October is National Bully Prevention Month.
Since we’re hearing so much about bullying these days, we should probably take a moment to clearly define it. With my long experience teaching martial arts and working with children of all ages, I’ve seen “bullying” most often come down to some version of peer conflict.
For behavior to be bullying, it needs three things:
· A real or perceived imbalance of power
While not nice behaviors, teasing and name calling are often immediately labeled as bullying—but if they’re not meeting these criteria, we might be over-correcting our kids’ behavior. Peer conflict can just mean a kid is lashing out because they don’t like what another has done; this is normal and common even though we should still work to correct that behavior. Our job is to help children learn how to resolve their differences, but lumping all conflict under bullying makes it much harder to allow our children the room to respond appropriately.
We should be especially careful not to label a child bully if they’re defending or standing up for themselves. They might not be going about it in the best way, but our focus should be on giving them tools and techniques for resolution while still empowering them to stand up for themselves and others. As long as it’s not aggressive or a repeated pattern, this is a positive behavior to encourage.
The key here is to educate yourself and your children on what bullying is, how to spot it, and how to stand up against it. Bullying doesn’t stop once your children leave the schoolyard: we’ve all seen instances in college, our workplaces, and out in the wider world. Real bullying often grows into systemic harassment and other behaviors that are destructive and debilitating for the victims—which is why it deserves a fuller understanding and careful attention.
At Total Ryu, we educate our youth students on bullying and teach them strategies for positively confronting it at school and at home. At home, you can use the links below to help your children learn to recognize it happening around them. During our matchat sessions, we discuss this and other life success topics like healthy eating, exercise, safety, and developing values like being helpful—so please let us know if you’d like us to spend more time on bullying or another issue you’ve seen in your kids’ lives.