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Tips for dealing with bullies

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

School power plays

The start of the new school year is prime time for bullying situations to rise up. Kids are anxious and insecure about the new school year, and that can result in power plays on the playground - and in the classroom and on the bus and just about anywhere kids gather.

Dealing with bullies something many of us have had to do in one way or another. Whether it's verbal bullying (name calling, teasing, spreading lies or rumors, threatening or insulting behavior) or physical bullying (hitting, kicking, stealing, physical intimidation) that is repeatedly making a child feel hurt, afraid, or uncomfortable, bullying is not okay. Ever.

What's it all about?

The thing about a bullying situation is that it's more about the insecurity of the bully than the target. For whatever reason, the person doing the bullying feels insecure; exerting power over someone else that person perceives as vulnerable is their unfortunate way of managing those difficult feelings. The feeling of power assuages the insecurity, gets attention and somehow makes the bully feel better about themselves.

This is little consolation if your child is the target of the bullying. It's a reason - not an excuse.

Responding to a bully - or not

If your child encounters a bully in their life, there are some responses your child can try to deal with it. If your child can avoid situations in which the bullying happens, all the better. Staying in groups and learning how to project an assertive air can help deflect bullying, but they are not foolproof. If it happens anyway, in the moment it's happening, your child could try:

  • Ignoring the bully. Don't even respond.
  • Walking away/removing him or herself from the encounter.
  • If they must respond, respond without emotion. The bully wants to see their target respond in some way that indicates an emotional reaction; don't give the bully the satisfaction of knowing they have succeeded. Admittedly, this can be particularly hard.


Role-playing scenarios with your child may help him or her be better prepared if a bullying situation arises. And definitely offering lots of reassurance and comfort can help your child as the situation is resolved.

Getting help

After a bullying situation or encounter, your child should seek out an adult and ask for help, whether it's a parent, a school official or some other adult. Schools in particular are becoming better at handling bullying situations in discreet, effective ways, and many schools now offer anti-bullying programs during the school day. For a parent, even if the bullying is not happening at school, schools can be a resource for anti-bullying information and support.

Feeling intimidated or threatened is never okay, but learning how to manage such situations is a lesson for a lifetime. Resolving bullying situations may not happen instantaneously, but it's so important to work toward such a resolution positively, for the child being bullied - and for the bully!

For more bullying:

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