There was a time when being bullied was considered a rite of passage some children simply had to endure. The prevailing thinking was that they would “get over it” and it might even “toughen them up.” Fortunately, parents, schools and the U.S. government now have a more proactive view of addressing this behavior, which can be very painful for the victims and leave lasting emotional scars. That awareness is reflected in a number of weeks - or month-long, anti-bullying observations, typically occurring in the fall as children return to school. At our mental health clinic, we encourage parents to learn more about what can be done to prevent bullying.
Tips for Standing Up to a Bully
While teachers, parents and adults, in general, have an obligation to take action when they become aware of bullying, it is also helpful for children to know how to handle a bully on their own. Below are some strategies children can use to stop a bully.
- Find supportive peers. If a school has a bully, it is likely that there are multiple victims. By supporting, and getting support from, those students and others, a child can give a bully second thoughts about continuing threatening behavior.
- Talk to adults. Bullying behavior that seems obvious to victims may not be immediately detected by parents and teachers. Children should know that telling adults about bullying isn’t “tattling” but is instead speaking up about a dangerous behavior and that doing so may help keep other children from being bullied.
- Take action right away. The longer a child submits to bullying, the more empowered the bully will feel and the more aggressive their actions are likely to be. If a child takes a stand immediately, a bully will be more inclined to discontinue the behavior.
- Be assertive. Often children who are being bullied either put up with the abuse or go the other way and lash out at the bully. Both of those approaches tend to elicit an elevated level of abusive behavior. Assertiveness sits between those two extremes and is the best way for a child to show a bully they won’t be intimidated.
- Use logic rather than emotion. Bullies tend to feed off the emotions of their victims, whether that is fear or anger. Children who learn to control their emotions and respond to a bully with confidence are less likely to be targeted.
- Portray confidence through body language. Bullies look for physical signs that their abuse is having an impact on a victim. Children should learn that looking the bully in the eye, speaking slowly and in a calm voice and using the bully’s name are some of the best ways to show that they won’t put up with this behavior.
Bullying and Anxiety
One of the most serious consequences of bullying is that it can create or exacerbate an anxiety disorder in a child. Parents, teachers, coaches and other adults should pay attention to signs that a child — especially one who they suspect might be the victim of a bully — is suffering from anxiety. If a child starts withdrawing from friendships, avoiding activities they previously enjoyed and in general isolating himself or herself from others, it may mean that treatment for anxiety is needed.
Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or by calling us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.