A bullying incident in Liberty, Missouri, last week sparked an outcry from the Missouri State Senate, threatening budget cuts to schools that fail to prevent such incidents. The victim of the bullying was a sixth grade boy, who was bullied and then beaten up by an older eighth grade student. The victim spent five days in the hospital with a broken jaw and head injuries.
According to the victim’s parents, they had notified the school administration over a month earlier about the bullying. The boy’s grandfather went so far as to send a certified letter to the school.
Missouri Senator Eric Schmitt said, “I don’t know what has to happen for some of these folks to start paying attention, but I think part of the strategy might be, you know what? All the dollars that you claim that you … some of that might be at risk if you don’t do your job.”
While incidents like this one are getting increasing media coverage, there is increased pressure on schools and teachers to prevent bullying events like what happened at Liberty Middle School. However, many children’s development experts also focus on the other side of the equation.
“One of the things that is necessary to prevent bullying is to build up the individual child’s confidence,” says Juan Colon.
Colon, who owns Championship Martial Arts in Winter Springs, Fla., has worked with children who have experienced bullying at local schools.
“Over the years, I’ve had the chance to work with many kids who were bullied. And we were successful in stopping the bullying. Not because we changed the system or the bully, but we changed the kid and they way he or she felt about himself.”
Colon isn’t alone. Many experts who focus on anti-bullying efforts choose to put effort and energy into developing the confidence and self-esteem of children, rather than simply raising awareness about the issue. Brett Lechtenberg, author of The Anti-Bully Program, says, “Raising awareness is not enough. Many times teachers and parents think that having an assembly at school to ‘raise awareness,’ and talking about bullying will make the problem go away. This is absolutely false. Raising awareness is great but you have to follow that up with real training for kids, parents and school staff.”
Colon was a target of bullying when he was a child. He started martial arts training to learn to defend himself, but in the end never had to, because his training made him feel more confident and proud. Today, his stance on bullying is to provide a forum in his martial arts school that helps strengthen individual kids.
Martial arts programs, like Colon’s, serve to help a child feel more confidence in themselves with a structured curriculum to provide a challenge that they can overcome and succeed in. This program would become progressively more challenging, giving a kid more feelings of success through an earned victory.
However, Colon also emphasizes that efforts from schools and from programs like at this martial arts school aren’t enough. Children must also have support from parents and family at home. Parents provide the example of an adult that more children will model.
“In order to make a strong child, it takes a community. Kids need help from their teachers as school and guidance from their parents at home.”
To find out more about Juan Colon and his martial arts program, visit: http://www.championshipmartialarts.com.