Nearly one-third of all school-aged children are bullied each year.*And it’s no longer just verbal or physical confrontations in the school yard. Kids are now cyberbullied through mean text messages and emails. Pictures, videos and cruel comments are posted on social networks.Bullying is a huge societal issue that we all need to address, but how do we handle bullying and prevent it?
Ask a handful of people what the best way is to address bullying, and you’ll likely get the response: “Fight back!” But encouraging bullying victims to respond through violence is not the answer.
The solution is educating children at an early age — first by helping them understand what bullying is, then by giving them the tools to appropriately respond.
At Combined Martial Arts, we’ve run an anti-bullying program for decades. The program is used and endorsed by a growing number of Queensland schools. It’s an important part of our Martial Arts curriculum.
How I approach the topic of bullying in our classes and seminars varies with the age group. But the objective is the same: to build self-confidence in all students and assurance that they have the right to grow up safe.
Role Playing is an Essential Part of Anti-Bullying Education
I work with children as young as three years old and with students in middle school and high school. Role playing is a critical part of our curriculum that demonstrates just what bullying is.
For example, I may demonstrate bullying to our three- to six-year-old group by saying something like: “You’ve got germs.” Our young students are then given specific responses to say to a bully such as, “I don’t care what you say, I feel good about myself”. Students are also encouraged to respond through action such as walking away from the bully.
With six- to twelve-year-old students, we role-play but the context is different. We’ll role-play three to four scenarios, then review specific responses and actions to take to build up assertiveness.
The parents of this age group are also given homework, so that they can role-play with their children and open the lines of communication regarding bullying.
12 Ways to Walk Away with Confidence
In our program, we’ve also adopted guidance by Dr. Terrence Webster Doyle as provided in his Bully Buster program. These tips are particularly useful in working with students over the age of 10.
1. Stand Up to the Bully — This can work but at times it can make some bullies angrier. You
must decide if you think this alternative will work in this situation with this bully.
2. Use Authority — Call a teacher, a police officer, a parent or someone you know to help stop
the bully from hurting you. This is not being a COWARD. This is stopping bullying before it
3. Use Humor — You can turn a scary situation into a funny one, but be careful. Have fun with
the bully rather than making fun of the bully.
4. Agree — If a bully insults you, agree with him/her. If you feel insulted, let your anger rise up,
watch it, and let it go.
5. Refuse to Fight — This may sound contrary to what you have always been told, but one way to stop conflict is to not fight, no matter what happens.
6. Use Trickery — Pretend you are sick. Pretend you have poison oak. Pretend you have some
infection the bully will get if he/she fights with you. Tell the bully someone is about to meet you
like your big brother or sister or parents.
7. Scream or Yell — A good shout can shock the bully and distract him/her for a moment, so you
can get away.
8. Make Friends — Treat the bully as a friend instead of an enemy. All bullies need admiration and respect.
9. Reason with the Bully — If you are a good talker, perhaps you and the bully can talk it out. If
you don’t argue or get angry, if you act friendly, you might convince a bully to not hurt you.
10. Walk Away — Don’t get into it. This is a simple and often overlooked way to end conflict before it ever begins. Walk away, BUT WITH CONFIDENCE.
11. Ignore the Threats — This is similar to simply walking away. You hear the threats and you
turn and walk away from the bully, even though the bully is calling you a coward and trying to
get you angry enough to react.
12. Take a Strong Stance — As a last resort, take a strong stance. This tells the bully you are
prepared to protect yourself if you are attacked. But hopefully, one or more of the other ways
will work first.
Role-playing, modifying the curriculum based on age group and incorporating the 12 Ways to Walk Away with Confidence are the primary elements that have worked in our anti-bullying program.
Let me know what you do in your business to educate and empower your students and members.
I strongly believe every Martial Arts school should incorporate anti-bullying curriculum into their programs. Together we can make a difference and break the cycle of violence and bullying in our communities.
Shihan Bill Wakefield is one of Australia’s pioneers of growth and success in the Martial Arts industry. He is the founder of Combined Martial Arts Academy (C.M.A.A.), the Gold Coast’s leading Self-Defense and Character Development Academy. Bill is also a well-known and prominent speaker on the subject of Martial Arts business, and a member of the Member Solutions Business Advisory Team.
*PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center