A young man I was mentoring came up to me one day, and asked me how I thought he should handle the bully who kept bullying him at school. As an infantry Marine I was taught to locate the enemy and destroy it. Growing up in North Philly I learn that you can’t be a punk because people would walk all over you. So as expected my advice went something like this, “Hey kid next time that bully approaches you punch him in the nose as hard as you can, and the bully will leave you alone.” I know you’re probably thinking I’m a terrible person but the kid didn’t take my advice, which was good for the both of us. My advice today would be to avoid the bully; this teaches a foundation for situational awareness, which is key for self defense.
Some of you might ask well rundown I don’t understand why you feel that way when that way has worked for me. Some parents might have even given their children this same advice, and that’s understandable. This is an old way of thinking, and this old way of thinking should become obsolete. As a father I will too some day have to give my son advice on this matter. This piece is something that will work for the least experience to the expert, and it’s easy. So let me explain.
As an infantry Marine I was taught to fight the enemy. Self defense is not the same as fighting the enemy. Self defense is about survival, and avoidance is key to survival. There’s nothing wrong in teaching our children to defend themselves because you never know when a real survival moment will arise. A bullying moment is not a survival moment. A bullying moment is part of the social experience. (I know this is a little vague but bullying is not abnormal, what would be abnormal would be if everyone treated everyone with kindness and respect all of the time).
So this is the gist of it:
Talk to the child, and come up with a plan. The plan is crucial. The goal is to find out what areas the child is being bullied because those are the areas that he or she will practice avoidance. So let’s say this child says I’m being bullied on social media and in the school lunchroom. Then you need to figure out what tools are at your disposal to help this child avoid the bully there. You should think through ways the child can avoid being bullied. Be creative, be encouraging, and help the child gain some control of the situation.
Now avoidance is not weakness as some might think. We are not teaching children to avoid their problems either. A child who is bullying is just that a child, and he or she is someone’s child at that. By teaching a child to be aware of the areas the bully chooses to bully him or her the child is learning situational awareness. The child is also being given the opportunity to take some control of the situation, and this is extremely important. With a little work the bullying issue will not be an issue. A child with a little control over a situation they thought was uncontrollable would have confidence to work on some of the more crippling issues going on in their lives.