Look strong, speak strong to be bully proof

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By Karla Kelly

The school gym was oddly silent as a group of youngsters hung off every word to a story about a young boy being tormented by the schoolyard bully.

Frank Zinck was that young man and the personal story he shared with the nearly 60 children and their parents was part of his Bully Proof seminar at Ecole Jean Marie Gay in Saulnierville on April 12.

Zinck said the two and a half hour workshop was designed to teach basic life skills on dealing with schoolyard violence and bullying behaviour.

 ”Bully Proof is assertiveness training for elementary school-aged kids where we teach them about body language, how to stand, talk, act and prepare a plan for dealing with bullies, “said Zinck. “The emphasis is on how not to look like a victim and reporting the behaviour.”

 What is learned in Bully Proof must be practiced like a fire drill and become a part of everyday life, and then the bullying will stop, Zinck told youngsters.

The Bully Proof program was designed and created 20 years ago by Zinck, a black belt and senior instructor in ju-jitsu and karate who was asked to counsel a young bully victim who had enrolled his ju-jitsu class.

“I soon discovered there were no easy solutions and very little actual advice existed,” he said.

Zinck committed himself to develop a program that could provide real life solutions to bullying, not just validate that there was a problem.

With the aid of a Power Point presentation, Zinck’s seminar was lively, at times humorous, animated and clearly suited to elementary students.

Zinck spent time talking about the bully, why the person is a bully and what they do to intimidate their target.

Zinck told the children that the target’s body language speaks loudly, so he showed them how to stand before the bully, how to talk to the bully, how to calm their fear and body, and how to report the bullying.

Bully Proof emphasizes that reporting bullying to parents and teachers is actually a strength and provides kids important life lessons, while arming parents with valuable information.

 “Bully Proof kids know that the target of a bully is never to blame and they know how to properly report bullying behaviour.”

While relating his personal bully story at the end of the seminar, Zinck told his audience that Bobby, the bully, verbally threatened him at first and when he did not report it to the teacher the situation eventually led to physical violence.

“I told my story so the children would know I experienced bullying firsthand and how it got worse over time because I remained a silent victim,” said Zinck.

“I was an easy target and did not know how to deal with the situation or that I should have reported the bully.”

The bullying ended when he could no longer hide the physical violence from his parents, but he wished he had known there were other choices to end it much sooner.

Zinck and Connolly demonstrated some very simple physical self-defence moves to enable the target to get away from the bully or defuse a situation.

“We believe if you have mental self-defence you may never require physical self-defence, so our physical training is used to just break up the lectures and have some fun,” they said. “Everyone gets involved in trying out the moves.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Alison Reddick, a parent whose son attends Ecole Jean Marie Gay, said her sister who teaches yoga at Mount Saint Vincent told her about the Bully Proof workshops Zinck and his wife hold at the university.

“There is no program like this in Clare and I felt it was important for our children and parents to learn how to deal with this issue,” said Reddick. “Over three dozen students from various elementary schools in Clare attended the Saturday afternoon workshop along with their parents.”

Lise LeBlanc, a teacher at Weymouth Consolidated School, attended the seminar with her son Miguel who is a student at Ecole Joseph Dugas in Church Point.

LeBlanc said Zinck’s highly animated presentation kept the audience entertained and focused on the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  topic of bullying,

Bully Proof kids know that the target of a bully is never to blame and they know how to properly report bullying behaviour. —Frank Zinck

“The seminar was very informative and the kids were so attentive, they were taking in every word,” said LeBlanc. “Bullying is such a major issue and this workshop would be invaluable to our schools.”

She adds it was good that Zinck talked about bystanders to bullying.

“The fact that there is no innocent bystander was an important point to reinforce,” she said.

Her son Miguel said he enjoyed Bully Proof because Zinck made him realize how important it was to stop bullying right away.

“The story was really good and I saw the bullying got worse and worse when Frank didn’t tell anyone,” Miguel said.                     

Aaron Comeau, another student from Ecole Joseph Dugas, said the session was entertaining but it also made him think more about how a person being bullied would feel.

“Frank was kind of hyper and he kept it interesting by acting like the kid being bullied,” Comeau said. “When Frank asked us how we would feel if we got pushed around, it made all of us think.”

Zinck said Bully Proof will not solve children's problems but rather give them and their parents some basic life skills to succeed.

"The answer to the bullying problem is to make bullying socially unacceptable at any age and teaching kids to stand up and speak out against it. Look strong, speak strong to be bully-proof."

Organizations: Weymouth Consolidated School, Church Point

Geographic location: Saulnierville, Clare

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