Working with kids is extremely rewarding. You often see the most change in the little ones. I believe that as a martial arts instructor you're teaching skills which people will take forward and have for the rest of their lives.
There are certain things which you don't get with other activities which martial arts offers beyond what people think of. The things like discipline, coordination and self defence are pretty obvious.
What people don't think of are the deeper implications of this. The confidence and self esteem kids build and the way they then hold themselves can prevent bullying. They learn how to resolve situations instead of fighting and learn the discipline of how to hold their nerve and hold their temper and ultimately diffuse situations which could end up much worse.
More to the point, bullying costs lives. Prevention is key.
So let's talk about how we can prevent bullying with our kids
1. listen - Listening to your child is important. We need to listen out and take into account the signs of bullying before it's a problem. Talking things through can really help with a child's self worth and confidence. Looking for signs such as changes in eating and sleeping patterns, negativity about school, negative self talk and avoidance of social interaction could be key.
Linked to the second point in number 2 here, is that kids need to listen to each other. As mentioned below, children should be encouraged to tell other kids when something they're doing is frustrating, this can help to prevent things early. Equally children need to listen to this. When another child says that's annoying, what they really mean is please stop, however this often invites children on, to further "annoyance".
2. Talk - Make your child aware of bullying, what it is and how detrimental it can be. This will help them to not only spot and report the bullying of others, but identify it early when it starts and prevent them from becoming a bully themselves. Talking about different ways bullying can be handled is extremely beneficial.
A little less obvious here for kids is this: Talk to the person who is picking on you or annoying you. It's difficult for kids to express feelings of anxiety or challenge. If someone is doing something you don't like, they may not know unless they're told. Now often kids will just say that's annoying. We teach children that the best thing to do as a starting point is to say, Please stop that because I don't like it. Powerful and clear words.
3. Inclusion - Teaching your child about inclusion and kindness will help them to understand how to treat others, this point is heavily linked to 4 and 5, with slight differences. This is about inclusion of all, often there are children who are left out of games and it becomes a greater problem within the community of children, whether at school, locally or somewhere else. Teach your child to offer the inclusion of any children they see who may not have friends.
4. Respect - Mutual respect is difficult to describe at it's core. However we've simplified it to this for the kids: Treat others how you want to be treated... i.e. if you think that will annoy someone, don't do it. If you think that would hurt your feelings don't do it. Pretty simple stuff which I'm sure you already teach your kids.
5. Celebration - Celebration of what is different about people. This could be anything! It's important to celebrate what's different about people. when your child has a new friend ask, what do you like about them? Creating positive talk about themselves and others is vital to create inclusion and support.
6. Understanding - Putting themselves in someone else's shoes! How would it make you feel if... someone said that to you. Equally, this can be positive... How would you feel if someone told you that they like how kind you are or how smart you are or something else.
7. Report - Teach your child to report bullies to an adult (or adults). Some kids however will be put off by what they believe to be negative consequences. These include the perception of their peers, the fear of backlash from the bullies and the feeling of isolation and that it doesn't matter what they do. Phrases like snitches get stitches are often thrown around in schools, and with the growing pressure on people to look and behave a certain way, you can see how it can be difficult for people to report bullying to others.
8. Support - Just by encouraging your child to talk, and listening to them you can offer your child support on this subject. Creating a supporting and structured, strong family environment can give kids a place to feel safe. In addition, kids often need support from their peers and this is learnt from role models, such as parents. Encouraging kids to be inclusive, speak to others who they feel need support, report bullying where they see it and help those in need.
The majority of people have been subject to some sort of bullying in their lives. I asked in my juniors classes how many people had felt they'd been bullied (eyes closed, show of hands) and just in the 10 children who were there today 6 of them felt they had been the victim of some kind of bullying, and when you add in my team of helpers, 9 in 13 of them had felt they had been bullied! That's 70% of the kids who were in the class that day!
Listen and support your child, teach them to be kind and respect others, speak positively and celebrate themselves and others and watch out for the signs.
How would it feel if your child was the victim of bullying?
How would it feel if your child was the bully?
How would it feel if your child helped and supported others?
It all starts from prevention.