Body talk

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Have you ever seen a teacher striding confidently down a corridor? Similarly athletes and dancers value each movement they make, and entertainers sense the impact of their behaviour on their audience, like a singer who claps his hands in the air to get you to clap. Confident animals appear relaxed and move steadily, whereas a frightened animal shows fear by its frenzied behaviour.

When you look like a scared rabbit or a floppy doll, you make a good target. The bully observes your fear and anger in your body movements. If you have been bullied, you look uptight, you don't breathe deeply and your head is crooked as though it's about to fall off. You need to change your body movements so that the bully can't identify your feelings. Once you control your movements, you can look confident.

• Stand or sit upright and proud. Don't be rigid like a soldier, but supple like an athlete or dancer.

• Pretend that someone has attached a string to the top of your head and is pulling you up. Don't behave like a curvy banana or wobbly octopus, stand tall like a giraffe.

• Practise planting your feet about 30 cms apart, look the bully in the eye and say something assertive, e.g. 'I'm tired of your comments about my face, next week I want something else' or 'Thanks for the feedback'.

• Check how you use your fingers, hands, arms and legs. Don't make sudden or jerky body movements.

• Practise walking with a confident posture for five minutes every day. Get an adult to give feedback.

The tea bag trick

Children don't know how they appear to other children. Does your child move around a lot? Can't sit or stand still? Do her arms and legs wiggle like an octopus?

If so, get a tea bag. Every time your child wriggles, jiggle the tea bag. She'll laugh and get the message.


Space determines our relationship to someone else. (Australians like lots of space, Asians often like to be close.) Like a cat, you can use space to regulate your behaviour. Find out the local optimal distance for relating to and blocking a bully. You can move closer to the bully or further away. Imagine standing extremely close to the bully and saying, 'I'm quite deaf, say that louder' or 'Can I look at your pupils?'. Instead of bending towards the bully, you could bend a little backwards, which shows that you are uninterested and less scared.

Visualisation - a great tool to change body language

• Pretend there is a thick, tall, glass wall between you and the bully that blocks the bully's vibes.

• Imagine you are enclosed in a huge plastic balloon. When the bully comes near, move away in case she damages your balloon.

• Transform the bully into a mosquito. Spray her with a venomous look to paralyse her temporarily.

• Use a 'bully button': Jack had one in the middle of his forehead which he pressed to start his automatic replies. Or use your belly-button instead.

• The moment someone is mean to you, listen to your gut feelings and protect yourself.


Bullies like to show their power. If they use threatening body language, stand up straight and stare. If the bully is shouting, be loud and noisy but not aggressive. If the bully is bantering and joking at your expense, laugh loudly and dramatically with her. Once you have copied the bully's behaviour, lower your energy level to a more comfortable one. Bullies may follow your example and lower theirs.

You can change the bullying game by breaking your pattern and doing something unexpected, e.g. look blank, scratch yourself, cough loudly, appear to vomit, or offer the bully a chewy toffee that jams her jaws shut. The game alters when the bully realises that you are not upset or powerless. She usually stops.

Parents and kids activity

Body language collage

This is a simple exercise for a young child. Get a pair of children's scissors, glue, paper and lots of magazine child to cut and paste children who look assertive: down, walking or playing sport, alone or with other child identify what they do to look confident.

pictures. Ask your standing up, sitting children. Help you

Body check

If you look like a:

• frightened rabbit

• frozen ice-block

• miserable mess

• jiggling tea bag

• wriggling octopus, or

be confident like a lion behave like a martial-arts expert speak like an actor repel like a prickly rose bush stand like a horse move like an athlete joke like a comedian, and copy popular kids

If you say it's hard, then remember:

• practice makes it natural

• you will be the same but happier

• success means persistence, and

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