How to Face Your Bully When You Go Back to School

Going back to school after a break, whether summer or Christmas, can be exciting. You get to see your friends, your favorite teacher, and maybe even your crush! But if you have a bully, just the idea of going to school can be anxiety-inducing. Knowing you’ll see and possibly interact with them daily might be scary, but there are ways to handle your bully so you’ll have a good school year.

Ignore Your Bully
Bullies love getting reactions from the people they pick on and those around them. Pretend you can’t hear the bully or that they don’t exist. As much as their words may hurt or make you uncomfortable, try not to give them any satisfaction. Acting like you don’t notice them and don’t care might stop the bully. To perfect your act of ignoring your bully, you can practice with a friend or trusted adult. Run through different scenarios and keep practicing until you feel ready!

Walk Away
When you see your bully approaching, walk away. There is no point in listening to or acknowledging someone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself and is acting foolishly. Try not to acknowledge them and imagine that you’re walking away from a stranger. Your body language will show you don’t care, and in their eyes, you’ll seem calm and unbothered. Walking away is taking away the bully’s power.

Deflect with Humor
When your bully bothers you, take a deep breath and start laughing. Try to think of their lame insults as hilarious, or think of something that you actually think is funny so your laugh sounds more natural. Look them in their eyes, laugh, and walk away without adding anything else or talking to them. Bullies want you to cry, not laugh. Reacting with humor will surprise them and might leave them not knowing how to react.

Stand Up for Yourself
Although it’s easier said than done, gathering the courage to tell your bully “no” or “stop it” can make your bully back off. It can also make those around you support and defend you. Just like you can practice ignoring your bully with a trusted adult, you can practice standing up for yourself. With a trusted adult or friend, practice saying “no” or other phrases that let the bully know you’re no one to mess with, like “back off” or “can you not?” If you don’t feel comfortable being direct with your bully, there are some pretty clever comebacks you can respond with, like:

  • “Whatever!”
  • “Aww, you actually made me laugh.”
  • “You must be pretty obsessed with me if you keep talking about me behind my back.”
  • “Now that you got all that off your chest, do you feel better now?”
  • “Why exactly are you talking to me again?”
  • “Here we go again. This is getting boring. Let me know when you’re done.”
  • “You have a future as a comedian!”
  • “I’ve been called worse from better.”
  • “Wow, that’s crazy.”

You can also stand up for yourself by literally standing tall, acting brave, and showing confidence – even if you don’t feel brave or confident. You can do this by keeping your back straight and holding your head high without fidgeting. Doing this will send your bully a message: “Don’t mess with me!”

Stay Close to Your Friends
Being around your friends and spending time with them at and outside school can make you stay strong and feel protected. Your bully will be less motivated to pick on you when you’re with your friends. To a bully, it’s easy to go after one person. Hang out with your friends as much as possible – the more time you spend with others, the less your bully will bother you. Form a pact with your friends to stand up for each other if one of you is getting bullied.

Tell a Trusted Adult
You might feel scared or embarrassed to tell someone you’re being bullied. But a trusted adult, like a parent or teacher, can make you feel less afraid of the bully and help you. It is the job of an adult to help keep you safe! Sometimes bullies stop when an adult gets involved because they’re scared of the consequences or know they can’t get away with the bullying any longer. When you confide in a trusted adult:

  • Explain what’s happening, who’s involved, and how long it’s been happening. Then, ask what they’ll do to help stop the bully.

Tell another trusted adult if the first adult you talk to doesn’t do enough. Adults have many life experiences, some of which include bullying.

Stay Positive
It might be surprising to read this, but bullies are often in pain too. People who bully are often insecure and feel powerless in one or multiple aspects of their lives. They bully to look and feel strong. Although this doesn’t excuse their behavior and actions, it helps to remind yourself of this. You are not the problem. Your bully may be having an issue outside of their relationship with you that is driving their bad behavior.

Practice daily self-affirmations that remind you of your strengths, talents, and positive qualities. It’s easy to get caught up in the mean words your bully says or their unkind actions, but try to eliminate any negative self-talk and only speak to yourself with kindness. Tell yourself:

  • “I am strong and capable. I can take on any challenge, including this one.”
  • “I am beautiful because I am me.”
  • “I am confident.”
  • Or any other self-affirmation that makes you feel strong, confident, and loved

Take Action
No one likes a bully. While you might feel alone, other people at your school are also likely being bullied. So, why not change that? Consider starting an anti-bullying club by talking to your school counselor or favorite teacher. You can also go to your school’s administration, like the principal, and take a strong stance against bullying by asking them to take one too. This can look like them giving a session on bullying prevention to your class or establishing consequences for bullying, like after-school detention. You can be the change for yourself and others by taking action.

For more information about bullying, check out these resources:

Author: Stephanie Paz is a Tigua Indian of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion from New Mexico State University.

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