Free program in West Bloomfield aims to stop bullying

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. – Bullying is a problem at schools across the country whether it is a high school, middle school or elementary school.

This area of concern is being brought to more people’s attention, with experts saying it’s important to model good behavior for our children everywhere

One group is hoping to strike bullying down and kick it out of existence. True Martial Arts in West Bloomfield hosts bullying prevention workshops for kids. This workshop offered anti-bullying drills, role playing exercises and other activities to help eradicate bullying.

“Studies have shown that fifth, sixth, seventh grade are where children are experiencing bullying the most, so our goal is to better prepare them for that transition,” True Martial Arts Owner Matthew Sikora said.

Sikora hopes that these classes will prepare students and give them tools to combat bullying, he said. Students are also taught how to combat bullying if they see it happening to a classmate or anywhere in their school.

“The goal of the seminar -- and the goal of what we do -- is to try and create kind of effective change in the culture of the way children behave at school,” Sikora said. “We tell them to be UP-standers no bystanders.”

Alison Wagner, a mother of two kids in the program, loves how coaches keep the students in the program involved, she said.

“They have a really good way here of keeping the kid’s attention and to really engage them to have some of those life lessons that they’re going to take away from here,” Wagner said.

Abby Wagner, the eight-year-old daughter of Alison, said she learned new ways to approach bullying from the class. If she was bullied in school, she would now handle the situation in a different way.

“I think I would talk in a very strong and firm voice,” she said.

True Martial Arts bullying prevention hopes to reinforce skills that have been taught by parents of their students, Sikora said.

“These are things that they are going to use every day and in their everyday life,” he said. “You know being confident, standing up for themselves, standing up for others, doing the right thing, reporting what they see around them that’s inappropriate.”

Creating more welcoming spaces could help combat bullying, Abby Wagner said.

“I think everyone should feel safe around,” she said. “Even in the places where you don’t.”

Preventing bullying and stopping its culture starts in the home said Donna Rockwell, a clinical psychologist.

“We need to be overly loving and overly educational with our children about how it feels to be bullied, so it can create empathy in our children and in the next generation,” she said.

Gina James brought her grandson to the class who was being bullied at school.

“I was bullied when I was growing up so I definitely, to see him dealing with it or having to deal with it made me angry and it also made me want to help him learn what to do,” she said. “That’s why this was so important today.”

Sikora believes that all parents should be educated on bullying, regardless of whether it is something your child is experiencing, he said.

“I think one mistake that parents often make is that they don’t really start educating themselves on what to do until it’s already happening,” Sikora said.

True Martial Arts in West Bloomfield will be offering a bullying prevention workshop for parents on Jan. 21.

Click here to learn more about True Martial Arts.