Education Blog

Countering Bullies Effectively As A Kid

September 21, 2021

There is a high chance that your child will be bullied or witness bullying attempts. Bullying is essentially a test of power structures for children. Bullying is a natural instinct that has been hardwired into our brains. It allows us to gain a higher pecking list, more resources and other advantages, but it doesn’t work. It’s almost inevitable that kids will succumb to this instinct until an adult takes action. The rest of the children need to be ready for a return for bullies. What does this look like?

It all depends on your child. While a good comeback may be helpful in the heat, it is important for your child to consider the reality of situations that they might encounter.

Know Your Temperament

“We used to think of bullies as socially awkward or insecure. Research has shown that bullies are often very savvy, says Dr. Rebecca Mannis, a learning specialist. “They can pick out which people will be more sensitive and which potential victims might be able respond or stare them down.”

Knowing how your child’s emotional makeup influences their behavior will help you determine what options are available to them to respond to bullying. Dr. Mannis says that some children are more impulsive than others, while others are more anxious and some are more willing to let things go.” A youngster who is more focused may find it difficult to come up with a rebuttal. It is unrealistic to expect a student to be witty.

You don’t want a child with a short temper to verbally fight with a bully. This temperament child is more likely to get distracted and give the bully what they want. Worst-case scenario? You let your kid say something that is inappropriate, or escalate the situation to the point of physical violence.

Assess Your Comeback Skills for Bullies

Children learn how to react to bullies by practicing. Dr. Mannis says that some children are more agile than others. However, other kids have trouble understanding language. How can you expect a child who struggles to find words to respond to bullying situations to be able to react to the bully if they are unable to retrieve them?

You can spend some time brainstorming the best comebacks for your child, based on their personality. Then play a game of roleplaying to see what you come up. Because you can adapt them to different learning styles and learning paces, this preparation is very effective. Ask your child what a bully would say to them and then brainstorm the possible responses. Once you have scripts that work for you, have some fun with them.

Use silly put-downs to make it light. You can also allow your child bully you by switching roles. You can add humor to the situation to allow them to concentrate on the solutions you have developed together. Flipping roles allows you to show them what you want to see.

Simple and easy-to-remember responses are key to successful bully comebacks. A simple one-word response, such as a confidently delivered “whatever,” can allow your child the space and time they need to get out of the situation. Dr. Mannis suggests that you find one-off solutions that can disengage the bully without allowing for escalated or need to retort.

Read the Room

A bully at school on a weekend will require a different response than a bully in class. For the former, you might need to be more assertive and direct in your de-escalation while for the latter, you will need to reach out to an adult. If a school has a zero tolerance policy, your child may be allowed to engage in very brief banter. Other situations might require or allow for more assertiveness to disengage a bully.

Your child will be able, if they take a deep breath and assess the threat posed by bullies, to determine their exit strategy. If the bully is large or has a wide age gap, they may need to flee faster and seek physical safety. A bully with a similar background can find a more calm and deliberate way to resolve the situation.

Dr. Mannis states that even if they are protected from certain things, we must prepare our children. We want our children to be in situations that foster kindness and compassion, but we must equip them if they are to manage social cruelty.