Bullies’ Kryptonite? Confidence, says UW-Rock County instructor

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Sunday, April 22, 2012
— Patrick Forbeck, a fourth-grader at Morgan Elementary School in Beloit, has seen bullying.

“Name-calling, tripping, a lot of swearing,” he said.

Patrick and his mother, Ann Forbeck of Beloit, were the only ones to show up Saturday at UW-Rock County for a seminar on how to deal with bullies.

That was good for Patrick, who got one-on-one attention from instructor Michael Plessel.

Plessel, a fifth-degree black belt in tae kwon do, showed Patrick how to defend himself without violence.

Plessel teaches tae kwon do, a Korean self-defense system much like karate, at UW-Rock and in the community. He recently completed training in a program developed by the American Taekwondo Association and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

Olweus is recognized by a variety of governmental and educational organizations.

An interactive video with a character named Agent G was Plessel’s teaching aid.

Agent G, whose approach was reminiscent of the Power Rangers, helped take the Forbecks through the program.

Agent G and Plessel warned Patrick always to be on the alert for bullying but especially when there were no adults or friends around.

Where could bullying happen? Plessel asked.

In the restroom, the playground, Patrick said quickly, “and in the classroom, when the teacher’s not looking.”

Plessel agreed. Studies suggest most teachers believe they catch the vast majority of bullying, but they really catch about 5 percent, he said.

Don’t fight back, Agent G advised. That will only make the kid who is doing the bullying feel more powerful.

If a kid takes your jacket or your backpack, let it go, Agent G said. Don’t struggle. Report it right away to an adult.

Reporting bullying is not tattling, Agent G said.

Tattling is when you say something to get another person in trouble or to draw attention to yourself, Agent G said. But if you’re bullied, or you see someone being bullied, you must tell.

Plessel paused the video frequently for role playing.

When a bully attacks, step back, take a breath and think, Agent G said.

Patrick and his mother practiced this with Plessel.

“In through the nose and out through the mouth,” Plessel said.

Then, the bully might try name-calling.

Plessel, playing the part of the bully, used a fake insult: “You’re purple!”

Respond with “And?” or “So?” Plessel said, and say it confidently.

Patrick quickly got the hang of it.

If the bully pursues you, back off. And make sure you always have an avenue of escape, Patrick was told.

The lesson included how to stand and how to walk.

“Someone who stands tall and looks confident is less likely to be bullied,” Agent G said.

“Nice and tall. Stick your chest out,” Plessel said as he showed Patrick how. “Walk with purpose.”

Patrick also practiced helping someone who is confronted by a bully. You call to the victim to come play. If you’re brave enough, walk up to the victim, take him by the arm and escort him away, telling him that what the bully said was wrong.

The video suggested that learning martial arts could help a child learn the confidence needed to deal with bullies.

“You can’t build a kid’s confidence in a one-hour seminar,” Plessel said. That’s where martial arts could help.

Any martial arts training could help with confidence, Plessel said, but the ATA has gone the extra step in allying itself with the Olweus program.

Ann Forbeck, a school social worker, suggested afterward that the program would be good for the fourth grade, where she has seen bullying start.

Plessel said he plans more public seminars, and he’d like to bring the program into local schools.

Patrick liked that idea.

“I think it would break through to some of the kids,” Patrick said. “I wish sometimes they could see themselves.”

Last updated: 8:06 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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