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What are the First Steps to Bully-Proofing your Child?

Learning the unspoken soft skills of dealing with a bully will benefit your child for the rest of their lives. Let's face it, having to deal with bullying never fully stops. Even as adults we have all experienced someone trying to bully us at work or in our personal relationships. Some companies even train their personnel to use bullying tactics in business dealings. It is an essential life skill to know how to deal with bullying and the younger we learn how to do this, the less bullying will affect our lives. Long-term emotional, physical, or even financial problems stemmed from being bullied will continue to have power over our lives until we learn healthy ways to deal with it.

As we get older, we tend to learn how to identify this sort of behavior and not let it affect us so much. A lot of the things that affected me when I was a child no longer have any effect on me. If some stranger starts shouting insults at me I just shrug it off and walk on. I am able to do this because of my own self-confidence and the knowledge that taking things personally is never a good option and only leads to self-defeat.

But what about children? Obviously bullying can be much more traumatic to a child than to an adult. Why is this?

Reason #1: We are the sum of our experiences. Things become much easier as we get older because we have more and more experience to fall back on when things get tough. More experience leads to greater confidence because we know we have either been there before, or we have been through worse. The perceived severity of our problems is entirely based on our own personal point of reference. For example, the things that may have made you panic as a teenager probably have little power over you now.

A child does not have the benefit of an adult's life experience. This means every new adversity can seem to be the worst problem in the world to them. How often have we seen children overreact to what seems to be the most trivial of things? To the child those trivial things are sometimes the most important to them at that time. It is important to be more understanding of these things. Remember, even if it is minor to you, it may just be the most important thing in the world to a child.

Reason #2: A child's primordial brain functions are still more dominant than their logical minds. The primordial or "reptile" brain is much more dominant when you are a child. The reptile brain is mainly concerned with survival and is constantly vigilant. Human beings are tribal by nature, and the reptile brain understands that exclusion from the group often means death. This means that fitting in with others is a huge priority for all of us, but especially a child. To the child's less developed mind, the survival instinct will induce severe anxiety when faced with exile from social groups. Thus, when a child is bullied the emotional impact is greatly increased by the perceived threat to survival by the reptile brain. Of course, a child''s conscious mind probably doesn't think this way, but the reptile brain certainly does. This makes it absolutely critical to make children feel like they belong and to teach them how to deal with bullying in a healthy way.

What are some ways we can help children learn to deal with bullying? Answers to this question are too numerous to go into a lot of detail in this article, but we can cover some ideas to help parents begin to bully-proof their children. This is where learning soft skills really come into play. One of the most effective ways to protect your child is to really work on building their confidence and self-esteem. This is one of the biggest reasons childhood development professionals recommend martial arts training to deter bullying. We all build our confidence up every time we take on a new challenge and succeed. A good martial arts school will challenge a student while not making goals unattainable. A good school will work with your child and give them the tools needed to overcome new challenges. As a child sees themselves overcoming challenges they didn't think possible, it increases both confidence and self-esteem.

Building self-esteem can be accomplished by encouraging your child to attempt new things, but needs to be accompanied with a lot of encouragement. People become whatever it is they are feeding their minds. If a child constantly hears that they "can't do (enter activity here)", they will begin to believe that they are never good enough. Without proper encouragement, children will begin to self-sabotage themselves without even knowing it. Most of the time this never leaves the child and haunts them into adulthood. Almost all self-sabotaging behavior is learned when we are children and can take a lifetime to change.

Building self-esteem and confidence should be the foundation of how to prepare a child to deal with bullying. While these traits are being encouraged, the child much be taught that what bullies say or even write about them are all lies. It is good to constantly remind children that all bullies want to do is hurt them and anything they say is just a way to upset and hurt them. After re-enforcing self-esteem and building confidence at home, making sure the child knows to never believe bullies can create an emotional shield for the child. These three concepts should be the foundation for any anti-bully program out there. A more resilient child will not be affected near as much with bullying and on their way to becoming a more successful adult. A confident child that knows their self-worth is hard to bully.

There are many, many more techniques and strategies out there to deal with bullying. Focusing on the building blocks of self-confidence, self-esteem, and learning to not internalize negative stimuli is a huge first step. There are many programs to help foster self-esteem and self-confidence in your child. We suggest enrolling in a good martial arts program that will cater to your child's needs where they will be able to develop this emotional resiliency and live much better lives.

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