My son (then 10) was bullied at school, mostly verbally but he did get his wrist broken at one time.
We tried a lot of the traditional advising - ignore, walk away, tell a grown-up... we engaged the sports coaches, teachers, even the principal...
It's not easy for a kid to ignore bullies or their words, or know how to emotionnally deal with this when what they want most is to fit in.
So one day, it dawned on me... I said come here, lets practice some aikido. We stood facing each other in the living room:
- Words are like an attack, I said, and so what do we do when an attack is coming?
- Step out of the line
- That's right, so now as the words come, step aside, turn around as they reach your body and imagine the words fly by and hit the wall in the back.
We practiced this a few times, I was uke (the bully) and he was tori (the bullied). My tsuki were insults, and so he physically got out of the way of the words' trajectory, did a sort of tenkan, and then we watched the words' trajectory and imagined the sounds the words would make once they hit the wall (splat, kaboom, bonk/slide-to-floor/pop, etc). We laughed so hard I had a hard time to bully seriously!!!
OK, I said after a while, now that you're facing the same direction as the "bully", how do you think the bully is feeling when he does this, why is he doing this? I asked.
He thought about it for a while, and said, "Man, so-and-so's really small inside and thinks he'll feel bigger and better by picking on me... poor guy".
The fear and the hurt slowly turned into pity and understanding.
Fast forward a few months. I came home one day, and got angry because of all the shoes pell-mell in the hall for the nth time. I was just about to go after the kids for it, when my son said: Hi Mom - sounds like you've had a bad day - and my "attack" got totally diffused and we tidied the hall together.
My son (now 12) hasn't started aikido yet. But he sure puts it in practice!
[epilogue: he now has dropped wanting to be accepted by those "bad friends", changed sports and found a new set of friends - and I have a happy boy again]