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Get bullies to back off

Illustration - kid stuffed in a locker - Is your child being bullied?
Bullying at school can cause anxiety and depression.

Bullying can take many forms: Playground fights, name calling, spreading rumors and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Cyberbullying through texting and social media is becoming more common.

Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior that is harmful to a child’s emotional and social development.

“I don’t buy the mindset that boys will be boys or girls will be girls and a certain amount of bullying is expected,” said Brennan Young, Ph.D., a Marshfield Clinic child psychologist. “It’s a very serious matter that’s a factor in a large portion of teen self-injury behavior and suicide.”

Being bullied causes anxiety and depression, is damaging to self-esteem and makes social situations hard. Signs your child is being bullied include:

  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Withdrawing from friend groups
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Declining grades
  • Trouble concentrating

Ignore, be assertive, tell an adult

“Initially, it’s best to coach kids on how to manage the situation themselves,” Young said. “Doing so helps them build self-confidence and gives them social skills they can apply to other settings.”

Try these tricks to get a bully to back off:

  • Be assertive, not aggressive. Tell the bully you don’t like how they treat you and that they need to stop.
  • Ignore it. Bullies get bored and leave you alone if they don’t get the emotional response they want.
  • Stick with a group of friends. A bully is less likely to target you in a crowd of people who are on your side.
  • Take a break from social media. Similar to ignoring, the bully is more likely to stop if you don’t respond on social media.

If these strategies don’t work, tell an adult. It’s up to teachers and parents to send the message that bullying isn’t okay.

“Some kids worry about retaliation if they tell an adult,” he said. “Getting an adult involved can save other kids from being bullied and save the bully from the effects of eventually not being well-liked.”

Avoid being a bullying target

Having a best friend is one of the best ways to avoid being bullied. Kids who spend a lot of time alone are bullying targets because they don’t have a buddy to stick up for them.

Playing near a recess aide or sitting near the lunch monitor station can help. Bullies are less likely to act out in front of adults.

What if my child is the bully?

Dealing with a child who bullies other kids is a two-step process.

First, let your child know you don’t approve of his behavior and it needs to stop now. Talk about how bullying makes other kids feel. Create and follow through with consequences if the behavior continues.

Second, find out why your child is treating others badly. Is he seeking attention? Does he have low self-esteem and he’s trying to make himself feel better? Work on positive ways to get attention and feel confident that don’t involve bullying.

Consider involving a counselor

Schedule an appointment if anxiety or depression caused by bullying is interfering with your child’s functioning at school or socially, or if your child is the bully and continues the behavior after you try to stop it.

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9 responses to “Get bullies to back off”

  1. Elijah

    I don’t know if I can still get an answer, but I have a problem. I was bullied throughout middle school and some in high school. I think I have social anxiety now, but I can’t be sure until I get a diagnosis. I would experience things like sweating and my heart beating fast at the simple sound of laughter. I was always quiet and I would try to change myself to make others like me(which of course backfired). There isn’t much going on right now due to codvid 19, but it is affecting my job search now that I have graduated.Recently I’ve been thinking suicidal thoughts and experiencing self hate. Any help is greatly appreciated.

    1. Jacob Zipperer

      Hello Elijah,

      I am so sorry to hear about the bullying you experienced. If you are looking for help, stopbullying.gov has many helpful resources. Here is a link: https://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/get-help-now

      If you are feeling helpless, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They are available 24/7.

      I hope these resources are helpful. Thanks,

  2. Signs Your Ex Wants You Back

    Your post extremely cool. I glad to be here. I enjoyed reading your articles and i would like to bookmark your posts.

  3. Hannah Grace

    Hey I have an ex who broke off his friendship with me a few months ago. Our relationship was really rocky and he yelled at me for everything while dating. Even now he just will not leave me alone. He cuts in front of me in the hallway, interrupts me, and now that summer is here he dislikes my YouTube videos and comments on them occasionally. I want him to leave me alone but I know if I say something to him he will have a ready comeback about something I "did" to him. Ignoring him ever since our split hasnt been working either and I need help because he has made me anorexic and deppressed to the point of needing therapy before. I'm scared this will happen again and I'm also concerned because his mom is a teacher at my school. What can I do?

    1. Hannah Grace

      Also I have told counselors, parents, and teachers about this and their measures have not halted him.

      1. Jacob Zipperer

        Hello Hannah,

        We reached out to Dr. Young for his advice.

        He strongly encouraged contacting a professional (like a psychologist) who can assess and treat your anxiety, depression and anorexia. Dr. Young doesn't know your location, so, unfortunately, it’s difficult to give specific recommendations.

        He also made note of some hotlines and online resources that may be helpful:
        The National Domestic Violence Hotline

        Teen Dating Violence Hotline – You can call 1-866-331-9474, chat at loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522, any time, 24/7/365.

        Dr. Young Third also encourages continuing to try to work with adults. They might not have understood the gravity of the situation at first, but be persistent and keep trying to get them to understand. Share with them examples of what is happening. Keep reporting the behavior to them. Ultimately, it is their responsibility to help end this behavior and to protect Hannah. It’s entirely too bad that they don’t believe her or are not taking it seriously, but she needs to keep working at it to get them to see.

        He says to keep documentation of the behavior too. Keep the texts. Save screen shots. Write down in a journal the interactions, comments, and other behavior. Doing so may ultimately help you build a case in which a judge may grant a restraining order if need be down the line.

        I hope Dr. Young's advice helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  4. Brianna

    I have an on off again friend. I hate her. I wish she would just leave me and my friends alone. How to I make her when I can't get too close before I don't feel safe.

    1. Jacob Zipperer

      Hi Brianna, we reached out to Dr. Young and he recommended seeking advice from a trusted adult close to you, like a school counselor or professional therapist. Hope that helps. Thanks – Jake

    2. Tanita

      Iv gotten bullied in primary and now I'm getting bullied in secondary school it's not a nice feeling but I realise if you tell a trust worthy teacher she or he can help a lot.cif you have ahead head tell them they know all their students very well and they will be able to talk to them. Personally I find it easier to talk to a teacher when I'm by myself so maybe don't bring anyone with you.

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