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Helping Your Child Respond to the Bully

Helping Your Child Respond to the Bully

By Dr. Kenneth Shore

Your child may not know what to do or say when faced with a bully’s taunting. You might want to help him develop some responses in advance that may serve to diffuse the bully’s anger or encourage him to leave your child alone. These do not need to be lengthy rejoinders or clever retorts and they certainly should not be confrontational. The idea is for your child to have something to say so that he does not dissolve in tears or appear vulnerable. Have him rehearse these responses at home. As he does, encourage him to speak confidently, look the bully in the eye and then walk away. Here are some examples of what your child might say:

  • Say “no” or “stop it” in a firm manner and then walk away.
  • Respond with a short and simple phrase (for example, “That’s your opinion” or “Whatever you say”) and then walk away.
  • Use a direct and concise I-message (for example, “That’s my ball and I want it back”).
  • Ask the bully to repeat what he said in an effort to take the wind out of his sails.
  • Tell the bully “Come to think of it, you’re right” and then walk away.
  • Ask the bully an innocent question (for example, “Why are you saying these mean things about me? I’ve never done anything to you.”).
  • Appeal to the bully’s desire for peer status (for example, “Saying mean things to kids is a pretty nerdy thing to do”).
  • Say something unpredictable that may confuse the bully (for example, “If you tell me what I did to you, I’ll say I’m sorry”).
  • Try to disarm the bully by using humor (for example, “That’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever said to me”). •
  • Reach out to the bully (for example, “Let’s not argue. Do you want to play a game with me?”).

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