Standing Up to Bullies


Standing Up to Bullies – As kids interact, we teach them to use their words. When toddlers play and they get frustrated, we explain to them they need to communicate and keep their hands to themselves. Never push or shove.

Standing Up to Bullies

When it comes to standing up to bullies, experts can’t seem to agree on a tried and true method. What if someone shoves your child first? Is it ok to shove back? Putting aside all the politically correct responses to this question – such as tell the person to stop, try and talk it out, etc. – what really is the best method to prepare kids for the real world when they are faced with adversity? What are the best methods for standing up to bullies. What is appropriate and effective for standing up to bullies? How do we convey to our children to have some sense of self worth and to not let themselves get walked all over?


When my kids were very young, we were at the community pool the other day and a young girl was swimming near my son. She tried to take my son’s water gun; she at one point grabbed his cheeks with both hands; and finally, she yanked on his goggles while he was underwater. My son was startled. He fired back with a squirt from his water gun, which hit her right in the face.

The girl ran out of the pool crying to her mother. I apologized to the mom and had my son apologize to the girl. When I asked him what happened, he told me he tried to tell her to stop, but she did not listen. He finally lost it when she pulled his goggles off while he was swimming under water. Bottom line, I told him that we can’t hurt anyone, unless of course they are intending to hurt us.

In one way, I was proud my son stood up for himself. I think someone yanking on a swimmer’s goggles while he is under water is dangerous. But, it is tough explaining to a child when and how it is ok to defend oneself.  No two standing up to bullies situations are alike, so there is no clear cut plan to follow. In the end, I told my son I was proud that he tried to use his words to get the girl to stop what she was doing.  And, I explained that he should notify an adult the next time using his words does not work.

I don’t think that a child should just sit there and take it. I am not saying I am a proponent of kids fighting and throwing punches to get their point across.  But, they need to be able to defend themselves effectively. This may include saying the right thing with the right tone, getting help from an adult, walking away, etc. If they don’t, it’s the beginning of them letting others walk all over them.

Bullies are attracted to this sort of behavior. And, when continuously attacked (verbally, physically, emotionally…) by a bully, a child’s sense of self worth plummets. No child should ever feel frightened, depressed, or worst case scenario, suicidal, as a result of others bullying him. Instead, he should feel confident to put the bully in his place and defeat him by not internalizing and not finding any truth to the bully’s cruelty. If a bully is ineffective, he is defeated.

I like what the schools are doing with their zero tolerance policies and anonymous ballots where students can point out bullies without being named. But, sometimes that can be a reactive approach to standing up to bullies. The damage is done. I see how it tries to prevent the bullying type of behavior, but for the times when it still does happen, children need to be equipped to deal with it.

What do you think about standing up to bullies?

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