As a parent of three young kids, I’m just now living the life that parents of kids at my studio were when I founded my studio during my last year of college back in 1999. At 22, I had experience teaching children martial arts and grew up practicing myself. However, I didn’t quite understand the difficulties that parents faced with raising their own children — until now. I now see things through the eyes of a concerned parent rather than just a thoughtful and encouraging karate teacher to my students — same concern but different when it’s your own kids.
I have two daughters, one in Kindergarten and one in First Grade (I also have a son — I’d feel guilty if I didn’t mention my little boy, but he’s only 6 months old so the bully topic doesn’t apply just yet). With regards to my daughters, however, they’ve recently come home to tell me about the boy bullies at their school — but the reality is that they are just the kids who get put in “timeout” and don’t follow the rules as they should — so no real bullying yet, thankfully. But, the bullying topic is on the top of my mind after I heard a story of a good friend’s son getting a fat lip on the school bus last week.
I began thinking how I (as a parent) would have handled this situation. I always discourage violence at all costs. But, at the same time I would never tell my kids not to stand up for themselves either. As a general rule, I tell my own kids and students that no one is allowed to put their hands on them. In the event that someone pushed them or tried to hurt them I would encourage them to fight back accordingly.
At Giroux Bros. Martial Arts, we currently have a dedicated mat chat once per belt testing cycle on dealing with bullies. The biggest message we teach our students is to avoid situations from escalating from the very beginning. We first teach them to try and handle it on their own with simple, but effective methods of standing up, avoiding, or befriending the bully depending on the situation. We also teach our students to stand up for their classmates in the event one of their friends falls victim to childhood cruelty. The reality of it all is that if acted on early enough — no physical interaction should be necessary.
Now, keep in mind we’re talking about Kindergarten and 1st Grade. The best picture I saw today was my friend’s son giving a “thumbs up” to his Mom in front of the school bus confronting the horrible fat lip experience from his first day of school. Confronting his fear is a huge accomplishment at such a young age!
Actually, a great bi-product that comes from martial arts training is confidence. This mainly comes from earning new belts (achievement from short term goals with under belt testing working up to black belt). The way that kids who train in martial arts carry themselves often differs from those who don’t. The reason being — self confidence. Of course kids who are the star soccer player or the fastest swimmer share these same attributes, but the nice thing about karate is that it works on each individual vs. the entire team or star player. It teaches everyone about working hard and achieving personal success — all while working in a group atmosphere and team environment.
Speaking from personal experience, I overcame some pretty major bullying issues (without violence thankfully) when I was in middle school. After being asked to be part of a karate team traveling to Russia, my team was pictured (in uniforms and black belts) on the front page of the town newspaper. Up until then only my close friends knew that I did karate and had a black belt. But, after the paper came out everyone knew and just about every 8th grader wanted to see how tough a 7th grade black belt was. It was a scary situation but fortunately I got out of it by one of the methods I teach my students and surprisingly without one fist being thrown.
The nice thing to know is that bullying can be conquered with the appropriate training and mindset. This school year, we are implementing a whole new bullyproof program as part of our curriculum. It’s a program that came highly recommended to me from a good friend who owns a martial arts studio in Texas.
If anyone has any issues with bullying, please feel free to contact me. Anyone (at any time) who is interested in checking out our program is always welcome to a free trial lesson. Just give us a call at 617.641.2992 and we’ll set you up with a time. Or, you can email me directly at Steve@GirouxBrosMartialArts.com.
Thanks and best of luck to all the parents out there with the 2013/2014 school year!
Owner / Parent / 7th Degree Black Belt