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Taking The 'Bull' Out of Bullying

Older generations should provide guidance to today's kids about respect

One nice thing about getting old is that you generate more opinions and more stories to tell than the younger generation. And, hopefully, you’ll find an audience for your stories and opinions. The Chinese have always embraced the idea that the elderly in society deserve special respect because age and longevity bring with them a greater understanding of the universe. Today’s fast-paced world with all of its challenges needs more opinions, wisdom and solutions from the grandmas and grandpas from places like Beachwood.

For instance, a modern problem, with age-old connections, is bullying. We should all have a story about bullying to share with our kids and grandkids.

We should let them know how we overcame the problem when we were growing up and how we not only survived but thrived. Maybe you outsmarted the bullies, evaded the bullies, exposed the bullies, got the bullies in trouble or even challenged the bully yourself.

While a lot of people would advise against using force against force, I would point out that kids’ courses like karate and self-defense are designed to teach discipline, respect and self-confidence. They teach defensive and not offensive action. After all, when have you ever read about a martial arts student ever attacking anybody? It just doesn’t happen! The idea of the sport is to learn everything you possibly can about protecting yourself, then avoid situations where you are forced to utilize your defensive skills.

Two of my four grandchildren, one boy, 7 years old, and one girl, 11 years old, have been taking martial arts classes for three years now. They are sweet, well-adjusted, fun-loving kids who can break wooden boards and concrete blocks with their hands and feet as well as disarm and drive a 6-foot-tall, 200-pound man to his knees in pain. They never get in trouble at school or any after school events, nor does anyone at school pick on them or bully them. At least, not more than once.

While I don’t advocate martial arts training for just anyone’s kids, I do recommend that parents and grandparents alike should have serious, timely discussions about bullying and its serious consequences in today’s world. In the so-called "good old days" when most kids went home after school on a school bus or in a car pool of some type, that was usually the last time they communicated with each other until the next school day. With today’s tweeting, texting, Facebook and e-mailing, there are even more choice opportunities for insecure bullies to tell fellow students that they’re fat, skinny, ugly, stupid, weird, the wrong color, the wrong religion or that they live on the wrong side of town – and probably worse. It’s all wrong and it’s all hateful.

Just think if all the bullying venom was turned around in a positive light and those kids who are most abused started receiving communications that they are smart, fun to be around, articulate, helpful or a true leader. Confidence and self-esteem would flourish and deep dark problems and self-destruction would be curbed.

Parents and grandparents need to utilize their communication skills by asking more questions about school bullying. Offer examples of people in your own schools that you or your classmates didn’t like or associate with, but who turned out to be the funniest, or the most beautiful, or the smartest or the richest kid in the class – or just about how they were people, too, who deserved respect. We all need to take a closer look around us as we’re growing up and be more tolerant. Hopefully, age and education leads to less bullying and more appreciation of those who share our world.

If you have a personal bullying story that was turned into a success that you would like to share, we would love to hear from you.

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