It’s like taking a solid blow to the chest.
That gut-wrenching feeling you get when someone is hurting your child.
And not just once. But over and OVER again.
The fact the one doing the hurting is ALSO another child matters little to the fury you feel inside and the overwhelming desire to strike back. Am I right?
Of course you can’t strike back. And it burns.
My 12-year-old daughter started high school this month.
Without telling all that she has confided in me, it hasn’t been smooth sailing.
The incidents she has dealt with in recent weeks range between standard (but devastating when you’re 12) friendship troubles and blatant nastiness.
It’s led to me becoming less mouse, more LIONESS.
And regularly resisting the urge for profanities!
How lucky that I do A LOT of punching and kicking for fun enabling me to act somewhat appropriately in public.
At first I felt powerless to help. My 10 year-old son has been learning Taekwondo since he was 5 and is on track to attempt his Black Belt grading later this year.
At one point I was wishing I had insisted my daughter undertake the same training.
But almost in the same moment, I realised it didn’t matter that SHE hadn’t undertaken the training.
Hang on. Wharrrrt (you’re wondering) ????
Stick with me here because this is important.
When it comes to dealing with bullies, the study of Taekwondo provides you with WAY more than mere blocks, kicks, punches, holds and throws.
Of course, those things can help but really, they are JUST one part of the protective shield that Taekwondo provides.
So even though my daughter hadn’t undertaken ANY of the training my son and I had done, there were many other things we had learned through long association with our club Taekwondo Central
and 6th Dan Black Belt Master Justin Warren that we could pass onto her.
In fact, we had an arsenal of weapons to deploy and many of them didn’t have anything to do with knowing how to block a punch OR deliver a devastating kick to head height.
As much as we might secretly want to show her how to do just that!
Here are 3 of the MOST important lessons we learned through practicing Taekwondo, that have NOTHING to do with punching and kicking:
1. Fake it ‘til you make it
One of the first things Master Justin teaches in both his women’s self defence and Little Dragons classes is how to deter a potential attacker BEFORE they even strike with posture.
Learn to stand tall, look confident ALWAYS and regardless of how you’re feeling inside.
Master Justin demonstrates the point in two ways.
*assume trademark David Attenborough voice.
When a predator goes in for the kill, they look for the easy target. The weakest one, the sick one, the smallest one. The one dragging its feet at the back of the pack.
Adopting a confident posture (*okay you can lose the Attenborough tone now!) ensures you are not an easy target and can deflect a potential incident of bullying BEFORE it even occurs.
Master Justin also recounts being terrified at an international tournament during his fighting career as he stepped into the ring to face a formidable Korean opponent.
The competitor’s previous two opponents had left the arena on stretchers. *gulp!
Despite how he felt inside, Master Justin stepped into the ring, shoulders back, standing tall and without hesitation, took the fight directly to his competitor.
The Korean was taken by surprise, expecting an easy target, enabling Master Justin to score some points.
It wasn’t enough to win the fight but Master Justin was later rewarded with an Australian Team award for courage.
2. Develop your inner warrior
Did I say warrior? I meant resilience, I just like the sound of WARRIOR better!
According to parenting expert Maggie Dent:
“Resilience refers to the ability to successfully manage life, and adapt to change and stressful events in healthy and constructive ways. It is about the capacity to bounce back from positive and negative life experiences. “
In his book Building Resilience in Children and Teens : Giving Kids Roots and Wings
Professor of Pediatrics, Kenneth R Ginsburg
, talks about a plan for building the seven crucial “C’s”- competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control – needed to bounce back from challenges.
Under C for Confidence, Kenneth mentions allowing children to attack physical challenges that require perseverance to master as a key ingredient for building confidence.
In that sweet, blissful moment when they perform a skill they couldn’t previously achieve, their confidence literally blooms.
The martial arts belt system provides a very defined and visible structure for children to work through with small and achievable, incremental goals.
As a result, I believe, my son’s inner warrior is fierce. My daughter’s needs to do some bicep curls.
Enter The Scorpion.
It’s not that my daughter hasn’t done plenty of sport too! But maybe there hasn’t been the same focus on achieving goals within her sport as my son has had?
So guess what? We set her some really specific goals and have started mapping her progress towards them.
One involves being able to perform a new position called The Scorpion in her artistic skating routine.
As I’m sure you can imagine given its menacing name, it requires an eye-popping level of bendiness…while on SKATES!
Her coach has given us a series of stretches she can do every day that will help her master The Scorpion.
Progress is going well.
3. Relieve stress through silent stretching, physical activity and moving meditation
I have a VERY busy brain. Sometimes it just WON’T. SHOOSH.
It’s kind of an occupational hazard.
One of the multitude of things I have discovered I LOVE about Taekwondo is its incomparable ability to quiet my mind.
I think it’s the somewhat magical combination that occurs at training of cardio exercise in the form of sparring and kicking practice, silent stretching and the moving meditation that goes with developing our patterns.
Afterall, the benefits of exercise, meditation and stretching activities like yoga for stress relief are well documented.
I figured my daughter probably had the stretching and exercise aspects covered in this point already but dusting off some old relaxation for kids CDs (I know! Pretty retro hey!?) we had lying about collecting dust couldn’t hurt to address the meditation part.
I now put them on for 10 minutes before she goes to sleep at night.
We’ve applied the combined wisdom of all three lessons so the only thing left to do now is look forward to her coming out the other side of this difficult little period in time she’s been having – bigger, brighter and stronger than before.
Believe me! There is no miracle cure-all for dealing with the impact of bullies or even just typical pre-teen friendship troubles.
Chocolate and a sneaky Gin here and there do help though I find.
FOR ME. NOT my daughter!
But jokes aside, as a parent, I feel far better equipped to help my children navigate these situations thanks to martial arts. Check out a club near you.