Responding to bullying

This section includes a variety of examples from my work with students. Some were used to de-sensitise, to create humour and as a visualisation exercise. Others empowered the child by providing possible options. The best way to respond will depend upon what is appropriate at your school, the school's actions to stop the bullying, and the number of bullies. Ask your parent(s) about this.

• Be prepared: Use good eye contact, a neutral face and calm body language. Remain calm: if you become angry and attack, the situation will get out of control.

• Learn martial arts: These programmes are effective for both targets and bullies. They train shy and vulnerable children to move assertively, coach children to protect themselves by defusing rather than aggravating stressful encounters, and train bullies to control their behaviours. If necessary, children can fight back skilfully when threatened.

• Record it: Use a notebook in front of the bully to record any bullying behaviours. You can clarify, e.g. 'Did you raise your right eyebrow and shrug your right shoulder when you called me an idiot?' Then work out who to tell, e.g. your teacher, the principal, the bully's parents, or other children. Bullies don't like evidence and publicity -nobody is proud of being a bully. Of course, it probably won't be long before kids use phones with cameras to photograph or video bullies (without permission). Show the bully you are collecting evidence.

• Create confidence boosters: Find security objects to take to school that boost your confidence, e.g. an alarm bracelet, a whistle, a real or toy mobile phone, headphones, or chew gum.

• Protect yourself: Carry an inflatable rubber baseball bat, cushion, raincoat or overcoat to protect yourself. It would certainly get attention and a laugh.

• Getfit: Many targets look weak and wimpy. Don't spend your free time in a library or hidden inside a computer. You need to play outdoors, exercise, go to the gym, play sport or dance. Even walking for 20 minutes five times a week makes a difference. Then you can gesticulate, duck, run quickly or protect yourself physically.

• Learn eye movements: Learn how to roll your eyes, move them up or down, from side to side, or just practise staring into space. You can confuse the bully.

• Be loud: You probably have a loud voice at home, so do the same at school. Use it with the bully in class, in the yard or on public transport. Make sure that everyone looks around, stares at the bully and embarrasses him.

• Scream: Practise screaming loudly, so that everyone recognises an assault. I saw one girl who sat paralysed while a boy felt up between her legs in class. If a girl is touched on the breast or any other private part of her body, she should speak firmly or shout loudly, ' I want you to stop doing that to me.' She can blow a whistle, use a personal alarm, pinch or punch back, or get up and move away, even in class. Similarly, boys can do the same if sexually harassed.

• Do nothing: When a girl attacked my niece in the street, my niece realised that if she hit back, the fight would escalate. While she was doing nothing, her friends intervened and stopped it. Sometimes we make it worse when we fight back.

• Attack back: In an emergency, you need to fight back because nothing else has worked. If you are prepared to take this dangerous course of action, ask your parents to help you plan your defence, build your resources and limit your attack.

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