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Every child needs to be able to assert themselves when being unrightfully overpowered. Teaching your child when and how to defend themselves is part of helping them to achieve a healthy balance between the rights of others and their own.
Children can be easily intimidated, especially by adults, but kids can be intimidating too. Teaching your child how to speak up, stand up for himself, and even when to run away from a person of situation, is equipping them with the tools to respond in their own defense when the time comes.
We always think of physical strategies when we think of defense. But most times defending yourself means being able to speak up on your own behalf.
Teaching your baby and preschooler that it is okay to express their feelings will let them know their feelings and needs are important. Having limits and boundaries that are clear shows your little one that life has rules that apply to everyone.
Play groups are great settings for learning to respect others while still asserting yourself as needed. Learning to take turns, share and move away from a rough or selfish child can be the start of self-assertion and defense.
Forcing a young child to surrender what they have been enjoying (first!) is not always a good idea. A very young child should not always have to submit to a play mate.
Hitting or pushing back is not okay with toddlers. but moving away from a mean or careless child or saying “Stop! Eis appropriate. Helping your child to find phrases that get their message across without escalating a situation will teach them that most times they can defend themselves by 1) their words or 2) by steering clear of trouble.
Also, let your child know it’s always okay to talk to you about a situation that’s troubling them. Seeking help from a big person is better than engaging with a selfish or bullying child.
Young school age children have a better idea of their rights. If they feel over-powered by another, they are quick to “tell E Continuing to teach them key phrases such as “I don’t like what you did. Please don’t do that again, Ewill help them come to terms with the situation themselves.
Children aged 5-7 need more help with this. Practicing at home with role play can help them rehearse their response to a difficult situation or person. Just practicing can let some of the fear and anger out.
Kids 8 and 9 are learning to stay away from “bullies E Something as simple as playing with a gentler group or moving to another activity can prevent problems. Many schools initiate anti-bullying or anti-violence programs at this level.
Tattling at this age can be a problem. Letting them know that telling is saved for when they cannot work things out for themselves will show your confidence in their ability to do so. Of course continue to listen to complaints, but look for their small successes and mirror them back to them.
There may be times when you need to help your child, however. Repeated bullying must be dealt with on an adult level. Hurtful or threatening behavior or words must never be dismissed. You are really all your young child has between him and the world.
Depending on your personal philosophy, you may need to give your youngster permission to fight back as a last resort.
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Older elementary children are highly aware of their own rights and the rights of others. They are also better able to articulate issues of fairness and to advocate for themselves. At this age they are also able to see their own part in a situation and if there is anything they could do to avoid conflict.
Children eventually find a comfort zone at school or on the play ground, based on what they have observed in the past and a more acute awareness of cause and effect.
If your child seems to have been a “victim Emore than seems normal, you may want to introduce him or her to some form of martial arts or child self-defense. Chances are they will never have to use it, but knowing they are equipped to physically defend themselves may build self-confidence. Learning martial arts can be a family activity that is also fun and good for everyone! If your child ever needs to defend himself physically, he will be better equipped.
Again, don’t hesitate to talk with your child’s teachers or other school personnel if problems persist or become an issue of dread or fear for your child. Remember too – your child still needs dependable supervision at all times at this age.
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