October is National Bullying Prevention Month, making it the perfect time to talk to your kids about bullying. Encourage them to speak up if they ever see anyone being bullied, and let them know that it is never okay to be a bully.
According to a 2015 study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 20% of high school students reported that they had been a victim of bullying within the past year.
To put that in perspective, imagine that your child (or children) invites a few friends over, making a total of five. Statistically, one of them will face bullying. It can take many forms: name-calling, physical harassment, or even cyber-bullying. Whether or not it’s happened to your child, it’s happening to someone, somewhere, right now.
Some people, even parents, brush off bullying as ‘kids just being kids.’ Worse, they assume that being bullied will build a child’s toughness, or that victims will just ‘get over it’ in time.
In fact, the opposite is true. The same CDC study found that children who are bullied have an increased risk of developing emotional and psychological problems that will follow them throughout their lives. A 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that bullied youth face more social and financial woes as adults, and are more likely to engage in risky behavior than their non-bullied peers.
Bullying is a problem that needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as it rears its ugly head. Parents, teachers, coaches, and other authority- or mentor-figures have the responsibility to step in whenever they can. However, an adult may not always be present to intervene, and bullying may go unreported. It is best that children have the tools they need to deflect bullying on their own.
Involvement in martial arts can be a great insulator against bullying for kids. Contrary to what you may have seen on TV, learning martial arts won’t turn a bullied child into a pint-sized playground avenger. The physical self-defense aspects of martial arts are only a tiny part of how it helps stop bullying.
The martial arts give kids confidence, self-esteem, and teaches respect for self and others. A child who has good self-esteem will carry themselves differently, and act differently, than one who does not. Usually, bullies target those they see as weak. A child with the calm, confident attitude martial arts imbues does not make an appealing victim for a bully. If they are bullied, they will be more resilient thanks to their training.
Martial arts can also help bullies. Most often, children who bully are lashing out because they are unhappy in some way. Perhaps they have low self-esteem, or are frustrated with their home or school life. They use bullying to give themselves the illusion of confidence and control. Martial arts not only provides an outlet for their frustrations, but gives them better confidence so they do not need to fake it by bullying others.
To learn more about how martial arts have helped individuals overcome bullying, check out Century’s Journey stories. Robert Ingram’s life was changed when he started learning karate, and today he teaches martial arts to bullied kids. Greg Jackson and Justin Wren are famous in MMA, as a coach and fighter/philanthropist, respectively, and also experienced bullying.
For more journey stories about how martial arts has helped please visit our Journeys section on our website.