How to Stop a School Bully

8 Violence-free Ways to Fight a Bully

Written by Adele Keyser

I’ve often been asked to write about, comment on the subject of bullying. No mean feat indeed! So I’ve decided to write this article for the child who is bullied. I’m going to approach this topic from the younger child’s perspective.

Bullying is the use of force, or coercion to abuse, intimidate or aggressively dominate others. The behaviour is often repeated and habitual (Wikipedia). The behaviour is intended to hurt another individual, physically, mentally or emotionally.

There are four types of bullying:

  • Physical (hitting, punching or kicking)
  • Verbal (name-calling or taunting)
  • Social (destroying peer acceptance and friendships)
  • Cyber-bullying (using electronic means to harm others)

Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus says bullying occurs when a person is “exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons.”

Bullying can put a person in a state of constant fear and may affect them in many other ways too e.g. they may not want to go to school, their health may suffer (headaches or stomachaches or get sick more often), they may lose sleep, or eat more or less than usual. It has also been proven that people who are bullied by their peers can suffer from mental health problems such as low self-esteem, stress, depression or anxiety.

Adults in position of authority are the best way for younger children to solve a bullying problem – parents, teachers or coaches. They can often find ways to resolve bullying problems without the bully ever learning how they found out about it. However, an adult isn’t necessarily there at the time, so your child needs to know what to do immediately.

Remind your child that their feelings are important. That they must: not blame themselves, be afraid to get help and they must be proud of themselves Discuss possible scenarios with your child and how to cope in various situations by working through the survival tips below with them.

Bullying Survival Tips

1. Tell the bully to STOP

Start by standing up for yourself, and communicating clearly that you don’t find the bullies behaviour against you acceptable.

2. Ignore the bully, and walk away

By not reacting the bully may lose interest (they thrive on the reaction they get) and by walking away there is no-one to bully and the message being sent is that you don’t care.

3. Don’t fight back and don’t get physical

Bullies want to know that they are in control of your emotions.  It’s not worth fighting back.  It doesn’t prove anything.  Rather teach your child to stand up for themselves in other ways, such as gaining control of the situation by walking away or being assertive in their actions.

4. Don’t show your fear – practice confidence

Your child needs to practice feeling good about themselves.  If you act with confidence, people often believe what they see.  By learning a martial art or yoga, or a skill like chess, art, music, computers or writing or joining the gym or sports club is a great way to make new friends and feel good about themselves.  By gaining confidence your child will learn to ignore unkind children.

5. Talk about it – tell someone

Teach your child to speak to someone in authority that they trust.  Talking can be a good outlet when you are being bullied.

6. Stay in a group – find your true friends

Bullies like to pick on people who have no-one to help them.  Teach your child to stay with a group or individuals that they trust and not to be on their own too much.

7. Be prepared – avoid the situation

Teach your child to stay away from the place the bully usually corners them.

8. Keep a record

Encourage your child to keep a diary if they are always being picked on.  This will make it easier to prove that it has actually happened.

Ask yourself why your child is being targeted and be honest with yourself. This will help you to give your child the correct advice to handle the situation.  By knowing your child you’ll be able to anticipate what is likely to happen and therefore empower them with the correct coping mechanism.

If you suspect that your child might be getting bullied by other children, but you’re not certain, then read my follow up post on bullying warning signs.

The Author - Adele Keyser

Adele has 27 years experience in teaching pre-primary, foundation phase, intermediate-senior phase and adult education. That's 27 years experience in dealing with children (and parents!). Currently teaching in Cape Town, her major focus is building classroom environments that foster healthy self-esteem and help children realise what they're capable of.

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  1. Anel Theunissen

    What do you do if your child is the bully?

    • Adrian Marnewick

      Hi Anel

      We are going to be posting an article later this week about what to do if your child is the bully. Keep an eye out on our blog.

      Adrian 🙂


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