Bullyproofing Any Child

Written by: Olivia Roney, MCCOY Board Member

Hello, blog readers! Olivia Roney, MCCOY board member, here to share some insight on how to bullyproof any child. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a coach or any other individual that is in contact with children, I hope you find this information to be helpful. Disclaimer: I have no children and was not bullied as a child. I wasn’t bulled as a child not because I was “cool”—in fact my daily attire of flowered knee-length jean shorts and hiking boots would most likely lead any child to being picked on—I probably wasn’t bullied because I was homeschooled. So why would I, 25 year old, previously homeschooled, childless, MCCOY board member choose to blog about the topic of bullying? Simple. I own Crouching Tigers Martial Arts. My mobile company travels to daycare centers, preschools and public and private elementary schools to instruct over 1,000 children each year with a mission to make every one of our students bullyproof. I like to think that we’ve been successful thus far.
When you look at the big picture of bullying, you typically see two things: a bully and the child being bullied. As easy as it is to begin pointing fingers at parents of the bully, demanding a safe school environment or thinking about homeschooling, take a step back and look at the big picture. 
One of the main themes throughout the curriculum that I write for Crouching Tigers is confidence. Sounds easy, right? Martial arts and confidence seem to go hand-in-hand. In fact, martial arts is one of the only reasons that I became a somewhat confident child throughout an interesting and often difficult childhood. Our lessons are based on teaching children to believe in themselves. The truth is this, when children believe in themselves they are neither the bully nor the bullied. Children that have confidence are, instead, the ones that excel both academically and physically. So do you need to enroll a child in a martial arts class to build their confidence? No, but if you do, you should definitely enroll them in Crouching Tigers! Here are some tips on how to build a child’s confidence in any environment:
  •  Positive encouragement– it is easy to call out a child for doing something incorrectly. Try instead, complimenting them on doing something correctly. If you are a teacher or in a setting with many children, spot light just one child and have everyone turn their eyes on the child doing well. I especially love this drill for a child that is uncertain of whether or not they are doing something correctly. You can spot this child easily-looking around at other children, shoulders up, head down and hoping for your approval. 
  • Support– children need to know that you are someone that can be trusted. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a tutor, coach, etc. you need to build that relationship with the child. I have found through my years of working with children that they respond very well to an authority first-friend-second approach to the relationship. The “you should have respect for me as a (insert title) but we’re still friends and you can talk to me about anything” kind of approach. 
  •  Accomplishment– many children need that sense of accomplishment to believe in themselves. This is why martial arts has been so successful in building the confidence of children. From learning new forms to breaking boards to earning new belts, children are constantly accomplishing goals themselves. Martial arts is an independent activity- meaning you excel based on you and you alone. Teammates are not there to build you up, drag you down or most importantly to be blamed for either success or failure. Allow children to participate in independent activities. Can you think of any activities that put the child in a place to control the outcome? 
  •  Education (for younger children)– it is important to educate children on how to handle situations that may arise at any time. For our younger students, we teach the “ignore until threatened” approach to handling bullies. If a child is being verbally bulled by another child, we teach them to walk away. When the threats get more severe, we teach children to talk to parents and teachers instead of trying to handle the bully alone. Remind a child that bullies often say things that are not true and question them on why they are hurt by the comments. 
  •  Education with a hint of sarcasm (for older children)- I typically reserve this lesson for my older students- elementary age and up. Some children will pick up this lesson naturally while some can use some coaxing. Admittedly, I am an incredibly sarcastic person by nature (in case you haven’t already noticed). When picked on by my older brother for my clothing, my braces or my “poodle looking” haircut, I often fired back with sarcasm, putting him in a weird position. Here are some of the scenarios that I like to put children in as a way to teach the correct reaction:
Instructor playing “bully”: You smell
Child: Oh really? Thank you for noticing!
Instructor playing “bully”: Your clothes are ugly
Child: Why thank you! That is what I was going for! 
It may sound strange to teach this sarcastic approach at such a young age but trust me, it works! Responses like these put “bullies” in a very weird position that make them unable to respond. “Was I giving him/her a compliment?” is the thought that will run through the bully’s head, by that time, the “bullied” child has laughed it off and walked away. How was this child able to stump this bully? Confidence. It takes a confident child to find humor in this situation because a confident child knows that he/she doesn’t really smell and his/her clothes are not, in fact, ugly. Getting it now? Great!
Remember, building confidence is the first place to start bullyproofing any child.

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