• The bully scores each time you become upset and then react.
• Decide whether the tease is true or not.
• If it is true, why get upset? Maybe you can change, e.g. lose weight, practise sport, change hairstyles.
• What can you do to accept a permanent situation, such as a physical disability, your ethnicity - e.g. make a joke or a fun limerick, get a confidence badge? Whatever it is, circulate a detailed leaflet about your condition in your class.
• Get energy by de-sensitising and defusing mean words on the tease list until they are less painful, e.g. The bully said, 'Bitch'. Retort: 'How can you be a bitch when you're not a dog?'
The bully said, 'Smart-arse'. Retort: 'How can you be a smart-arse when bottoms don't have a brain?'
• Play word games with similar letters or meaning, e.g. bully -bulldozer, bullish, bulletproof, bulldog.
• Beware that your retort doesn't have to be related to the tease, e.g. 'You're dumb'; reply: 'And I like football.'
• Find ways to re-frame or re-label, e.g. 'No, I'm intellectually challenged/horizontally enhanced/conversationally selective', etc.
• The bully said, 'You are a... [migrant].' Retort: 'Yes, we came from... [Siberia, Nerdsville, Geekland] and our traditions make your country multicultural' or, 'Everybody in America is a migrant except the native Americans.'
• The bully said, 'You're a Jew/Muslim, etc..' Reply: 'I feel good about that because we have yummy foods and great presents.'
• Share something important with the bully that she can identify with, such as your customs, food, music, culture, e.g. 'Did you know that Jewish merchants brought Chinese pasta to Italy?', 'Did you know that India invented the zero?', 'Did you know that.?'
How to best help your child
• Switch off your own feelings in order to empower your child.
• Allow your child to challenge you sometimes.
• Do a stocktake of all the bullying, including swear words.
• Beware if a child says, 'I don't care'. She does, otherwise she wouldn't say it.
• Friend or foe? Help your child distinguish between friendly fools or bully bitches/bastards.
• Help your child disguise or de-sensitise her pain, anger and fear in order to take action.
• Don't blame the bully. Children should respond, not retaliate.
Action checklist for kids
• Act assertive: Use strong eye contact, a neutral, blank face, good posture, a clear strong voice and assertive body movements with mean kids.
• Be cool: It doesn't matter what you say as long as you look, sound and behave as though you are calm, confident, polite and respectful. Then you use your power to force the bully to back off.
• Get comfortable: Find something neutral, non-threatening and comfortable to say. You can use a short reply like 'Fancy that' or a longer retort.
• 'Talk to the hand': This African-American expression means that no-one is listening. It comes with its own locally accepted hand and body movements. It is often used in movies, and is generally non-threatening.
• Don't retaliate: There is no need to be rude, aggressive, sarcastic, etc. That's like fanning a fire. If you show frustration, the bully knows she has scored a hit.
• Be honest: Don't lie and say 'Everything is fine' or 'I don't care what you say' when you don't mean it. The bully knows you do. If it's safe, express your feelings, e.g. 'I am really hurt that you said...' or 'I don't like what you are doing'.
• Stay safe: Don't show your feelings if it's not safe. It's none of the bully's business what you feel, is it? Don't make her happy, just disguise or release your feelings.
• Make a joke: e.g. 'It's not good for your reputation to be seen with a nerd like me' or 'If you stand too close, you'll catch my germs' or 'I don't want you getting into trouble, so stop being mean'.
• Get in first: If you make fun of yourself, you frustrate bullies who want to make you look bad. A boy I know believes that by saying it first, it showed that he didn't care and it took away their power. He made it hard for them to upset him. They gave up.
• Have target practice: Ask your parents, sibling(s), cousin, friend or teacher to coach you for five minutes every night. Ask them to keep teasing until you reply naturally to all the teases, using simple, comfortable retorts.
• Look for 'the pop': Although you need to practise a variety of retorts, when you are ready, you might actually say something quite different. Children say it just 'pops out' of their mouth.
• Be gutsy: I practise safe retorts with children and their parents. But children often do things that adults wouldn't dare suggest. For instance, when Ben was called a 'fucking, fat faggot', he blew kisses to the bullies and jiggled his rolls of fat, and it worked! Although his action was outrageous, he did it when he was ready. You may wonder why the bully didn't whack Ben: the bully knew the game had changed and that he'd lost his power over Ben.
• A successful retort changes your life: Once the bully loses power, he either goes away or becomes friends. Provided you are friendly, other children will respect you now. They begin by being nice, then invite you to join their activities and want you to become their friend.
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