Nobody wants their child to be a victim.
In fact, we all want our kids to be assertive. And when necessary, we want them to stand up for themselves and others. But we also know it can be more complicated than that. What if they stand up for themselves and get beat up? Or, they could be labeled bullies if they overdo it. Maybe they actually have become bullies. Now what? Many adults can’t really handle the pressure of these problems themselves. The adult workplace is littered with people who believe that abusing others is the way to get ahead, or to stay in control. So, what is the answer for our kids? Is that answer appropriately preparing them for the adult world? I would like to look at this from a couple angles.
We have rules for a reason.
Most adults understand to follow basic rules. If we drive on the wrong side of the road, bad things happen. If we hit someone at work, there is a good chance of going to jail. Period. Eventually, a judge might decide we were justified in doing so. But why go through the hassle? The world doesn’t need everyone hitting everyone. So, the threat of being beat up is where most problems actually take place. The rules are an effective deterrent, but don’t fix the underlying problem. If you have more than one child or sibling, you are familiar with the invisible line. One child usually taunts the child, and pushes the boundary of the invisible line. The line kills all out conflict, but doesn’t stop our problem completely. And who started this mess anyway? We can’t stop it completely. So, what can we do? Before getting into our options, another angle should be analyzed.
The rules are not instant.
This is where the threat of action weighs in. Someone hits junior, and he does the ‘right’ thing. No fighting. He knows they will get in trouble, and they don’t get a fight. Problem solved, right? No! The bully doesn’t care, and sees junior as an easy target. The bulky system exposes the ‘rules’ as inefficient, while junior is forced to comply with the bully’s wishes. Now what?
These are some common options.
The standard Midwestern parent says to hit them. But never hit first. Do you remember the invisible line? Nobody knows who really started it, so everyone gets in trouble. If you are the victim of situation number two, you just got double punished. So, we teach to hit them anyway and keep parental support. But how does that work for you in the adult world? Isn’t that what we are preparing them for?
Another common answer is to tell them not to worry. You will be their boss someday, and the tables will be turned. Even if this was true, what are you teaching them about intent? The meaning of their life is to eventually get some weird sense of revenge? We can do better.
What do we teach?
We often say ‘trust the process’ which means a lot of things. The first and last lesson we learn in Jiu Jitsu is about space. We have a right to our space, and it’s easier to keep it than to get back. Everyone needs to understand position. It’s much better to be in a place where you can’t be hurt. Then, you sometimes have the option to hurt them. But not the obligation. Hurting others drives them away, and that’s not usually a good idea. Best case scenario, we learn to avoid bad situations. When we find ourselves in a bad situation, our goal is always to find our way to a better place.
Bjj is a unique culture in the martial arts. The class is kept relaxed and informal by many standards. We follow a clear structure, but everyone should feel comfortable having everyday conversations. In training, everyone understands that we help each other so everyone progresses. Continuing everyday patterns and helping others accomplish positive goals helps to develop meaningful social skills.
Then, there’s tapping.
Tapping signifies the end of the game. You have to acknowledge that you lost, and they stop. This is important because everyone can safely train at full resistance. Overcoming failure is the best way to be certain about knowing something. Threats from bullies don’t mean as much when you’re used to handling people. Also, tapping is a habit on both sides. Winners are in the habit of stopping before anyone gets hurt. If a fight is inevitable, knowing how when and why to show mercy is crucial.
Most importantly, we stay relaxed and realistic.
There is no pretend bad guy. And we actually do what we practice. We are playing a game. And it can be used, if needed for self defense. After a short time training, kids learn exactly what they can and cannot do. If they stick it out for a while, confidence and battle tested skills will shine through. The culture of a bjj gym also changes how they see bullies. People who can really fight are relaxed, friendly, and helpful.