Victims should not verbally or physically attack a bully as this can increase a bully’s aggression. They should tell an adult about all physical bullying and about any verbal bullying that can’t be resolved quickly. They could surround themselves with supportive friends – over 70 per cent of bullying stops when children try to stop the bullying because the bully sees them as not supporting their actions.
When responding to verbal bullying, victims should avoid starting sentences with: ‘You…’ as this is aggressive. So instead of saying: ‘You’ll pay for this’, victims could say: ‘I won’t forget this.’ And instead of labelling the bully by saying: ‘You’re a thug’, victims could say, ‘I don’t appreciate thuggish behaviour. ‘Young children might find it helpful to say:’ I don’t like it when you’re mean’, rather than: ‘You’re mean.’ It is not helpful to treat one kind of negative behaviour with another kind.
Victims can shrink a verbal bully’s power by agreeing with the bully: ‘Yes. I am fat’, deliberately misunderstanding the bully: ‘That’s so kind of you to say that; and making a joke: ‘You said you’d rearrange my face for me. How much do you charge? Have you recommendations from satisfied clients?’ They can also deflect insults: ‘You know, it’s OK to be different’, ask questions:’Does saying that make you feel good?’, make the bully feel uncomfortable: ‘Did someone have a go at you before you got to school this morning?¡¯, talk about feelings: ‘I feel hurt when you say things like that. Do you mean to hurt me?’, and be sympathetic towards the bully: ‘You must be hurting inside to say that to me. Do you want to talk about it?’ victims can also be direct: ‘Stop being unkind to me.’
Discuss the following questions with the class:
- What kinds of things have bullies done to you? How did you respond? Was the way you handled it successful.
- Have you ever intervened in a bullying situation by telling the bully that they are being nasty or by protecting someone from further attack or by running to get adult help? If so, what happened? If not, why not?
- Would you help protect anyone from being bullied or just a close friend?
- How have you felt when friends have not stuck up for you?
- Research has shown that if, when bullying starts, bystanders try to help and support the victim most bullying stops. Staying quiet, or even walking away from the situation, makes the bullies think you are really supporting them. Laughing with them further encourages them. Knowing this, would you now make more effort to help a victim?
- If you are friends with someone who bullies, have you ever tried to stop them from hurting someone else? Have you ever tried to talk about why they feel the need to bully? Bullies need help, like victims do, but for different reasons.
- Have you ever made sexist, racist or homophobic comments? (Sexism is treating girls/boys as though they have certain negative attributes solely because they are girls/boys. Racism is treating people from another race as though they are inferior and ascribing negative traits that have somehow become stereotyped. Homophobia is treating any non-heterosexual as inferior and making judgements about how they live and how they behave.)
Invite the children to suggest verbal comments that might be used in bullying. Write these on the board. In small groups, ask the children to make up assertive responses to these comments.