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How to Stand Up to a Bully
 
 

The first thing you need to realize is that bullies sole purpose is to “hook you” and to get a reaction out of you.  When confronted with a bully, there are many strategies that you can try to get him or her to stop.  Know which strategies you are willing to try and see how they work.  Also know that one strategy may work in one particular situation but not another so you may need to try different things if it doesn’t work.

 

  1. Pick one phrase in advance that you can repeat over an over (such as “so,” “that’s your opinion,” “thank you for sharing,” “whatever,” “Oh, really?”, “you win,” etc.).  This doesn’t mean that you are agreeing that the bully’s putdowns are true—you are just refusing to continue the argument.  This strategy also puts the ball back in the bully’s court to keep coming up with comebacks and it allows you to ignore the “bait” that they are trying to get you to take.  If you do take the bait, the bully will continue to bully you because he is getting the reaction from you that he wanted.
  2. Change the subject.
  3. Use humor, but never at the bully’s expense.  If he thinks you are making fun of him then the problem will be made worse.
  4. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  Know the difference between small problems (“he looked at me funny”) and big problems (“I’m going to beat you up after school”).  It is the big problems that you need to give attention to.
  5. Agree with the bully.  This strategy is similar to number 1 above.
  6. Stay away from the bully to avoid putting yourself in a situation that would lead to a confrontation.  It might mean that if you see him you need to take the long route to where you were going.  Also, spend time with those that make you feel good when you are with them.  Besides, the bully is less likely to bother you if you are in a group of people than if you are by yourself!
  7. There usually isn’t anything you can do to change the bully’s attitude or behavior.  The only thing that you can control is your own attitude and behavior.  Give yourself back your own personal power by doing things that the bully has no way of knowing.  An example is creative visualization (ex. picturing something silly happening to the bully such as growing a long nose for telling a lie, or standing barefoot in a puddle of gross liquids!).
  8. If the bully is giving you trouble, walk near the closest adult.  Chances are that the closer you get, the bully will walk away.  If he doesn’t, then walk up to the teacher and ask for help in resolving the situation.
  9. Bullies love audiences!  Bystanders can also play a role in standing up to a bully.  Here are some things bystanders can do to help to remove the audience:
    1. Don’t take part in the bullying and encourage others not to take part either
    2. Don’t tell things about others, even if you know that it is true
    3. Rescue the victim from the situation (put your arm around their shoulder and say something to the effect of “Did you forget that you were going to play with us today?  Come on, we are all waiting for you over here.”)
    4. Create a distraction to draw attention away from the bullying (sing a song, say “The teacher is coming!”, drop your books, etc.)
    5. Be kind to the victim so that he feels supported and not rejected.  Reaching out also lets the victim know that you don’t agree with how he was treated.
    6. Speak up to the bully (for example, say “leave him alone”), if you can feel that you can safely do this without making the situation worseàsee number 12 below to decide when to intervene and when to get the help of an adult
    7. Send the message to the bully that you will not support him with your silence.  The bystander may need to report the incident to a trusted adult—even if it already happened and is over—so that an adult can get involved.
  10. Turn the bully’s putdowns into a compliment.  This confuses the bully.  For example, you could say “Thank you.  What a kind thing to say.” or “”That is nice of you to want to help me in this way.” or “I didn’t know that you cared!” or “You must really like me to spend so much time talking with me!”
  11. If the bully asks a mean question, answer the question with a question of your own.  For example, if she says “Where did you get those shoes?” you could ask “Do you want a pair just like mine?  Why are you so interested in where I got my clothes?  Where did you get your shoes?  Where did you get your shirt?  Where did you get your earrings?”, etc.
  12. Use “I” statements to respectfully ask the bully to stop:
    1. Say the person’s name so that you know you have their full attention
    2. Describe what they are doing that bothers you (“When you ____________”)
    3. Tell how you feel so that they understand their behavior is making you feel bad (“I feel __________”)
    4. Suggest an alternative choice that they could do instead

(“Next time please ___________”)

  1. Be assertive!  Assertiveness means to stand up for your rights without stepping on the rights of others.  This can include tone of voice (not what you say, but how you say it), gestures, facial expressions, and body language (stand tall, make eye contact, keep your head up).  We will talk more about assertiveness in the future.
  2. When you can, ignore what the bully says and does and try to walk away.  Refuse to believe the bully’s words.  Know who you are and value yourself!
  3. Keep a detailed record of dates, witnesses, details of what happened, and what you did.  That way, if you decide to report the incident(s) then the adult will have specific information to deal with and will also be able to tell how often problems have occurred.  In addition, you won’t have to try to remember all the little details from memory.
  4. Stay calm.  Bullies want to see you scared, upset, or angry.  If you don’t react, the bully loses.
  5. Never fight back—you could get hurt or blamed for starting the trouble.  Plus, you are also just as likely to be punished.
  6. If you have a different opinion than the bully’s, agree to disagree.  Chances are, it isn’t worth arguing or fighting over!
 
 
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