At Peak Performance Martial Arts and Fitness, we don’t wait for a special week of the year to highlight bully awareness.
This is ingrained into everything we do.
As a child I was bullied prolifically. So much so, that to avoid the bully my attendance went down to 25%. Fortunately I worked hard at home and still came out with good GCSE’s and went on to work hard at college. I was one of the lucky ones!
But my school “didn’t have a bully problem”. Due to my school not having a bully problem, they didn't deal with bullies. In my opinion a school proclaiming they don’t have a bully problem, often means they don’t have a policy for dealing with bullies. Every school has a bully “opportunity”, its then down to their policies to decide if it becomes a problem.
Kids are mean (so are adults!) This is all part of life’s development. I learned “Tuckmans – Stages of Group development” later in life. Forming, Storming, norming and Performing.
So when a new group, of school students gets together in year 7. They form up and then they start storming. So effectively its all a power play. They want to be top person, have the biggest group of friends etc. Then depending on that childs' life to date, they start making decisions based on social interaction.
They will either be nice to their fellow student, or they will make fun of anyone who is different to them. So the pecking order is formed.
If the person at the top of the pecking order, or trying to get further up the pecking order is unhappy in their own life, for whatever reason (could be serious, could be they don’t understand their homework) they may lash out towards others. Verbally or physically.
So we need to teach our children how to deal with this.
We have a five stage approach to this.
But before we go through this, I clarify with them the difference between bullying and a difference of opinion.
So generally the boys like football, so I ask them what team they support. You get some great answers. From an actual football team, to a choice of colour, to random words because they can’t remember the name of the team. I got “Chestnuts” last night. I assume that they were trying to say Chelsea, but who knows!
To make sure the girls are not left out, I enquire about what other thing they like, usually getting swimming, athletics, gymnastics etc.
I then have the scenario that the team that differs from mine, lost last night, so I tell the other child “Ha ha, your team are rubbish etc”. I question if this is bullying. I go on to clarify that this is just a difference of opinion.
Stage 1 – Say Stop.
Like in all of our self defence situations, we teach the kids to say “stop” (“Let go” if it’s a grab). So this applies nicely here. If the kids are getting upset in anyway by what’s happening, we ask them to advise the person saying or doing it that’s its upsetting them and to ask them to stop.
In my opinion anything after this stage is now bullying.
Stage 2 – Walk away or avoid
Once they have said stop, we want them to walk away from what is happening. Moving forward we want them to avoid the bully. So if they see the bully coming, change direction or go somewhere else. They can even go and say hi to an adult/teacher.
If they're at school, this is a good tactic. They don’t have to “tell” on the other child just yet. Just go and have a nice chat with a teacher who is nearby. The bully will avoid them without having to do anything.
Stage 3 – Tell an adult they trust
Now this doesn’t have to be Mum and Dad. They can just tell a teacher, an aunt or uncle, someone they feel comfortable confiding in. They may not feel comfortable telling Mum and Dad. For whatever reason, you never know. So when explaining this to them, give them as many options as possible of safe people they can confide in.
Hopefully this person takes it seriously and starts the process of stopping it. It has to get back to the school to deal with. Hopefully that will be the end of it. However, monitor this closely if you are aware of it at stage 3.
If the child is “not feeling well”, “got tummy ache” (is one of the main ones). Tummy ache can often mean they're nervous and they don’t know how to describe it. Not all the time, but if it happens often and you think they're trying to use it to get out of school, this may be why. As well as many other reasons, but keep it in mind.
Stage 4 – first escalation
At this stage you really want to know. Even if you’ve told them its safe to speak to an aunt, make sure the aunt knows to speak to you on any repeats. The child can speak to the school again, but they must talk to you. You now need to go and see the school to start the official process off.
Get it recorded, make sure your child is starting to write stuff down. Names, dates, times, location etc.
Get an appointment with someone senior at the school and get an agreed action plan. This should not involve moving your child. Unless they can prove your child is actually the problem, they should not be moving (aka punishing) your child away from the bully.
Stage 5 – Bullying is assault!
You cannot jump to this stage, you have to work through every stage and give time for all action plans to work. But if all else fails, bullying; physically or mentally is a form of assault.
As an adult you wouldn’t accept being punched by someone, or having abuse said to you every day. So don’t subject your child to it. If working with the bully, the school and the other parents has failed. Go to the Police.
Couple of websites including the government website.
Stage 6 (yes 6 of our 5 step plan!!) – help others
We hope that all of the kids who have been with Peak Performance a little while are growing into nice confident kids. So we want them to help others.
So we ask them to keep an eye out for kids who are being bullied. If they see it, we ask them to intervene. We ask them to go over and befriend the person who is being bullied. Doesn’t have to be a long term friendship. Just go over and tell the bully to leave their friend alone. Once the bully has gone, the bullied will hopefully say thank you. And you never know, they might actually have made a friend in the process.
If you think this might help someone, please send it on. Share the love!!