Hi everyone, I hope you are having a great day so far. Since 2011, I (Noah Gutierrez at Enhance Fitness Studio in Countryside) have been the martial arts instructor at multiple martial arts academies and at Chicago Public Schools after school programs. I teach women and men, but I also have a lot of experience teaching grades 1 through high school. I've done anti bullying seminars for Chicago Public Schools, The Girl Scouts, churches and martial arts academies. The inspiration behind this particular blog theme is the conversations I have with students with younger brothers or sisters. I find they often overlook many signs that their younger brother or sister is being bullied and just isn't telling anyone. This does not automatically mean they are lying to you. Kids interpret bullying in different ways other than what it actually is. This is even more important to know if you are a parent. Many of my clients are and I thought I'd help in the best way I know how to share my experience. My experience has brought me to comprise a list of 10 ways to tell if your child is being bullied and not telling you
In no particular order
10. LOOK FOR CODE WORDS = Depending on the child's age, they may not know how to explain what is happening to them. They may use code words to describe bullying as "the kids were playing, they were messing around, they were just having fun". While this maybe the way they see the situation, it does not capture the severity of the problem. They might think that's how all kids are and sometimes don't think of it as a problem. Don't be afraid to pry a bit if you are suspicious.
9. UNEXPLAINED PHYSICAL MARKS/CUTS/BRUISES/SCRAPES = As children begin to understand their bodies, coordination, sports, athleticism, they are bound to hurt themselves in the process. This is normal so a few instances is nothing out of the ordinary. You know when your child is lying to you so this can help in catching this. If their story doesn't quite make sense, it can be a sign of a bully bothering them. I have seen and heard of situations where a bully pushes, kicks, throws things at them, pinches, bites, licks (yes i said licks), chokes, grabs by the face and pushed into the wall. It is seen as a sign of weakness at times and doesn't get reported. They may give explanations that don't add up, but you being a savvy parent can get to the bottom of it because you know your child so well, you can tell when they are lying. In their world, this can be seen as "snitching" and no one wants that label at that age. Talk to your kids about the difference between snitching and reporting. Reporting is something they must absolutely do because it endangers someone, snitching is irrelevant petty situations that do not have to be.
8. UNEXPLAINED LOSS OF TOYS, SCHOOL SUPPLIES, CLOTHING, LUNCH OR MONEY = When I was in grammar school I once saw this student who brought in the latest popular trading cards at the time (pokemon), and the bully would sometimes bully them into trading their valuable cards for cheap inexpensive ones from the bully. They did it in a way that the victim felt they had no choice but to make this awful deal because it was a better deal than getting beat up. While trading cards is petty in the totality of the situation, this was meant to just give you an example of the type of bullying that goes on. Bullys sometimes force kids to give them their toys, lunch money, school supplies in "exchange" for something far cheaper and crappier. The victims sometimes think they got a deal by not getting beat up. Or sometimes the bully just takes whatever they want and does not even bother offering a fake deal. Ripped clothing is one to watch out for, and especially missing money. Once or twice no big deal, but keep an eye out for patterns.
7. OFTEN DOES NOT WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL = Most kids would not go to school unless they were forced. So you can hear every excuse in the book. If your child starts showing signs of REALLY NOT WANTING TO GO TO SCHOOL, you may have a problem. They may be so nervous they throw up. Or they always feel sick. Even if they really are sick, it may be caused intentionally to avoid school. If you see extreme measures consistantly being taken to not go to school, this can be a sign.
5. AFRAID TO RIDE THE BUS = Bullys often see a school bus as an opportunity to strike without being caught. The bus driver has to be focused on the road and its impossible for them to see everything. There is a graphic documentary (warning, not for the feint of heart) I recommend called "bully" where a 4th grade child was filmed being bullied. It's a disturbing documentary so please don't watch it if you "don't think you can handle it well" The crazy thing is that the cameras did not slow down the bullying at all. They kept going. It shows many ways he is bullied. Watching it can help you understand how extreme it can get, and boy does it get extreme. Make sure to let them know they can always try to sit closer to the front. Pay attention to their behavior as they are getting ready for the bus.
4. EATING AN EXTREME AMOUNT BEFORE SCHOOL EVERYDAY = Once or twice, no big deal. If this becomes a pattern, the bully may be intimidating them in the lunchroom to where they don't feel like eating because they get that sick stomach feeling we get when we are afraid. The bully might be taking their lunch, forcing them to trade for a crappier food they don't want, throwing their food away, spitting on it so they don't end up eating it anymore etc.
3. FEELIN DOWN ON THEMSELVES = If a child does something like spill milk and their reaction is something along the lines of "I'm always doing something stupid, im an idiot, im a moron, im good for nothing", this can be words that the bully has used on them so much that they themselves start to believe it.
2. SUDDEN INSOMNIA = Imagine when you were in grammar school, a bully tormenting you so much that you are up all night worried about how they are going to make your life hell the next day. Overtime this can be draining on your emotions and can cause insomnia from obsessing over it.
1. RUSHES TO USE BATHROOM WHEN THEY GET HOME FROM SCHOOL = Once or twice, no big deal. If this patttern consists, they may be waiting to use the bathroom at home because they are terrified of running into a bully in the bathroom and may not be using it at school. Swirlies isn't the most common thing that happens, I personally have never seen or heard it. The most common form of bullying is kids throwing water and paper towels while someone is using the toilet. For some reason kids find it funny to bother someone while they are on the toilet. This is why they may wait until they get home.
I will be putting part 2 of this list and sending it out next week. There's about 10 more signs I was going to cover. I hope this was helpful and I am dedicated to keeping you informed on my experiences so you can keep your children as safe as possible. I can't stress enough how important it is to instill in them the difference between snitching and reporting. That is the number 1 reason in my experience of why kids don't report it, or they hide it. Stay safe out there, Thankss and keep having a great day! :)