School is in full swing and, sadly, so is bullying. Bullying is not just school related, it can happen in summer camps, on sports teams, in social groups, it can be random or premeditated. Since starting our fall session of martial arts here at Dedham Health and Athletic Complex, I’ve already had several of my students and parents ask about how to deal a bully. I usually get about one per week. With that being said – how do we handle it?
What Defines Bullying?
There is no universal definition of bullying but I believe StopBullying.org gives a pretty good overview – “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” We know there is no one way to handle bullying, but in our Kenpo Karate classes we address and discuss different situations and how students should appropriately handle them.
My Child is Being Bullied, What Can I Teach Them?
We teach our students that using their voice is SO important when it comes to being bullied. We tell them to use their voice to:
- Tell parents and teachers about the situation
- Tell the bully to “STOP”
- Increase their volume when addressing the bully so to get the attention of others
We also show our students hand motions that symbolize “to stop” and, when paired with their voice, can prove to be very effective at negating the situation along with making people around aware of what is going on.
However, even if the proper adults are notified and they have used their voice and their hand motions, the bullying still may not stop. At this point, the principal and authorities may need to be notified, so the bully’s parents can get involved.
We all know that even when protocol is followed, it doesn’t always mean the bullying will stop. Our students are taught that the next course of action to take is to warn their bully that they are not afraid to defend themselves. We teach our students to use phrases along the lines of “I’m warning you,” “I’m going to have to defend myself” and “you are scaring me and I feel threatened!” With the minimal amount of force necessary to stop the threat, our students are taught how to defend themselves. Students need to know that they they have as much value as the next person and defending themselves is their right!
What Can I Do as a Parent?
Children need your support. They need to be taught to stand up for themselves. If students don’t stand up for themselves, they will never learn that they have as much value as the next person. I wish the world was all rainbows and unicorns, but it’s not. Situations like these can cause extreme anxiety and need to be addressed immediately. As a parent, you have to stand behind your child’s decision to defend themselves, as long as you know they were in the right, all precautionary steps were taken and they only used the necessary amount of force to stop the current and future threat of bullying.
Confidence is Key!
There is another side to this story, too, and that is of the bully. Bullying behavior is usually associated with a lack of self-confidence, some type of insecurity, or it might be a way for a child to feel like it will help them better fit in. Maybe they were or are currently being bullied themselves, which is often the case. We can compare a bully to a predator, and what type of prey do predators go after? The young, the meek, the old and the weak. Many times, bullies go after the classmates who they don’t think will fight back. The classmate that doesn’t appear to carry themselves with confidence.
We play a game with our martial arts students called “Lions and Zebras.” I play the lion and they play the zebras. I have them walk by myself and other instructors and we pick out the “weak” from the “herd.” Much like a bully, we identify poor posture, lack of eye contact, dropping of the head, speeding up their walking, shying away and other subtle body language signals. We teach our students that body language is a very important communication tool. They should walk with confidence, be aware of their surroundings, and handle situations with their words or by simply smiling or laughing. Physical karate is the last resort. All of this training is used to identify the conflict before it happens, know how to maintain control and defend yourself should the conflict escalate. Confidence happens through competence which is gained through continued practice.
For more information about Kenpo Karate classes offered here at DHAC, please visit dedhamhealth.com/kids/karate.html or call 781-326-2900.
May is National Water Safety Month
May reminds us that summertime is just around the corner and with the warm weather comes water activities; beaches, pools, lakes, waterparks, you name it! So, what better time than NOW to address water safety? Our aquatics staff has put together a simple “to remember” list for when you and your family hit the pools this summer!
1. Acclimate Kids Early
It is essential to sign your children up for swimming lessons as early as possible. More importantly, get your child adapted to water and used to the environment. Practice in the bathtub, splash around, let your child become comfortable in the water so they won’t be fearful going into a pool. Children need to learn to not panic when submerged in water and how to float on their back if they were to fall in.
2. Attend facilities and beaches that have supervision
On duty lifeguards is key to enjoying a safe summer. Keep in mind, however, that lifeguards are not babysitters, and that parent / guardian supervision is a must.
3. Check your floaties
There are a TON of floatation devices out there for kids that should be avoided, including water wings, bubbles and suits with floats on them. Kids slip out of them, they pop or deflate, they are not safe. There are US Coast Guard certified floatation devices that ensure that the wearer will be held in an upright position in the water (when worn correctly). Look for devices that wrap around a child’s chest which are made to be worn snug to the body to ensure the wearer will not slip out. Remind your child that these devices are meant to help them but that it doesn’t make them invincible and they still need to be careful when in the water.
4. Go over basic pool rules
When visiting pools, beaches and waterparks, be sure to teach your child about the specific rules that are in place. These rules are meant to help keep everyone safe and to avoid any foreseeable accidents, i.e. no running, no horseplay, no swimming alone.
5. It’s never too late to learn
Adult swim lessons are becoming increasingly popular. If you have never learned to swim, or just want to improve on your existing techniques, Dedham Health offers adult swim lessons ranging from group lessons, beginner to intermediate, private and semi-private which are tailored to the needs of the individual.
For more information on the aquatics programs offered at Dedham Health, visit http://www.dedhamhealthfitness.com/swim/ or call 781-326-2900.
Your Child’s Friends Influence Levels of Physical Activity
Over the past few days, I have heard from several of our youngest members that they have a “Best Friend” at the gym. So many of our young members have become great friends and look forward to coming into the gym to play with one another. I am always so happy to see this happen because I know that when kids have friends at the gym it is easier for Mom and Dad to get their workout in!
Besides parents getting time to work out, there are many other benefits of having these “BFFs” for our young members. They expand on each others’ independence and social skills, along with their physical development. Having friends who exercise and participate in activities can influence other children to do the same. “Your child’s social circle is an important influence [on exercise]” – St. John, Caitlyn.
DHACs Downtown and Youth Center is the perfect place for your kids to start building these fit relationships! Keep it up Mom and Dad, while you are getting fit, your kids are getting fit too… with their friends!
– Michelle S, Kids Program and Ultimate Day Camp Director
• St. John, Caitlyn. “Why Your Child’s Friends Can Help Them Exercise More.”http://www.parents.com/blogs/parents-news-now/2015/03/04/child-health/why-your-childs-friends-can-help-them-exercise-more/. Parents News Now. 4 March 2016.
Bullying knows no boundaries. Children, teens, popular or not can be victims of bullying. Often bullies are looking for attention, attention they are not getting from other healthy sources. Those who bully need to be strongly in control and feel the need to use dominance as a weapon. They use fear and status and to pick on those who come off as weak, shy or even kind and caring. Victims of bullying often have their self-esteem shattered, ultimately lowering their self-image and self-worth.
Some facts* all parents should know about bullying:
- 1 out of every 4 kids bullied
- Over 13 million kids will be bullied this year
- Bullying is the most common violence against children
- As many as 160,000 students may stay home on any given day because they’re afraid of their bullies
*source STOMP Out Bullying 2016
You can teach your child these important things about bullying:
- Bullying can happen at any age
- If they are a bystander to bullying – in person or online, take action immediately – Report it! Tell an adult or authority figure
- Use your words, not your body, to defend yourself
- Walk away
- Remain positive – being bullied does not reflect on yourself as a person
- Lead by example
Taking karate is an excellent way to empower kids. Kids can use the classes as a way to regain self-confidence that may have been lost after a bullying situation. Through karate classes, children will learn to:
- Have respect. For themselves and for others.
- Talk to parents, as well as instructors, about bullying situations.
- Assess situations that they or someone else they know are in.
- Refrain from violent behavior.
- Control impulses and calm themselves when in difficult situations.
Visit our Kempo Karate page for more information on signing your child up for classes.