Should we teach children to use physical force to fight bullies when comebacks have failed? Would you be okay with your child using physical force if he needed to protect himself from harm? Are you aware that fighting back does not always stop bullies? What will you do if the school suspends your child for protecting himself? Would you fight the school’s decision? What if you learned that children who fight back get hurt worse?
Do You Encourage the Use of Physical Force?
Yes, there are times when building up your child’s self-esteem and helping him with good comebacks will help. Unfortunately, there are times when this will not be enough. Is this when you send your child to martial arts?
I hear so many give this as a quick answer to this difficult issue. The truth is the bullies children face today are not their parents’ bullies. They are their parents’ bullies on steroids and they need help to change. You can send your child to self-defense classes hoping this will help, but some of the bullies already have higher belts in karate or other martial arts. This is the case where I live.
Recommendations Beyond Martial Arts
Last fall, TodayMoms published an article where some suggested martial arts, even listing two places that market their classes as a means of bully proofing your child. Yet even one of them did not recommend martial arts as a first line of defense. Here’s what they recommended instead:
- Set verbal boundaries.
- Learn to be loud when you are threatened.
- Use force to stun your attacker.
- Then run.
You cannot assume that physical force will stop the bullies, and frankly I do not want to teach my children that punching, kicking or throwing someone will solve all of their problems. Use of force can result in serious injury to your child, as Dr. Michele Borba notes on her site in one of her many posts about bullying. The serious injury happens when they are unable to stop the bully. That is not saying that martial arts are a bad idea. They are good for giving kids a means to escape, and both of my kids have taken classes.
Alternative Ways To Fight
So what are your other options? Should you sue the school for failing to protect your child? What really helps stop bullying?
- There may be times when you should take legal action. I do not recommend this as a first line of defense either. It will keep you and/ or your child stuck in negative emotions. Remember it might take years for your case to go to trial. Verdicts do not always go the way we hope either, but if the school is unable or unwilling to protect your child, it might be your best choice.
Jamie Nabozny made the choice to sue some years after he experienced bullying. He realized how many kids were being bullied the same way he had been. He then became an advocate for children, and earlier this year the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights named him a Defender of Human Rights.
- Parents of children with special needs have another option if their child is in public school. Did you know that you can add the need to be safe from bullying in your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program)? You can include supports, accommodations, and strategies to make this happen. You can even include your child in the process if appropriate. This also gives you more leverage if your child experiences bullying.
A Third Option: Changing the School Climate
Should you work with the school to change the school climate? Will the school even listen to you? Can bystanders really protect our children if they become upstanders, the new term for those who standup to bullies, or will they just become targets themselves? Can upstanders really change bullies?
- Changing school climates will not happen overnight, but if you can get the school to listen and other parents to support you, this really is the best solution. The problem I and many others have faced is too few support us. Schools frequently ignore the parent who stands alone. That is why I took the approach of writing a novel and trying to get it into schools to educate them about differences, but this is not enough. Parents everywhere have to wakeup. We all have a responsibility to raise a better generation and we cannot ask our children to standup by themselves either.
Yes, I saw bystanders speaking up work on “Dateline” too. Honestly, none of those children on the show had to see each other the next day. They were all from different places. My daughter did standup to bullies. That is how she became a target during the worse year of her young life. We all have to speak out and support others who do too. Fighting bullying is not a one man, a one woman, a one child, a one organization, or even a one movie or one book operation. It really does take a village. Please become part of the village.
“Advocate for Fighting Back Against Bullies Speaks at S.J. Quinney College of Law.” University of Utah News. 12, April, 2012. Web. 20 Sept. 2012.
Borba, Michele, Ed.D. “What To Do If Your Child Is Bullied.” Dr. Michele Borba. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2012.
“Bullying and IEPs – Bully Free World – the Bully Project Campaign for Children with Special Needs.” Bully Free World. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2012.
Kalning, Kristin. “New Anti-bullying Trend: Teaching Victims to Fight Back.” TodayMoms. 27 November, 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2012.
Mirkinson, Jack. “‘My Kids Would Never…Bully,’ Dateline Special, Uses Hidden Cameras To Look At Bullying (VIDEO).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 03 Mar. 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2012.