The Least Kids Need to Know About Self Defense

Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Self Defense for Kids, Self-Defense | Comments Off on The Least Kids Need to Know About Self Defense

Kids need to know that using “self defense” means protecting themselves from someone who tries to hurt their body or feelings.  Kids need to know that it’s good to stand up for yourself, and not good to let someone hurt you.  All people need to believe that they can successfully protect themselves from danger.  But, kids especially need to know that asking an adult for help is a great way to do this.

Kids need to know that while kicks and punches are fun to practice, they are not good to use in self defense.  It could happen to a person that, some time in their life, they have no other choice and must hit someone in self defense. But, whenever a person hits another, people get hurt, and people get in trouble (fighting sport excepted).  The best “things” to use in self defense are good choices of how to act and what to “say” with your words and your body language.

If a kid knows how to tell what kind of self defense situation they are in (accidental confrontation, territorial, or predatory), they can more easily choose the right way to defend with words.

Most kids understand “accidental confrontation” when I ask them this question: “Have you ever seen it happen, with your friends, where somebody gets mad, and somebody says something mean, and the others person gets mean back, and after a while they end up in a fight?”  “When this happens,” I tell them, “try to be the person who calms it down, not the one who makes it worse.”

To explain “territorial,” I ask: “Have you ever gone to a playground, went to climb on a thing, and a kid who got there before you acted like it was all theirs and you couldn’t use it?” “In this situation,” I explain, “you could leave or you could try to explain to them that they aren’t being fair.  It depends on how much they are acting like they are about to punch you.”

The explanation of “predatory” starts with predatory animals. If a wolf is going to try to get a sheep for lunch, he looks at the whole flock for a while and chooses one he thinks he can easily catch.  For example, a bad guy who wants to rob somebody will look for a person they can sneak up on who looks like they have something valuable. A bad guy who wants to steal a kid (or grown woman) will look for a person who will let them walk up and start making friends. Grown women can make their own choice about talking to strangers, but a kid should never talk to an adult they don’t know unless they are standing with an adult in charge of them.

The kind of predator that kids encounter most, so should know the most about, is a bully.  A bully is someone who hurts or scares another, for their own fun, knowing the person wants them to stop. A bully chooses a victim that is alone, not confident, and fun to pick on.  Kids need to know that they are safer from bullies if they play near other kids, stand up straight, and look at people’s faces.

Kids need to know that the first way to defend against a bully is to not get what the bully is trying to make them, whether it is sad, mad, or scared.  Boy, I wish I knew that in elementary school.  You see, if a bully tries to make you mad, and you get mad, they’ll enjoy it and bully you again another day.

Kids should practice what to do if a bully (or anyone), calls them a mean name.  Instead of calling the person a mean name back, which makes the bully want to keep arguing, it’s better to say something like “maybe later” and walk away.  The trick is to act like you know the bully is talking to you, but did not know they were trying to pick a fight, and leave the scene or change the subject before they try again.

Kids should also practice what to do if a bully (or anyone), acts like they are thinking about hitting them. Of course a kid should go talk to a grown up about the problem if they can. But, if they can’t get to a grown up, they should make a self defense stance as follows. Put the right foot a step to the back. Have palms open, facing the person, slightly blocking their view of your face. This is so that if the bully punches, they’ll “arc it” and you can notice when it starts if you watch their shoulder.

While in this self defense stance, the kid should verbally “back off the bully” by telling them to leave, over and over, getting louder and louder.  The tricky part is to make sure nothing in one’s words or facial expression looks like they are either scared or wanting to fight. When backing off a bully, the defender should be two steps away and keep repeating the same thing until the bully leaves or punches.

I feel so strongly that all kids need to know these things that I offer to give a free 30 minute presentation for any group on this topic.  My favorite is, as I have done in the past, being a guest speaker for an elementary school counselor as they see each class for one half-hour a week.

This article originally ran as part of my “The Self-Defense Lady” newspaper column.