Using retorts or comebacks

Most bullying begins with words and escalates from there. The worst form of bullying is teasing. It can linger in your mind for years and affect your behaviour forever. Don't listen to the mean words, take them seriously or become upset. Instead, take the nasty bits out of the tease and return it without venom. Recycle the bully's verbal garbage by using a retort or a politically correct comeback. If you don't fight back physically or verbally, the bully has nothing to push against. He loses his physical or mental balance, starts to topple, then stops and pulls himself back to avoid being embarrassed.

A good retort boomerangs back to the bully. If the bully laughs oddly, grimaces or looks stuck for words, he is embarrassed. You have blocked his attack (see also the 'Handpower' exercise). Your power to embarrass the bully is the sting.

This is verbal martial arts. All of the following retorts have been created by children and have worked! Even traumatised children and parents can find something suitable. I have included lots of examples to defuse your pain with humour and block the bully. You can 'mix 'n' match' retorts. As long as it is assertive, not passive or aggressive, the results are great.

What's best?

• If you are shy, scared or verbally weak, use simple, easy, quick responses such as, 'Thanks for the feedback', 'And I like ice cream', 'Life's a bitch', 'And...?' or 'Pardon?'

• You might enjoy a long reply, e.g. 'I don't want to be called that name any more. Here are some new words which you can use in the future; learn them by heart and I'll test you tomorrow' (then get your retorts ready).

• Find out what the bully likes. Jack's bully loves cricket, so when the bully said, 'You're an idiot', Jack replied, 'And I like cricket.' The bully was dumbstruck.

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