How to Deal with a Bully at School

There is an old saying which goes, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”  These are good words to remember when dealing with a bully.

If your bully simply taunts and insults you, be dismissive.  Verbal bullies want a reaction out of you.  They want anger or embarrassment.  Don’t give it to them.  Instead, be nonchalant.  Act like you don’t care.  Better yet, don’t care.  After all, do you really care what they think?  Does their opinion really matter to you?  Unless you are being bullied by a friend or family member, the answer should be no.  Words cannot harm you unless you let them.  Don’t let them.

First, try ignoring your bully remembering to show no anger, embarrassment, or frustration.  Just walk away or go about your business as if nothing worth notice has happened, because as far as you are concerned, nothing has.  If the bully continues, make your bully aware of your lack of feelings.  Casually say to someone else loud enough for others to hear, “Does he really think his opinion matters?”  If you are being bullied by a group, let everyone else know what a sorry group these bullies are since they can’t find anything better to do.

Getting no response, this type of bully will either look for a different target or try another way of getting your attention.  And yes, odd as it may seem, your bully may actually be trying to get to know you, and this may be the only way he or she feels comfortable breaking the ice.  So if your bully stops the negative behavior, reward the change by trying to become friends.

A second type of verbal bully makes threatening remarks.  Again, remember words cannot harm you.  However, physical hurting is not the aim as much as instilling fear or intimidation.  The bully who makes verbal threats wants power over you, and takes advantage of a very common human reaction:  when faced with a threat, most of us back down.  We would rather avoid a conflict than risk getting physically injured.

Try turning the tables on your bully.  Call his bluff.  Let him know you will not be intimidated by threats.  Chances are he will back down to avoid an actual physical confrontation.  Be aware this can turn into a literal game of chicken, escalating until someone backs down.  Be ready to defuse the situation.  At some point, your bully may need a way out while saving face.  If you really want to unnerve him, just start laughing.  Then let him know you were bluffing all along and offer to be friends.  He’ll either take you up on it, or think you are unstable and avoid you in the future.

And what if the bully doesn’t back down?  What if your bully resorts to sticks and stones, or more likely fists and teeth?  Or maybe shoving, pushing, tripping, or just knocking your books out of your hands?  Remember, words can’t hurt unless you let them, but sticks and stones can.  When your bully resorts to physical violence, you definitely need to report the behavior to school authorities, parents, or even law enforcement.

Remember, you can’t be bullied by a friend, because a friend would never bully you.  You may be able to turn a bully into a friend, however.  Also, words can’t harm you unless you choose to let them.  Don’t let them, and don’t choose to let a bully use words to control you.  And finally, if words become sticks and stones, seek help immediately.  Defend yourself if attacked, but someone who attacks others without reason needs to be stopped and dealt with by authorities.  Seek their help.