Mom Enrolls Bullied Daughter in Self-Defense Class. Is It a Good Idea?

Beth Greenfield
Senior Writer
Zoe Castillo, 9, learned confidence in a self-defense class after being bullied at school. But is it the best response? (Photo: KXXV.com)

The mother of a 9-year-old has gotten local props after she had an empowering response to her daughter’s being bullied: enrolling her in self-defense classes.

Amanda Castillo, of Waco, Texas, told KXXV-TV that she knew something was off with her daughter Zoe and that she eventually told her she was being bullied at school. “The next day she didn’t want to get [out of] the car,” she said. When some relatives gave her the advice to enroll Zoe in self-defense and kickboxing classes, she gave it a whirl — and, to her surprise, saw an immediate change in her daughter’s demeanor.

“She has more confidence in herself, talking to more people. I think she’s bringing awareness to sticking up for yourself. So that’s a good thing,” Castillo said, adding that it has also brought her a better feeling of safety, as a mom. ”I’m not saying I don’t worry when I send her outside. Every parent’s going to worry. But I feel more confident she can take care of herself a bit more and stand up for herself at least because she wasn’t doing it before.”

She also stressed that she does not condone violence — which may be what some parents fear would be taught in such classes.

“This class has brought her so much confidence,” Castillo tells Yahoo Beauty, adding that her daughter was being harassed both in and out of school and that what ultimately drove her to enroll her in the classes was a fear of suicide. But now, she adds, “She also has stepped up and said she will stop other kids from being bullied. She’s a brave, sweet little butterfly.”

And anti-bullying experts, including Joel Haber, agree with Castillo, noting that it’s not the point of these types of classes, which have been a recommended go-to solution for many years now.

“I have no problem with it,” Haber, an anti-bullying speaker, author, and counselor, tells Yahoo Beauty, adding that sometimes self-defense classes for kids include lessons about pushing back against verbal attacks as well as physical. “If you can arm kinds with the tools to give them the confidence to fend off bullies, all the better.”

The C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense lessons for kids, for example (not to be confused with the same company’s C.O.B.R.A. Anti-Bullying Action Plan, which is a more strategic response program), is a student-aimed, law-enforcement-based program that includes “bullying and confidence scenarios.”

While Castillo’s route for her daughter was a good one, Haber notes, some parents might be leery of it due to a fear that such lessons could actually increase the level of aggression. “But the point is not meant to be a way to become more aggressive in order to equal the score,” he explains. “Rather, it’s to empower them to fend off being a continued target.”

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