A bully is defined as someone who intimidates another using superior strength or power. Bullying can take on many forms from teasing to terror, humiliation to hitting. And anyone can be a bully—a classmate, friend, even a sibling. But how do you know if your child is being bullied and what can you do about it?
Signs your child is being bullied
Though not all children show signs, according to StopBullying.gov, these are common indicators:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
What you can do to help your child stand up to bullying
- Recognize if your child is exhibiting signs of being bullied.
- Talk to your child about bullying. Listen and support her. Never blame or shame.
- Address the issue calmly with school authorities.
- Work on fortifying your child’s confidence. (More on this in the next section.)
- Encourage your child to stay in groups at school or wherever the bullying may take place. Kids are most vulnerable when they are alone without friends. Here are some tips for kids to make new friends.
- Teach your child basic self-defense. (More on this to follow.)
Confidence is the key to bullyproofing your kid.
How does your child carry himself? Does he walk tall and look at people in the eyes? Or does he slouch and avoid eye contact? Is he fidgety or steady? Does he talk in a feeble voice or a firm one? These are little things bullies tend to zero in on (kids as well as predators — but we’ll focus on kid-to-kid bullying, for now).
Working with your child to improve his self-esteem can make a difference. Even teaching him to bluff it until he believes it via a more confident posture, practicing eye contact, and speaking up in a self-assured voice can take him off the bully radar. Of course exploring the cause of his lack of confidence (if it’s something other than bullying) and mending it will have longer-lasting effects.
Learning self-defense lowers the chance of being bullied.
Rener Gracie is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor and teaches anti-bullying self-defense to kids. His advice to parents is to teach children self-defense, for once they know how to defend themselves, they will have the confidence to discourage bullying.
This is my daughter practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She also practices Kenpo. I love the skills she’s learning and the confidence they give her. And when she had issues with two older boy bullies last year, she was able to stand her ground without having to use her self-defense training.
In a typical self-defense or children’s martial arts class, kids can learn:
- Confidence, first and foremost
- How to be brave and assertive, not timid or aggressive
- How to get away from a bully/attacker and get help
- Not to fight unless you have to
- If attacked, to understand that they have the right to defend themselves
- A basic fighting stance, which shows confidence and protects their head while keeping them balanced
- How to block punches, pushes, and kicks
- How to fall without hurting themselves and how to get back up without being vulnerable in the process
- How to submit bigger, stronger bullies with minimal force
All of the above ultimately leads to more confidence, which, in turn, deters bullies. Knowing basic self-defense not only is useful in the case of bullying, but it can also be applied to adult attackers. It’s basic knowledge that can only benefit children. Like fire safety drills, you hope your kids never need to apply that knowledge, but not preparing them would be a disservice, to say the least.
Bullying affects parents, too!
Know the basics of how to defend yourself. I recommend starting with 6 Tips for Real-Life Self-Defense. After all, kids get most of their confidence cues from their parents.
- United Federation of Teachers – Anti-Bullying Project (US)
- Counselling Directory – Bullying (UK)
- Erase Bullying (Canada)
Glsen. 2013. For Parents and Families: What to do is a child is being bullied.
Gracie Bullyproof program. https://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PL13F526797F2FE41F&v=1HfaUCCJ4_M