The first time I was confronted with bullying was probably when I was a child. It’s so vague in my memory that I can’t even remember it, because the concepts of bullying didnt really exist where I was born. In my later years, growing up in Canada as a newcomer (11 years old), I figured it was normal to be taunted and called names. I just learned to deal with it, whether it was through humour or standing up for myself I just adjusted and got better at it. Sure, the words hurt but I learned to pick my battles and also learned to surround myself with people who shared common interests.
At the age of 16, I started Taekwondo and I fell in love with the Martial Art. Looking back now, it helped me getaway from bullying because Taekwondo was a positive and nurturing environment. Also learning the basics of kicking and punching gave me confidence to stand up for myself, naturally. This doesn’t mean I got into fights with people, quite the contrary. It just means that when I said “Stop”, people listened. It also doesn’t mean I was never bullied again, instead I learned when to ignore it and when to stop it before it became too much.
After many years of being in Taekwondo, my brother called me about his son. He said, he was being picked on in the school bus, and that he was frustrated with the school’s response and that this was a regular occurrence. My first reaction was shock and anger. How could someone pick on my nephew? At this point, I was a Taekwondo instructor at a recreational school and I had never really confronted the issue of bullying from someone else’s perspective. Obviously, if someone was picking on me, I would talk to them or find a way to solve the issue but how do I teach a child to stand up for themselves and not make the situation worse? As a result, I had no real answers for my brother. I wanted to help my nephew, but just didn’t know how.
After many hours of research, discussions and opinions I’ve learned the basics of overcoming bullying. First we must clearly define bullying. Bullying is the act of abuse by a powerful aggressor and a target that lacks the ability to fight back.
We can solve the momentary problems of bullying for our children or we can teach them to stand up for themselves.
Once children recognize that they’re being bullied they must realize that they have many options to choose from. Each equally powerful and if one doesn’t work, they can easily move to the next one.
At Authentic Taekwondo we discuss these issues regularly and we teach our students the following steps.
First, we can ignore the bully. The old saying of ‘sticks and stones’ but most often words do hurt. Nevertheless, it’s important to share what happens to you with someone you trust, especially your mom and dad.
Second, It’s important to talk to the bully and let them know that what they’re doing isn’t right. We teach children to stand up for themselves by saying “STOP, I don’t appreciate you calling me names.” If the bullying persists, then it’s important to take it to the next step and talk to the teacher/principle of a responsible adult.
If at any point, you feel physically threatened, you must stand up and defend yourself. We don’t encourage violence but we also don’t want our students to be victims.
Regardless of the situation, we encourage diplomacy and open communication with parents, teachers and a clear expression of the situation and the way it makes children feel. When you can verbalize the emotions, often times it leads to solutions. We can’t completely eradicate bullying but we can build strong, confident people to overcome the abuse of power.