In elementary school, it starts off innocent. Boys teasing girls, girls teasing boys. At the kindergarten level, kids picking on one another is oftentimes harmless and playful.
But when does teasing turn into bullying?
“When I was 8 years old, I had a disability,” says Brian Seetge, a child development expert in Rome, NY. “I used to go to physical therapist in elementary school who would come and pull me out of class. That was a very humiliating and life changing experience because I was looked at as a ‘special kid.’ I was being picked on and bullied just because I was doing something different than the other kids.”
Bullying has become a hot topic across the United States, as schools put into place policies and rules against bullying, in light of several very high profile bullying cases that resulted in tragedy. Now, local governments, school systems, and local organizations are working to prevent bullying, especially in schools.
Seetge explains how he was able to prevent bullying in his life. “My physical therapist told my parents that martial arts would be good for my balance and coordination, which I was lacking. And after I went, my physical condition improved, and I didn’t have to go to physical therapy anymore. Plus, I was becoming more confident and stronger inside too.”
Seetge continues this training at his own martial arts school, called Side Kicks Karate. Martial Arts is known for developing confidence, discipline, and kindness in children, as it did for him.
Many efforts to address bullying in schools focus on “eliminating bullying.” Seetge has a different opinion on “eliminating bullying.”
“There’s isn’t a way to eliminate bullying. Bullying has been going on forever,” he says. “And will continue to. We can’t control what the bully does, but we can control our actions and our behaviors on how we react to what the bully does to us. We can help each other so that bullying doesn’t affect us.”
Many experts on child development, including Seetge, choose instead to focus on building confidence and “mental toughness” in children, while arming them with strategies to avoid bullying situations.
However, Seetge recognizes that while martial arts will help kids’ mental toughness, that the strategies must evolve with changing times.
“When I was a kid, I would go up and talk to the teacher. I felt like I could trust the teacher, and kids today don’t always have that same level of trust. Kids look at teachers differently than I did as a kid. Kids today see teachers as educators and adults, but don’t feel the trust because kids today are so focused on themselves.”
“Teachers are there for kids, to teach them and have their best interests in mind. Kids don’t always get this. So today, we have to work harder to help them understand that we are all part of one team.”
For teachers and children, Seetge recommends these Three Keys to Help Kids Become Bully Proof:
- Use your senses: Make sure you’re aware of who and what is around you. If you spot a bully, you can avoid them more quickly. Also, by using your ears to really listen, you can tell if some “teasing” is real or not. Don’t take things too seriously.
- Recognize Your Team: Everyone needs a team to be successful in life. Surround yourself with a good team, with similar values. Someone with a good team is less likely to be bullied.
- Build Confidence: Get into something that is empowering, like martial arts, soccer, or baseball. Find something that helps you stand taller and communicate better. Bullies will pick on kids that are shy or timid. If you are confident and strong, there is less chance you’ll be picked on!
Brian Seetge is a child development specialist and has been featured on radio stations in his hometown of Rome, NY. His martial arts school, Side Kicks Karate, teaches kids to be Bully Proof by instilling confidence, discipline, and courtesy. For more information, visit: http://www.romenykarate.com.