Can We Protect Kids from Bullying? How?!!!

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: Self-defense
13 Mar 2011

This is a core issue to this blog as we here at MySelf-DefenseBlog have personally been affected as a youth! What am I speaking about? 

  • kids in school
  • kids in transit to and from school
  • kids outside playing
  • kids online
  • kids in our communities

As you can see our kids can really be bullied anywhere.  Most people will understand this is a core issue to many kids being bullied. Kids have to give up personal possessions as well as putting up with verbal threats and physical attacks. Is there any one fix for this problem? Can we blame anyone and then stop bullying for good? I would say NO! But there are good solutions depending on the issues facing you or your kids.

In this article I will talk about the problem and issues I have faced. I will speak of teachers, schools and some mitigating stratgies they try. I will address what I see as the parents resonsibility and lastly I will focus on mitigating stratigies that WILL work if you find your kids facing bullying.

To set the stage for this important conversation look at the following video of our president speaking of the issues and some solutions of bullying.




While I was reviewing this video I was struck by our president and first lady taking time out of their day to focus on this “kid issue.” I mean parents and kids through out time have dealt with bullying and some kids that have overcome the adversity of bullying, might even say (or think) that a little bullying is good for a kids character. That opinion is in the minority but make no mistake – that might partially explain why so many schools are out of control – the wild wild west! Some teachers (that have spent significant time educating themselves to be experts in their chosen field – only to be regulated to the roll of hall monitor) do not feel they have an obligation to stop a little harmless bullying.


So my hat goes off to the first Lady and President Obama trying to kick off a national discussion to help parents, teachers, schools, and children find workable solutions to this very real (to kids) problem.


Let me just say that I think teachers are almost a calling. They are very important in the learning process so when I am speaking of some teachers that minimize the importance of bullying – I am not saying that all teachers are this way. Only a few at most schools or there would not be a problem of bullying. Extrapolating this logic I guess I am saying that if the parents do not have a bullying problem at home – they are effectively dealing with the issue. So many teachers do understand and deal with bully’s in their classrooms and school.


Some do not however. I think just because someone is a teacher and a parent might be a factory worker – the teacher is nothing special but rather a person that has a job to do. If they do it well – they are to be thanked as our children are the most precious commodity we have in this nation. They are our future. If the teachers or schools fail us – get rid of them or find an alternative! Please do not think I am denigrating teachers – only the bad apples.


I have posted on this topic before; Bullies; Turn the other cheek?, and School yard bulies, what can be done?. In both cases I focused on bullying from the kids perspective. Make no mistake I do not think that merely learning self defense will fix the issue of bullying but it is one part of an overall solution. I mean bully’s tend to pick on kids they can bully. If the kids can fight back in self defense – that is too much effort for the bully normally. They will move on to easier prey.


 Parents need to know that when they send their kids to school – they will be in a safe learning environment. If that is not the case and state law requires compulsory education – what is a parent to do? Kids will learn best when they are not afraid of drug dealers trying to hook younger and younger children as well as losing their lunch money!


So without going into the many reasons for bullying, I think we can agree that whatever the reason – bullying does not build character but actually inhibits the learning process. The fact that most of the kids will physically survive bullying does not mean that they will not be forever emotionally scarred!


One method of controlling bullies has traditionally been parental and school discipline. In the old days the saying spare the rod – spoil the child actually meant something. While we can debate whether timeouts or a spanking actually altered behaviour more – back even when I was a kid, schools spanked bad children. Only so much misbehaviour was tolerated at home or school. Fast forward to the 21st century and physical discipline is not tolerated well at schools and most parents severally limit what they will correct with a swift swat on the behind.


I generally think this change of perspective can be good but parenting skills are still required. Children must be taught discipline at home for them to get along good in life. If parents lets their children do whatever they want and disobey parenteral direction without repercussions – how will a teacher or school ever control such a child?


Think of it like this. Have you ever seen someone with a dog that has received no training? Is that dog pleasant to be around? While teaching children is certainly more complex than training a dog – the principle is similar. My dad once told me that after I disobeyed a direct command, the reason I had to listen to him and react without question to any commands. He told me a story of a kid hanging off of a ledge about to reach out to climb up. That dad commanded the kid to wait a minute until he could reach him. The kid did not listen and grabbed for another handhold and then fell to his death.


Arguably most commands a parent tells their child will not be life or death but parents have the benefit of at least 20 more years of life experience and are in a better position to discern a good from bad decision. Children should not have the option of disobeying a parent!


So moving on if a child is raised well, a parent is left hoping the other children in their community are likewise raised will and will take instruction from the teachers  as well as conform to the school’s standards of behavior. What happens if the rules of civility at school break down?


 When I was in the 5th grade, a bully used to try and upset me on the bus. You see my grandpa had given me a deerskin coat that had all of the cool deerskin tassels on the arms. On the bus ride home I was threatened I was going to be beat up after I got off of the bus and the bully started pulling off the tassels when I was not looking. When the bus stopped – I ran home before the bully could get off.


The next day before I got on the bus home the bully said he was going to be ready for me this time. I was so scared I would not get on the bus. My science teacher was the bus monitor that day and ordered me on the bus. I told him I was not getting on the bus. He was surprised because I was normally a very respectful child and did not question the authority of teachers. He asked me why I would not get on the bus and I told him about the bully. He called the bully off of the bus and loudly told him in front of the whole school (who by that time was listening) how the school is responsible for the safety of children until the they get home and if the bully touched one hair of my head – he was going to personally see that the bully was held accountable for his actions. The kid never messed with me again.


Now I would argue that kids getting bullied is the norm at schools until the unruly kids are made to behave. Wouldn’t it be nice for kids to universally be well behaved and parents to win awards for their parenting skills? Well in real life – kids mirror the society they live in and there will always be some bad apples. I’m not trying to say there are no hopes for reforming bully’s but rather the focus should be on keeping the rest of the kids safe first! After the kids are safe – deal with the bullies so they too can be productive members of society!


I’ve heard from parents that have to deal with bad teachers or schools. Many of us that have grown up (without thinking) to trust and believe schools and teachers knew what they were doing. That may be true in many instances but schools are composed of teachers and teachers are just people. As I’ve said before teachers did not sign on to deal with bullies but rather to teach children. I mean teachers cannot do much by themselves and many are jaded into believing that there is just no solution. Whatever the teachers perspective, let me just say because the teachers have a BA degree – they are not gods. The can be guilty of trying bad solutions just so everyone can get along’ such as punishing both the aggressor and victim in a fight!


What? If a kid is attacked many schools have instituted something called zero tolerance. That means if the victim fights back – they may face discipline including suspension or being kicked out of the school. The poor parents in this situation are left conflicted. On the one hand the gods (teachers-administrators) at the school say the only way to be fair (as they certainly don’t have time to figure out who/what started the fight and place blame) is to disciplineboth kids!  


What? (pausing for effect)


On the other hand their kids are not a science experiment. Bullies are the problem – not the victims! 


Let me just say this. In the United States of America we do not punish the victims of crimes. Civil court would be a great remedy for any offending school or teacher that punishes the victim (that used self defense in an attempt to mitigate damage to themselves!).


But from a parents point of view why would you want to deal with such an uneducated point of view (punishing the victim)? That brings me to the first solution if the schools themselves are the problem. Take your kids out of that school or out of school period if there is no good alternative.


Again what? I mean aren’t kids supposed to go to school? Yes but nowadays you can pick your modality. In the 21 century there are improvements from the home school choices I was faced with for my boys.


Let me say I am a lifetime non-conformist. If I don’t like the solutions presented to me – I will find some new ones I can live with. I was bullied as a child and became a fighter and then continually fought back. To this day my first reaction to adversity is to fight back. That has been positive for me but not everyone can do this and should not have to! I have become very emphatic to the plight of bullying and that lead to me owning my own karate school for a few years.


My boys did not ever see the inside of a school until the 9th grade. The reasons for this were threefold. My boys are my legacy and I did not like many of my experiences at school. I did not want to give the schools a chance to mess my kids up. I also believed that parents should be the moral compass for children and not schools. I also did not think much of grade school education – how they basically reviewed the same material year over year and have always thought that kids could learn six years what the education teaches them in 12. I don’t really want to debate my rational as there are obviously some flaws in my logic but let me just say bullying at school is not something I had to deal with for my boys.


When I did homeschool one had to register with the state and go through some checks and balances such as buy an approved curriculum. I did not opt for the parental group method or one overseen by the local school district. But I rather did all of the work with my ex. It worked out ok but the burden was on my ex as I was working double time to make ends meet.


Nowadays in the 21st century there are online public and private schools that are vastly improved from the choices I had. Why working parents can probably reach out to parents in similar situations and have their kids work from a laptop at a parent that can stay home. The point is there are workable solutions in this day and age if your kids school is inept.


So lets talks specifics. Do I recommend teaching children how to fight? Sure. My dad taught me the old one-two in the fifth grade and told me it was ok to fight back if attacked. If like most parents – you don’t know how to teach your children self defense I would recommend taking your child to a boxing gym or karate school (as well as any martial art – judo, jiu-jitsu, kung-fu, mma, wrestling…) because these instructors have been there when they were kids. They will give your kids the confidence to fight if they ever had to and your kids would know how to do it.


I recently posted an article about bill moving through the legislature in California; “self-defense in schools, california bill to governator.” This bill was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger! So my guess is eventually boys and now girls will be better prepared to deal with the odd bully! 


Is it fair that kids have to even think about self-defense in a civilized society? NO!!! You have probably heard this before but life it not fair. It is up to the parent to give your child the best chance at sucess in life. As always if you don’t have to tools – reach out.


Here is the deal for parents. You are responsible for you child. Even through schools are also responsible when the child is in their control – the parent has the final responsibility. That means if a school is doing something that makes no sense – you as a parent have to be an advocate for your child. Do whatever it takes because our children are our legacy. I as a parent gladly sacrificed years of my life working many jobs I hated to make a better life for my kids. While the jury is still out on how they will do in life – I would (as most parents would) gladly sacrifice my life for theirs in a heartbeat if required!


A quick comment on the internet and phone use. Kids do not have a right to facebook or mobile telephones. If a parent does not want to supervise a kid – take away this access. Lock down the internet with kid safe software and call you mobile provider to disable texting. One can even lock-down what phone numbers your kid can call if your kid needs a phone for safety but does not listen to parents. Remember if you cannot control your own kids (for their safety) – why did you become a parent? Parents have to be the bad guy sometimes so their kids can stay safe.


So I guess I am saying that you as a parent cannot take anyone’s word for how to keep your kids safe. But rather they (the school and teachers) have a duty to inform you how they are doing. If the school or teachers are failing – run, don’t walk away and find a better situation. Education is important but your kids have to survive the experience unscathed.


 I will close with a video showing how martial arts schools can help kids to learn some of the skills to avoid fights. I’d just like to say that learning karate, boxing or whatever does not mean your kid will have to use it. Generally kids are taught that fighting back is only to be used as a last resort.



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11 Responses to “Can We Protect Kids from Bullying? How?!!!”

  1. Dr. J Says:

    Gosh John, this is just a wonderful article on such a difficult subject! I was bullied in school and as much as anything, that led me into the martial arts. I do not support hitting children, by the way, as all studies on this show that children who are hit are more likely to hit other children and be bullies. There is so much I can say but just a story:

    I was at camp at around 12 years old. There was this one boy who was constantly bullied by other campers, especially this particular kid, the toughest guy at camp! The counselors decided to have them fight with boxing gloves in a ring in front of the entire camp to settle it once and for all. Of course since the picked on kid had no fighting experience we all figured he would be beat up. The fight started with the weak kid flailing a bit and it looked like it would be over for him soon when suddenly, he just KICKED THE BULLY IN THE NUTS and left him writhing on the ground. Who knew. lol!! No one ever picked on him again :-)

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Wow – Great story Dr J!

    Love to hear about the bully getting his just deserts! I had a principle once told me that schools used sanction letting kids work out their beefs this way too.

    I don’t think spanking kids is all that effective and so long as parents have other ways to discipline or alter bad behavior that works – probably a parenting method that should go away.

  3. Matt Klein Says:

    John, great article. It inspired me to write a blog post today. I wanted to provide parents with a guide to dealing with bullying. It is at

    I think your comments about your dad teaching you the one-two punch were enlightening. Not only did it give you the ability to defend yourself, it also inspired confidence. Most bullies can sense this confidence, and that is why martial arts classes are one of the best activities a child can participate in.

    I feel that teaching is an extremely important career as one teacher can make a huge impact on the life of a child. I also feel that teaching empathy is a key factor in reducing bullying. You must somehow put the bully in the victim’s place for them to understand. For President Obama and the First Lady to address the nation on this, it indicates how important the issue is.
    Matt Klein recently posted..Kids Karate Sparring- How Not to Do ItMy Profile

  4. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Matt! I liked your article on bullying ( I especially liked the saying, “We learn to fight in the martial arts so we do not have to.” So true!

  5. Michele Says:

    Another great article on an important topic! :)

    My daughter is in the 6th grade and things have gotten better for her. She has a nice group of friends. Several of the bullies transferred to a different school. She is an amazing kid. She stands up for what she believes and does not go along with the crowd.

    You are right…”parents have the final responsibility”. In 3rd grade, my daughter did not want to go to school because of the other kids. We scheduled a meeting with the Principal. We brought along email documents from a teacher acknowledging the bullying and a note from her doctor indicating that her “stomach aches” were the result of the treatment from other kids. The school soon discovered that bullying was more wide-spread than they suspected. The school held several meetings and implemented a bullying-prevention program.
    Michele recently posted..Returning To Karate Training After A Long BreakMy Profile

  6. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Michele,

    It is good to hear your daughter is doing well. I assumed. :)

    I like how you gathered evidence to help the school do the right thing. :)

  7. Jo Green Says:

    This is a great article. It’s a tough topic for sure, and awareness is key in “fighting” against bullying.

  8. Lou Says:

    Great article on a problem that occurs much more frequently than most people realize. My son had a problem with an older kid that was bullying all the younger kids. Unfortunately his school had a zero tolerance policy on fighting. They don’t differentiate between a bully and his victim. Any fighting results in punishment. I told him to do what he had to do to protect himself and I’d deal with the fall out. Sure, he got suspended, but that kid hasn’t picked on him or any of his friends since.

  9. Matt Klein Says:

    Like you say Lou, sometimes the innocent kid gets punished as schools try to cut down on “mutual combat”, but in the long run, sometimes it’s better to bite the bullet. Your son has now gained the respect of the bullies.
    Matt Klein recently posted..Learn the Winning Secrets of Georges St-PierreMy Profile

  10. Thor Securitys Says:

    You really can’t protect your kids from bullying because your not always there and even so you can’t fight a kid. I would teach my kids a couple of techniques so if things really do get rough he has more of a chance. people might think my way is wrong but if you think about reality then you will agree with me. You never know when a bully is stupid enough to carry a knife or something. So i would rather have my kid know some Self Defense Techniques so he wont get seriously injured because it is impossible to prevent being bullied.

  11. Jack Says:

    Really solid advice.

    I’ve forwarded this to one of my buddies who is contemplating to enroll his kid in Karate.

    For me I wish I had found martial arts at an early age, it wouldn’t kept me out of a lot of trouble. Yet I believe those experiences made my stronger – so I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
    Jack recently posted..Key Points for Parents Who are looking into enrolling their child in Martial ArtsMy Profile