Tuesday, 22 January 2013

You might be doing it wrong

I read an article today, a parenting one, from a Dad. I found the article roaming the internet on Stumble Upon.

I know that this Dad has good intentions, with this particular article, and I know what he MEANT - but what was actually said, or what I interpreted, is a completely different message. 

The article is about concerns that the writer's son might be bullied, because of his slight frame and sensitive nature. 

To face these concerns he took his son to kickboxing classes. The goal being to help his son learn to stand up to (as yet imaginary) bullies. By hitting them, I presume? Phrases like 'don't pick on me, you might lose' are in the text, and it really concerns me that this is the attitude a child is taken to learn martial arts with. 

After all - from kickboxing leaflets I was given:

"By starting young, children are equipped with invaluable skills that stay with them forever. From increased respect and self-discipline to improved confidence, fitness and team skills, martial arts such as kickboxing can shape a child's character and help them take life in their stride."

It says it right there. It doesn't say anything about hitting other kids, or standing up to people with your fists, or violence as a defense. 

It says respect. Self-discipline. Improved confidence. Team skills. 

I did kickboxing. A big part of having the license (and you NEED one, a little booklet, saying that you're trained or training in martial arts) is the agreement that you WILL NOT use this to hurt or threaten people. It is a SPORT. 

Shape a child's character. Help them take life in their stride. 

There is nothing whatsoever in there about bullies, being a bully, scaring off a bully. 

The way to help children steer their way through the complex world of school, the hierarchy of their peers, the gauntlet run day to day when learning who they are and where they fit among other children is to never criticise the things that make them individuals - not to scorn their sensitivities, or belittle their fears. 

Building confidence is the perfect way to challenge bullies. My husband was a confident child, friendly with everyone. He has no memories of being bullied at school, at all. Ever. He has said that it's entirely likely that some of the children tried, but because he was so happy with who he is he just didn't notice, and they gave up.

THAT is what we should all aim for. Our children should be HAPPY to be who they are, sure in the knowledge that it's ok to be that, that they're allowed to like the things they like, to play the games they play, to be sensitive if that works for them. 

We should never be telling them that the way they are right now isn't good enough. We shouldn't celebrate if, when faced with an incident where another, bigger child is rough housing or there's a suggestion some bullying might be about to occur, our child lashes out first and hurts another. 

Being 'a man' isn't about winning a fight. It's about being strong enough not to get into one. Learning martial arts isn't about learning how to hit someone before they hit you. Nor is it, as someone commented, about 'making sure you get the last punch in' - meaning that you're so superior at hitting that you beat someone to the extent that they can't move to hurt you again. 

Self defense is about AVOIDING fights. Martial arts are about SPORT. About developing skills, respect. I'll say it again, RESPECT. 

SELF RESPECT. That is what our children need to learn. Be it from kickboxing or sewing sequins on to my little pony costumes, whether they can run in a straight line or not, I don't care WHAT my children are interested in, just that I support those interests. I don't CARE if my children are sensitive, smaller than the other kids, delicate. 

What I CARE about - to help them avoid being bullied - which, as someone who was bullied horrifically at school, concerns me all the time - is building their self worth and their confidence so that the other kids just like them, and they enjoy being around each other. 

It isn't about them not feeling intimidated. It isn't about them standing up to bullies. It's about helping them, and the children around them, learn to celebrate and embrace the things that make them different to one another, to be friendly, kind, NICE. 

I understand the fears that led to the decision - and I understand the intention and what was meant - I totally get it. But the method seems to be a little whack. Some kids, quite rightly, just aren't fighters.


  1. Kids feeling secure and confident is important, if they learn this at kick boxing all well and good!

    1. I totally agree - martial arts, or other sports, are wonderful for children and they all get a lot out of doing them. Encouraging joining some kind of sport activity is a wonderful idea for helping children develop that confidence, as well as every other benefit - health, team playing, respect etc.

      It's the idea that they're going to learn to hit people, or scare people, or intimidate them, that worried me.


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