How do I know if my child is being bullied?
If you suspect your child is being bullied then you should act right away. I will outline here what to look for and then how to help your child with some do’s and don’ts.
To begin with, let’s define bullying.
Bullying is when there is an imbalance of power and the abuse is ongoing. An isolated incident of your child being pushed down and called a name is not bullying. It certainly needs to be addressed and children need to learn proper conflict resolution (how to get along with others) but this behavior is not considered bullying.
An imbalance of power occurs when someone has a higher social status and uses that status to say and do hurtful things such as isolating another child at lunch or publicly making fun of someone in order to get people to laugh at them or not like them.
Another imbalance of power is when someone is much bigger and stronger and can physically hurt you or overpower you. They can hold you down, drag you, hit you and you can’t defend yourself. Maybe there is more than one person which is certainly an imbalance of power.
Next, understand that your child will most likely not tell you they are being bullied.
According to https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/index.html , only 40% of children tell someone about being bullied. That means 60%, over half of the kids, don’t tell. So, we as parents and teachers need to know what signs to look for so we can help children and teens who don’t talk about their experience with bullying. We all know how stressful keeping a painful secret can be and this is so harmful not only emotionally but physically, as well.
Kids don’t want to talk about this because it can be humiliating, or they start to believe the bully, that they somehow deserve this or are worthless. Just like any victim of abuse might behave. They may also be afraid that if they tell, the bullying will get worse.
Here are some signs to look for if you suspect your child is being bullied.
- They no longer want to participate in activities they used to enjoy like sports, after school groups, church activities or going to hang out with friends.
- A significant change in their eating or sleeping habits. Both can be signs of stress.
- They complain about not participating because of headache or stomach ache. Obviously, everyone has these as one time or another, but this would be chronic and often tied into having to go to school or other activities where children or their bully may be present.
- They come home with unexplained injuries or their stories just don’t match up with how they were injured.
- You start to notice lower grades and lack of friendship connections. Even on social media. Teens especially love to chat and look at social media so a sudden disinterest can be a sign of cyber bullying.
Lastly, here are some ways to help your child and stop the bullying.
It is extremely important to calmly, and with as little emotion as possible, speak with your child about what they might be going through. If we show how upset and angry and hurt we are to the child, they may want to protect us from harm and not tell us all that is going on. You can ask leading questions such as, “I noticed you don’t like hanging out with so and so anymore. Anything wrong?” Or, “It seems you are having trouble sleeping, is there something bothering you?” Or, “Hey, if you had a real problem, do you have someone you could talk to and confide in? Would you be comfortable talking to me?”
These are leading questions to help start a conversation and let the child know you are here to help and that you will not be upset with them. You should definitely set up a meeting with a trusted counselor to help navigate the next steps. There are many ways to protect your child without making the situation worse and someone who works in this area daily can help you with this. I would suggest that you do not contact the parents or the “bully” yourself. A mediator or 3rd party is really the best way to handle this.
Martial Arts and Bullying
As a lifetime martial artist and a Master Instructor, I would not do this topic justice if I did not talk about how effective good marital arts training is in preventing not only kids from being bullied, but from becoming a bully. My husband, Glenn Olson has been a teacher of anti-bullying programs for 15 years in our community and academy, Olson’s Martial Arts Academy, INC. His Safety NET Kids program is taught in schools and churches nation-wide and we know first hand how martial arts training can stop bullying. We focus on teaching children confidence and awareness each and every day. In addition to our personal experience, here is an excerpt from research one of our fellow martial art instructors learned about martial arts and bullying.
“For years, martial arts schools have been touted as a solution for kids who are bullied. If we teach our kids to respect and protect themselves, they will be better able to deal with other kids at school, bullies or not. Unfortunately, we have never had data to back this up.
So, along with Arizona State University, we initiated research to find out whether karate helps, doesn’t help or whether it makes the problem worse. Over 200 kids and parents of martial arts … in 17 states were surveyed.
The results were both conclusive and exciting:
We found out that kids who train in martial arts for an extended period get bullied a staggering 64 percent less than those who just got started. This is a better reduction than most programs that schools implement. In addition, it appears that karate kids bully others less, and 98 percent of the parents reported improvement in their child’s self-esteem, making them better able to respond to the pressures of the classroom and the playground.”
Dr. Greg Moody
About Dr. Greg Moody: Greg is a seventh-degree black belt and senior master instructor. He has a Ph.D. in Special Education from Arizona State University. He has been teaching martial arts for over 25 years and has owned eight martial arts schools in Arizona and California. Sr. Master Moody is a motivational speaker and educator and teaches seminars in bullying, business, and martial arts training, around the world.
I hope this information is useful and will help your child or someone else’s child who may be a victim of bullying.
Wishing you a harmonious and happy home! Amanda Olson