How to Handle a Bully: sometimes hitting back is necessary

This week I’d like to offer some tips on how to help your child handle a bully.  But before we get into some scenarios, I’d like to touch on something that may not go along with popular opinion; Sometimes, it may be necessary to fight back!  Yes, agree or not, there are situations where I feel self-defense is needed to ward off a bully.

So what should your child do if he is being bullied?  The younger he is taught, the higher likelihood he will be able to successfully ward off a bully attack.  In addition, it is very important that your child recognizes he is being bullied and stop it immediately. The longer it continues, the more difficult it will be to stop.

Below are some things that parents can role-play with their children to not only help them out of a bad situation, but also to help them feel that you understand they need help or know that there are bullies out there.

The first step is confidence.  A child should look a bully in the eyes.  The best response to verbal abuse is to keep a one-word answer or simply say “so?”

BULLY: “Hey geek! Your puny and your hair looks funny!”

BOY: [while looking the bully in the eye] “so” – and attempt to keep walking or go about doing what you were doing.

That does not leave anything for the bully to continue banter with the boy.  Some bullies will drop it, but it is likely he will persist.  At this point, the child should continue looking the bully in the eye:

BULLY: “Is that all you have to say, wimp?”

BOY: “Stop!  That is enough!”

The child needs to be firm in his intention that he is not going to put up with the bully.  This may be enough for the bully to second guess his choice of whom he picks on.  If the bully I still persistent, it is best for your child to find an adult nearby for assistance.  But what if there is not an adult or anyone to help?  What if the bully gets physical?  Sure, the boy can try and run.  It is certainly an option.  But some bullies won’t give up.  They may try and catch the boy with more physical intent.  This is where the boy needs to defend himself.

There are plenty of self-defense courses offered in just about every neighborhood.  It is a good idea to enroll your child, the earlier the better, to help build confidence, self-esteem and the skills necessary to defend themselves when needed.  This is not only important to fend off a bully’s physical attack, but also to help defend against abduction or unwanted advances by an adult stranger.  The classes are typically inexpensive and could be one of the best preventative measures against bullying.

Another important concept to teach your child is what to do when they are witness to bullying.  Teach your child that doing nothing when witnessing bullying is just as bad as participating.  Grabbing the attention of a nearby adult is the easiest way to help.  Redirecting the bully’s focus is another way to help.

BULLY: Hey dork, nice glasses.

(if your child hears this, it is easy to step in without getting involved)

WITNESS: Johnny! (CHILD being bullied) come on, were late for class.  Or Johnny, we’ve got to get over to practice.  (the WITNESS can go over and grab Johnny and walk away with him.)  This outnumbers the bully and gives a non-confrontational excuse to walk away.

There are plenty of other great suggestions to help deter bullying.  I’d love to hear from you!  Please post other scenarios or suggestions, whether for personal experience or just from parental instincts!

Check back soon for Part 3 of my blog mini-series; My Child is a Bully!  What do I do?