superhero suites. Yet they both are people, both have friends etc
- Spiderman wore glasses in school and people laughed at him, but he knows how special he is.
For older kids you can use the same contrasting concept (eg. leaders, celebrities, superstars, anyone who they look up to and who they associate with.)
Ask your child directly if he/she is being bullied.
Your child may very well feel ashamed about it and will not tell you. To help them open up, you can share a personal story with your child, for example: “I remember when I was in school I saw one child pick on other children. It’s not right, ever. And the children who get picked on aren’t to blame. As a mom/dad I have a responsibility to keep you safe. The other parents also have to keep their children safe. There are other children who are also getting bullied, and we need to make sure we keep them safe as well. ”
Address the situation with the school as soon as possible.
One of the biggest mistakes I see parents make is to inflame the situation by going directly to the bully’s parents without having the school as a mediator. Remember that often the bully’s parents might not even be aware they have a child who is a bully. The school should have a policy and programme in place for dealing with bullies. Makes sure you get confirmation from the school in writing that they have taken it upon themselves to address this problem.
If you can, walk/drive your child to and from school, or arrange for another adult to do so.
Make sure your child has an adult at school whom they trust and can report incidents to.
Limit their mobile phone usage, or eliminate it - even better.
Cyber bullying is real. With a mobile phone, bullies will have direct access to your child. So, keep them OFF social media channels, including peer to peer messaging services like whatsapp. I repeat. Don’t do it! You are asking for trouble my friends. I cannot believe how parents still think it’s OK for young children to be spending so much time on a mobile phone. Think about the damage mobile phones are already causing among adults, now imagine exposing children to that at an early age. Radiation, Behavioural changes, Impact on focus & attention - just to name a few.
Take photos and notes of all evidence. Use this evidence when addressing the bully's parents, the school. It can even be used as legal aid if the situation becomes worse.
Enroll your child into a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school.
Heck you're on a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu website. I might as well.
If you want a confident child, an “unbreakable” child, it’s time to enroll them into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
A confident child is one who speaks up when it matters most.
The power of martial arts stretches far beyond the physical benefits it passes on to a student.
Remember a bully is a coward who prey on low self esteem. Jiu-Jitsu gives kids the self-confidence to stand up for themselves. It doesn’t mean a Jiu Jitsu kid will use violence, but will have the outward confidence to issue a verbal warning. Once a child knows that he/she can defend yourself, they will let the bully know right away and they will usually back off.
Children who get targeted by bullies are children whom often display fear. Jiu Jitsu will teach kids to defend themselves when necessary and help them deal with fear.
In Jiu Jitsu, a child is taught how to use grappling, wrestling and Judo principles to neatralize an attacker by pinning and controlling them until help arrives. And they're taught to only use this after their other attempts to stop the bully has failed. No punches are necessary. This form of self defense is not only highly effective, it keeps both your child (and the bully) out of harm.
In a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school one celebrates differences. There truly is no prejudice on the mats and teaches children that you have to put in work to achieve anything in life.Bullies also like to target “loners”, but when your child joins a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym will provide many opportunities for your child to strike up life long friendships.
And finally - life is stressful for everyone, even kids. The world has changed considerably and we need better “tools” to equip ourselves. In comes Jiu Jitsu! Jiu-Jitsu will teach your child how to deal with those less than peaceful moments of life because on the mat, the greatest lesson they learn is how to deal with discomfort.
Interested in bully "proofing" your child? Enroll them at Iron Grip Martial Arts Brackenfell. Get Started