News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

A little help for the good guys at school

What would you say about the safety environment of the children in our area in 2007? Is it safe? Are they safe? Is it better now than in 1985? Worse than 1971? How about 1964? Are bullies still a threat to our children, or did that all go out with “Leave It to Beaver” in the days before color television? The answers may surprise you.

As a child of the 1960s and ’70s, I can say that bullying was still around back then. At age 8, I can remember some older boys harassing my two brothers and myself as we played on the playground at Delano Park in Decatur. They slapped my oldest brother a few times as he stood up for us and asked them to leave us alone. I can also remember being punched in the face for no reason by a visiting relative of a neighbor. I was untrained, taught not to fight, and just stood there swollen and hurting. I have no idea what provoked him. He might have been trying to show off for the other children. A thug pulled a knife on me on the school bus. He was about 15, and I can’t remember what set him off. Again, my oldest brother talked the guy into leaving us alone. These bad memories linger, but they are crucial to understanding that today’s world is no safer for good children than those days were — it’s worse.

Recent studies show that at least 30 percent of children are physically bullied (and some studies have shown up to 70 percent). They also indicate that bullies are generally physically aggressive, hot-tempered, easily angered and impulsive, with a low tolerance for frustration. And those on the receiving end of bullying are typically anxious, insecure, cautious and suffer from low self-esteem. They rarely defend themselves (except in the movies). Those who are bullied often have trouble concentrating in school. There also appears to be a strong link between those who bully as a child and adult legal and criminal problems. One more thing: Adults who were bullied as youths have higher levels of depression and lower self-esteem than other adults. It doesn’t just “go away,” does it?

So, what’s the solution? How can we keep good children safe in today’s world? Self-defense training is one alternative that not only prepares children for confrontation, it also teaches them how to avoid confrontation. Martial arts replaces a bullied child’s insecurity and low self-esteem with confidence and greater self-worth. And it can help channel a bully’s aggressiveness into physical activity, discipline and a positive attitude.

Martial arts helps shape a child into an educated, well-employed and socially conscious adult. And it gives your child the skills and attitude to break free from bullying. Man, I wish I had had martial arts training in 1968! Talk to your school administrators this year about starting a “break free from bullying” program. I’m willing to bet the local professional martial arts instructors in your area will help. Let’s do this for the good guys!

Jerry Chenault is with the Cooperative Extension System in Lawrence County.

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