[Part 6 in a series]
Oftentimes it takes a combination of actions to stop bullying. Below are tips I give my martial arts students to help deal with such situations.
1. Don’t retaliate. If a bully physically strikes you in any way, don’t hit back. If a bully says mean things, don’t top that with a hurtful comment of your own. This will only escalate and feed the bully's power. Instead, tell a friend, a teacher or an adult about the person and incident.
2. Walk away. Tao of Texas Martial Arts Institute’s first rule of self-defense is to run away from dangerous situations. Walk away from anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable, whether the person is physically or verbally threatening. If the bully follows you, walk right up to a teacher—and just stand there.
3. Make a bully-buddy. One of my students recently told me that a classmate would stick his leg out to trip her as she walked by in the lunchroom. If this happens to you, find a “bully-buddy”—another student (or maybe several) to walk around with you. Bullies are less likely to target students who travel in pairs or groups. When challenged, many bullies will back down.
4. Avoid the bully. Another student recently said that she and her friend were scared of a boy who hovered around them and said hurtful things as they waited in the hallway for class. In this situation, the bully-buddy method wasn’t enough. Their solution? The girl and her friend began hanging out at a bench outside in the school courtyard; by class time, the boy was gone.
5. Think strong, stand tall. When confronted by a bully, think strong and stand tall. Imagine you are huge. Pretend you’re a super hero. Keep your chin up and shoulders back; and imagine that you’re wearing a cloak that doesn’t allow mean or hurtful words through.
6. “No! Stop!” If a classmate kicks or hits you, pulls your hair, cuts in line, or takes your possessions, say, “No! Stop!” as loud as you can, and then go tell a teacher what happened. This isn’t tattling. It’s called self-defense—and taking care of yourself.
7. Don’t believe everything you hear. Bullies love insults, and they have a way of pressuring otherwise nice classmates—even ones you thought were your friends—to laugh at you, or join in mocking gestures to try to make you feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, ashamed, and sad. Try a role-play game in which your mom or dad play the bully. Practice not believing mean things someone might say to you. Here’s an example of one I played with Peter, a smart, blond-haired, freckle-faced boy in my Taekwondo class.
“Peter, you have the most disgusting purple hair I’ve ever seen.”
He grinned. His classmates giggled.
“What are you smiling at?” I asked. “Your hair makes me want to throw up!”
He started to laugh. So did the rest of the class. “Why aren’t you upset, Peter?”
“Because it’s not true,” he said confidently. “I don’t have purple hair.”
“So what’s the difference in me saying something mean about your freckles? If you believe your freckles are beautiful, it doesn’t matter what I say. Right?”
“But let’s say you don’t think you’re good at math, and someone calls you
‘stupid.’ Then it hurts. Because you think it might be true.”
The class nods in silence. Some kids look down.
“The key is to know what’s true about you, and not be distracted by what’s not true. Love yourself for who you are—freckles, imperfect at math, and all. If others don’t ‘get’ you, their loss.”
8. Smile and nod. Bullies love to make you cry or see you be afraid. It’s a game for them. Don’t show that you’re hurt or scared. No matter what others say, smile and nod. It confuses bullies, and if they don’t get the reaction they seek, they’ll likely get bored and leave you alone.
9. Tell someone. It may be hard to speak up, but don’t be silent about bullies. Know that parents, teachers, and school counselors want to know about bullying, and that teachers are PAID not only to teach you math, English, science, and social studies, but also to ensure that you’re safe while in their care. It’s unfair—and can even be considered disrespectful—to not let them help you. Plus, your teachers may get in trouble with their boss, the principal, if you don’t let them help you.
10. Think outside the box. A parent told me that a bully had taken her son’s shoes one day at school and then threw them to his friends while her son chased after them. “If he takes your shoes again,” I told my student, “ask him to return them. If he doesn’t, don’t chase after him. That’s part of his game—to make you look silly running around. Instead, march right up to the teacher and tell her, ‘Excuse me, ma’am. Can I borrow a pair of shoes?’ When she finds out what happened to your shoes, trust me, she’ll handle it from there.” I explained that, technically, he wouldn’t be tattling on the bully; he’d simply be asking to borrow shoes.