"A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself." - Dan Olweus, creator of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
Weíve all seen the horrifying stories on the news: Kids bringing weapons to school, school shootings, suicides - all as a result of bullying. Itís truly horrifying to think that children are murdering other children and ending their own lives because they feel like they have no other way to stop the abuse thatís happening to them.
Letís take a brief look at some recent statistics on youth violence:
- Youth violence is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24.
- Over 656,000 physical assault injuries in young people age 10 to 24 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2008.
- 32% of high school students reported being in a physical fight in the 12 months before the survey.
- 17.5% reported carrying a weapon (gun, knife or club) on one or more days in the 30 days preceding the survey.
- 5.9% carried a gun on one or more days in the 30 days preceding the survey.
- 5% did not go to school on one or more days in the 30 days preceding the survey because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school.
- An estimated 20% of high school students reported being bullied on school property.
Now letís take a quick look at the effects of bullying:
People Who are Bullied:
- Have higher risk of depression and anxiety that may persist into adulthood.
- Have increased thoughts about suicide that may persist into adulthood. In one study, adults who recalled being bullied in youth were 3 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or inclinations.
- Are more likely to have health complaints. In one study, being bullied was associated with physical health status 3 years later.
- Have decreased academic achievement (GPA and standardized test scores) and school participation.
- Are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
- Are more likely to retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
- Have a higher risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults.
- Are more likely to get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school.
- Are more likely to engage in early sexual activity.
- Are more likely to have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults. In one study, 60% of boys who bullied others in middle school had a criminal conviction by age 24.
- Are more likely to be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses or children as adults.
As parents, weíre rightfully frightened for the safety and health of our children Ė but what can we do? Schools and law enforcement can only do so much. Ultimately, itís up to us as parents to make sure that our children are equipped with the skills necessary to navigate though life and defend themselves against anyone wishing them harm. To most, this seems like an almost impossible task. Realistically, however, itís not.
Being able to understand the physical movement of one's body is key to establishing a child's place in the world. The success of martial arts in preventing children from becoming victims of violence is that it creates an immediate and indelible link to the internal sense of a child's being via external drills and discipline. This makes a child more confident, which carries over into how a child holds himself in the world. Bullies are predators by nature, and they prey on the weak. A confident child is less likely to be a victim, and martial arts provides this platform by helping create a resilient, confident child.
Knowing that they can defend themselves if a problem arises is a critical benefit that children derive from martial arts training. Martial arts does not just teach kids how to defend themselves physically, but more importantly, how to avoid dangerous situations. Avoiding the situation rather than being in a physical confrontation is an important concept that instructors teach both indirectly and directly. If the need arises, your children can be secure in their knowledge of how to defend themselves from physical harm. This is the power derived from martial arts.