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HOW TO HELP YOURSELF WHEN YOU ARE THE TARGET OF A BULLY

BY ALISON JOHNSON PSYD

Bullying is when a person or group deliberately tries to make someone else feel upset, scared, or ashamed.  People often bully others who are simply different from them.  You may or may not be different than the person who is bullying or teasing you.  Perhaps you behave differently than the bully.  Perhaps you have a different appearance, culture, race, class, ability, or identity than the person who is making you the target of their bullying.  There are different ways or types of bullying:


• Physical bullying means harming or intimidating someone physically.
• Verbal bullying means taunting or hurtful teasing.
• Psychological bullying means leaving someone out or saying bad things so others will think less of them.
• Cyberbullying means using online and mobile technology to harm someone emotionally and socially.


Here are some skills to help you protect yourself from most bullying. 


1: Stay Aware, Keep Calm, Show Respect, and Feel Confidence


Staying on the look-out for potential problems can help you get ready to deal with them.  Bullies are less likely to choose as their targets kids who are:

  • Walking with their heads held high

  • Keeping their back straight and looking confident

  • Having a relaxed face and body

Practice walking around in this way and see if you feel more positive and confident


2: Leave in a Powerful, Positive Way


One of the best forms of defense is to get out of a situation which has the potential for you to become a bully’s target.   Practice walking calmly and positively. Then look around to make sure the bullying has gone on to do something else.


3: Set A Boundary


If you need to deal with a bullying situation directed at you or others, here are some things you might be able to say to a bully:


  • “That didn’t sound kind.”

  • “That sounds prejudiced.”

  • “Please stop saying that.”

  • “Stop!” Put your arms across your chest and then walk away.

  • “STOP! Please get out of my way. I just want to leave. Get out of my way. I just want to go!”



4: Use Your Voice


Bullies don’t want to get into trouble.  So drawing attention to their behaviors can stop them in their tracks.  Yell “NO! STOP! LEAVE! HELP!” really loudly.  Make your body tall, look the bully in the eyes and speak in a firm voice with both hands in front of your body and palms facing outwards, like a wall.  Then leave and go to an adult to report what happened and get help as soon as possible.

5: Protect Your Feelings


It is very important that if you are bullied, that you don’t give the bully any power by believing what he or she said.  The worst part of being bullied is to think the bully is right!  Say to yourself the opposite of whatever the bully says to you.  If a bully tells you “you are a loser”, squash the thought with a more powerful one -- “I like myself and others do too.”


6: Take a Stand to Include Everyone


There is nothing more hurtful than being left out or excluded.  In addition to asking for adult help, try persisting firmly and ask what you need to do to be included.  Best of all, speak up for another person who is being left out.  Your voice might have more power than theirs in that moment. 


7: Ask for Adult Help


Sometimes adults appear to be too busy to help.  Sometimes they even tell you to deal with the problem yourself, or to stop tattling.  Don’t give up until you get the help you need.  Stay calm and use a firm voice to tell them that there is a safety problem or that you are feeling unsafe around a person or in a situation.


8: Use Physical Self-Defense as a Last Resort


Fighting is a last resort and should only be used when you are about to be harmed and you cannot leave or get help.  Sometimes schools and families have rules about fighting and you need to be aware that there might be consequences for your actions.  However, tell the adults that you only resorted to fighting to prevent yourself from getting hurt.  Ask your parents or caregivers if there is a good Self-Defense Class in your community.

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