Standing Up To Bullies

Bullying is more than just an argument or not liking someone. It’s being mean to someone over and over again. Generally, bullies tend to continue to bully others when they think they can “get a reaction” from them, as it’s often about using power and control.

Please keep reading to find out some of our tips about how to deal with bullying, especially when ignoring them doesn’t work.

What to do when you’re being bullied: first steps

If you’re on the receiving end of bullying,  some initial things you can do are:

Try to stay calm. Try focusing on your breathing as a way to keep calm. It can be hard but staying calm and not showing that you are overwhelmed can help you feel better.

Don’t fight back. If you fight back, you can make the situation worse, get hurt or be blamed for starting the trouble.

Try to ignore the bullying by calmly turning and walking away. If the person doing the bullying tries to stop or block you, try to be firm and clear. Having friends to stand with you or walk you away is a great idea in these moments.

Try to avoid the person who is bullying you or ask a friend to stay with you when they’re around.

Tell a trusted adult such as a parent, teacher, or coach what has happened immediately. They can support you and help you to find ways to get the bullying to stop.

I’ve tried all of that, but it’s not working. Next steps

If you’ve tried to remain calm, ignore the bully, avoid the person, talked to an adult and that’s still not working, here are some ideas you can try.

Don’t show your feelings. Even though it’s tough to do, try to take a deep breath and not give the bully a reaction. Bullies like to pick on people whom they can control. If a bully realises they can upset you, they’re more likely to keep coming back. Hide big feelings like sadness and anger until the bully has gone.

Act confident – bullies avoid people who seem confident or sure of themselves. Even if you don’t feel confident, you can pretend by standing tall, responding with a calm and clear voice, and making eye contact. Try practising acting confidently at home or when you’re alone so you know what to do when you need it.

Use fogging – fogging is when you use neutral or agreeing statements to respond to the bully. This lets you respond without making the situation worse, and bullies often quickly grow bored with neutral responses because you’re not reacting the way they want you to.

Neutral responses might sound like this:

  • “So?”
  • “Maybe.”
  • “Possibly.”
  • “Who cares?”
  • “That’s your opinion.”

Agreeing statements might sound like this:

  • I like this shirt. I’m sorry you don’t.”
  • “Yes, you are right. I like to wear black clothing.”
  • “Yes, you are right. I do wear glasses.”

Using comeback lines

Comeback lines are a quick reply you might say to someone bullying you to try and make them rethink picking on you and “stop them in their tracks”. While it might be tempting to tease the bully back, sometimes this can make them angry, and things worsen. If you are going to use a comeback line, make sure you use a calm, neutral tone that doesn’t sound rude or sarcastic. If you decide to use a comeback line, keep it respectful and not personal. Sometimes, making a calm statement can confuse the bully and build your self-confidence. For example, saying something like:

  • “I don’t mind what you say.”
  • “I’m not going to feel bad because of you.”
  • “That’s your opinion.”

Just remember not to make it personal and avoid making the bully even angrier. It’s better to say nothing and walk away confidently if you’re not sure you can do this.

A note for parents

Managing your reaction.

It can be challenging for parents to support their child when being bullied. Parents can feel helpless, protective and upset. Remember to listen to your child’s perspective and ask them how you can be helpful. While it can be tempting, avoid retaliating against the bully or their family. If the bullying happens during school or sports, involve a staff member or club member who can mediate and try not to contact another child’s parents personally. This can quickly turn into a he-said-she-said situation and not solve the problem.

Supporting your child.

Try and coach your child to react. Using our tips, role-play what they might do and say to respond to a bully. In particular, help your child practice calming down, staying confident, ignoring the bully, or getting to a safe place. In addition, bullies can erode children’s confidence, so help your child identify things they are good at and verbally acknowledge their strengths and qualities. Sometimes, spending more quality time with your child doing something they enjoy can improve their self-confidence and trust in you as an adult. If the bullying is impacting your child’s well-being and functioning, it’s okay to reach out for help. Speaking to a school counsellor, GP or getting a referral to a psychologist can help your child learn important skills and strategies and have a safe place to share their feelings.

Better Self Psychology specialises in helping children, teenagers, and young adults.

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