Week 1: Coping with Bullying (teens) Module

Week 4: Coping with Bullying (teens)

Week 5: Family Support and Assertiveness Skills

Week 6: Cyberbullying and Recovery Pathways

How to respond to bullies

As we discussed earlier, bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Now that you know the signs to watch out for, the next question is what to do if you encounter this situation. If you are being bullied, there are several ways you might choose to respond. Let’s explore a few of these options in more depth below. 

Walk away – If you are being bullied, one of the best things you can do is to walk away from the bully. Avoid the bully as much as you can, without it negatively impacting your life. In other words, we aren’t suggesting that you avoid school or activities altogether, but you might try to keep your distance where possible. Walking away tells the bully that you don’t care anymore. 

Stand tall and ask them to stop – It’s normal to feel intimidated by a bully, after all, this is what they are hoping for. However, sometimes, simply acting brave and unafraid can be enough to stop the bullying. By acting bravely, you may even start to feel stronger and better about yourself. Standing tall and acting bravely means you don’t back down or take the bullying on board. Instead, you might take a deep breath and say something like “quit messing with me” or “I don’t appreciate you speaking to me like that, please stop”. Clearly as the bully to stop. If they don’t stop, your next step is to walk away. 

Don’t show your feelings – Bullies thrive on seeing signs of vulnerability in their victims. So, how can you prevent yourself from showing the bully that they are getting to you? If you can’t escape the situation immediately, one of the best strategies is to distract yourself and pay very little attention to the bully. We know this is easier said than done, but it may help you survive a difficult situation in the short-term. As a first step, you could try counting to 100 or perhaps reciting the lyrics to a song. After you are out of that situation, you can go somewhere safe, seek support, and let all the hidden emotions out.

Prepare some comeback lines – When someone starts bullying you, you can always choose to respond with sarcasm over retaliation or hysterical behaviour. This is difficult to do when you’re under stress, so it can be helpful to plan your response beforehand. We suggest you prepare some sarcastic comeback lines to use on your bullies. The aim of this is to send the message to the bully that you’re not intimidated or shaken by their hurtful behaviour. This can often come as a shock and feel uncomfortable for the bully, which may make them less likely to treat you this way again. 

Here are some appropriate and practical comeback lines to get you started:

  • “So?”
  • “Keep talking – I’m not listening”
  • “Is that all?” 
  • “How long did it take you to come up with that one?”
  • “This is boring. Maybe find something new about me”
  • “Please let me know when you are done”
  • “Yes, yes…you are a genius. I know”
  • “You aren’t bothering me, you need to care about someone for them to affect you”
  • “It’s really funny how someone who knows me the least talks about me the most.”
  • “You know what’s funny? Definitely not you”

However, be careful before using any such comeback lines, because your bully might become angry and aggressive in response. Therefore, once you use your comeback line, it’s really important to walk away from that situation. Just keep walking and don’t respond or react to anything else they say or do. The bully wants you to react, they want you to respond. So if you stop reacting and walk away from that situation, you are taking back power from the bully.

Build your inner strength – Using the above strategies can feel scary. As we mentioned, it’s normal not to feel very brave when we are faced by bullying. As such, building your confidence and inner strength can be helpful when trying to stand up to bullying. Having self-belief can go a long way in responding effectively and reducing the impacts of bullying. So, how can you build this self-belief? Let’s have a look at some easy ways you work on building your confidence:

  • Acknowledge your strengths – We all have strengths, yourself included. Your inner strength does not depend on the actions of others – it’s yours to control and to feel. Bullies make us question our inner strength, leading us to feel weak and like less of a person. You need to look inside yourself and acknowledge that you do have strengths – make a list of all your positive qualities and the things you are good at. Remind yourself of your unique value. You can get a close friend or family member to help you with this if you struggle.
  • Be smart – If you want to take control over being bullied, you have to be smart. This involves being aware of your situation, surroundings, and the person/people you are dealing with. Get to understand your bully and his/her connections. For example, what is the pattern of bullying and who does the bully usually team up with. This awareness might help you to expect and prepare for the ‘unexpected’. 
  • Act confident to feel confident – Whenever you are facing a bully, try to appear confident. Even if you feel scared, do not show them your fear. Keep your head up, look forward, and speak with confidence. We often don’t know how we come across to others, so it can be helpful to practice your ‘confidence act’ in front of a mirror.
  • Get to know yourself – It’s important to develop a deep understanding of yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses. If you know that you struggle to be assertive, you can then work on improving your skills in this area. Similarly, if you know that you are good at something, you can draw from these strengths in different situations. Get to know yourself; who you are, what you want, what’s important to you, and what you are capable of.
  • Understand bullying – One way to face your bully appropriately is to educate yourself about the act of bullying. This will help you to understand that the act of bullying has nothing to do with you personally. Bullying behaviour says more about the bully than it does about you. As we’ve mentioned, most bullies are struggling with their own personal issues. They cope by taking their own anxiety, anger, or saddness out on you through bullying! Whilst knowing this doesn’t take away the unfairness of the situation, it should help you not to personalise it as much. 

  • Tell an adult – If you are being bullied by someone, it’s important to reach out to a supportive adult. We know it can be very difficult to open up, however, most people find it helps them feel better and less afraid. Reaching out to an adult is often better than telling someone your own age. Reach out to your parents, older siblings, teachers, school counsellor, or even a trusted relative. 

Let them know the following information:

  • What’s really happening
  • Who is bullying you and how
  • How often it’s happening
  • Where it’s happening 
  • How long it’s been happening
  • What are the effects on you

Telling an adult is not ‘dobbing’ or ‘telling tales’. Bullying is a serious problem and, as we’ve discussed, it can have serious effects. Most adults will do everything they can to help you, because they will recognise the seriousness of your experience. If that adult does not do something to help you, tell someone else. Keep seeking help until someone supports you with your situation.

Everyone deserves to live in a place where they can feel safe and comfortable. We all have the right to live in a violence-free atmosphere, both at school and at home. Therefore, no matter what happens, YOU deserve to feel safe!