October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
Recent national statistics show more than 28% of U.S. students grades 6-12 have experienced bullying with 30% admitting to bullying themselves.
The consequences of bullying behavior are traumatic and damaging to children and parents.
Kevin Roberts, owner of Life Martial Arts, says, it’s not about punching and kicking in martial arts, it’s about discipline. It’s about respect. It’s about how you feel about yourself.
“I began volunteering and partnering education with CCISD almost 10 years ago. The reason I donate my time, volunteer my time, is because I want every child to have the confidence in themselves to stop the bully. We go to all 37 elementary schools here in CCISD, and we teach all the way from kindergarten all the way to 5th grade,” said Roberts.
Roberts, who is a fifth-degree black belt with more than 18 years of experience in the martial arts industry, was bullied as a kid and wants to help prevent others from being bullied.
“We want them to understand they have what it is to stop. But more so, in 18 years plus teaching, I had 2 students who had taken their own lives due to bullying. And so that gets me up every morning, that’s what brings us here, my instructors and I, to come in to help these students to make sure that they are not that victim,” said Roberts.
Roberts’ anti-bullying program is about educating students on what bullying is and how to report it and address it in a pro-social manner.
“When we come in to teach anti-bullying, we teach by 4 simple steps that will work against physical attacks, verbal attacks, and that is, number 1: we block the attack. Whether it’s a verbal or physical assault, we block that. The next one is to create space to get to safety. We run and then we tell an adult,” said Roberts.
No matter the circumstances: Nobody should be bullied.
“Bullies are going to try and get you mad, angry, upset, and try to demean yourself worth. We want these students to have the skills to stop the bullies as well as the confidence and belief in themselves to know it is not okay for someone to hurt them and stand up to that bully,” said Roberts.
Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help.
It is important to talk with children who show signs of being bullied or bullying others.
Warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse. Talking to the child can help identify the root of the problem.
Who Is at Risk:
No single factor puts a child at risk of being bullied or bullying others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) youth, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth—may be at an increased risk of being bullied.
Children at Risk of Being Bullied:
Generally, children who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:
- Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider “cool”
- Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
- Are depressed, anxious, or have low self esteem
- Are less popular than others and have few friends
- Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention
However, even if a child has these risk factors, it doesn’t mean that they will be bullied.
Children More Likely to Bully Others:
There are two types of kids who are more likely to bully others:
- Some are well-connected to their peers, have social power, are overly concerned about their popularity, and like to dominate or be in charge of others.
- Others are more isolated from their peers and may be depressed or anxious, have low self esteem, be less involved in school, be easily pressured by peers, or not identify with the emotions or feelings of others.
Children who have these factors are also more likely to bully others;
- Are aggressive or easily frustrated
- Have less parental involvement or having issues at home
- Think badly of others
- Have difficulty following rules
- View violence in a positive way
- Have friends who bully others
Remember, those who bully others do not need to be stronger or bigger than those they bully. The power imbalance can come from a number of sources—popularity, strength, cognitive ability—and children who bully may have more than one of these characteristics.
Warning Signs for Bullying:
There are many warning signs that may indicate that someone is affected by bullying—either being bullied or bullying others. Recognizing the warning signs is an important first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help.
It is important to talk with children who show signs of being bullied or bullying others. These warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse. Talking to the child can help identify the root of the problem.
Signs a Child Is Being Bullied:
Look for changes in the child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.
Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:
- 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
If you know someone in serious distress or danger, don’t ignore the problem. Get help right away. Signs a Child is Bullying Others:
Kids may be bullying others if they:
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
- Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
- Blame others for their problems
- Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
- Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity
Why don’t kids ask for help?
Statistics from the 2012 Indicators of School Crime and Safety – PDF show that an adult was notified in less than half (40%) of bullying incidents. Kids don’t tell adults for many reasons:
- Bullying can make a child feel helpless. Kids may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale.
- Kids may fear backlash from the kid who bullied them.
- Bullying can be a humiliating experience. Kids may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak.
- Kids who are bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or could understand.
- Kids may fear being rejected by their peers. Friends can help protect kids from bullying, and kids can fear losing this support.