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Bullies: Helping Children Cope

Updated on September 21, 2015
Bullies typically have such low self-esteem that they pick on others in an attempt to make themselves feel better by making others feel bad
Bullies typically have such low self-esteem that they pick on others in an attempt to make themselves feel better by making others feel bad | Source

What Is A Bully?

Bullying is a self-esteem issue at its core. These kids feel so low and bad about themselves that the only way they know how to feel better is by making someone else feel worse. (There are adults with similar issues, but here, we're just discussing the schoolyard variety.)

Teach your child that verbal "bullying" is not real bullying. The term has come into general use to describe any kind of harassment, whether verbal or physical. However, verbals assaults are more properly called 'taunts.'

Verbal threats of physical harm, while they may be alarming, are nothing as long as they are not acted upon. As long as the bully is only saying things like "I'm gonna beat you up," it is still only verbal harassment.

True bullying involves real physical action--pushing, shoving, throwing objects at another child, spitting on someone--things of that nature. In many cases, you will notice that these kinds of things involve a group of kids ganging up on a single individual. That right there tells you the true nature of the bully. Without their 'gang,' they are spineless cowards. It is the rare bully that acts alone.

How Do You Deal With Bullies?

Simple. Teach your kids that bullies are to be pitied, because they have low self-esteem. Do everything in your power to offer positive reinforcement to your own kids, to pump up their self-esteem.

If your children are being subjected to verbal taunting, teach them to ignore; ignore; ignore every word. Don't let them internalize the barrage. They are just words. Even if they become threats, they are not to be acknowledged. Play deaf. Do not dignify the taunts with a response. Teach the child that their own self worth is far higher than to allow them to stoop to the bully's level by offering a reply.

If the bullying becomes physical, of course report it to the school authorities.

Training children in self-defense from a young age develops self esteem and respect
Training children in self-defense from a young age develops self esteem and respect | Source

Don't Look Like A Target

Teach your children to stand tall and proud, and to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Bullies look for those who "look like" victims. People who walk timidly, hunched over, looking down at their feet, are basically screaming out, "pick on me!"

An ounce of prevention goes a long way. Prevent bullying attacks in the first place by enrolling your child in self-defense classes, and it won't be an issue. This alone will help your kid walk tall and with confidence that they are not to be "messed with."

Should an especially stupid bully then actually choose your child as a target, they will quickly find out that they picked the wrong target, and they'll have learned an important lesson.

Karma will kick in at some point for these troublemakers, for no matter how big and bad they THINK they are, they will learn soon enough that there is always someone "bigger and badder."

Examples From Memory Lane

I recall a couple of incidents from my own childhood, and this was before self-defense classes were much touted. I simply reacted on instinct. I was a shy kid, terrified of my own shadow, and more terrified of getting into trouble at school. However, I do have enough pride of being to stand up for myself if I am being physically picked upon.

It was in the 6th grade, and this pesky kid behind me in class kept reaching over his desk, and trying to pull down the zipper on the back of my skirt with his pencil. It was in the middle of a lesson, and I did my best to ignore it. However, when he scooted his desk forward to get a better angle and tried it again, nearly succeeding, I acted without thought, and upon instinct: I turned in my chair and slapped him across the face.

I was immeditately cognizant of what I had done, and I was scared I would be sent to the principal's office when the kid started crying and tattled. Imagine my surprise and relief (and a certain amount of internal gloating), when the teacher told him, "I've been watching you, and you had it coming!"

On another occasion, a group of girls from the "in" crowd, of which I was not a member, challenged me at lunchtime to a fight after school. I was so scared I barely got through the rest of the day's lessons. I left the schoolyard as quickly as I could, and by a different exit than I normally used, and I ran all the way home, avoiding the confrontation.

The next day, as I walked into the classroom, they all were chanting at me, "Tore you up, girl, tore you up," which was 1950s slang for chickening out and being a wuss; losing face, as it were. I walked right by it all, head high, pretending I was deaf. And you know what? I never had another bit of trouble from any of those girls all the rest of my school years.

What About Verbal Bullying?

Taunts, teasing, being excluded from a group, being shunned, are also under the general umbrella of bullying behavior. However, the perpetrators only have this kind of power over those who allow them that power.

What?! How and why would anyone allow themselves to be treated in this way? Quite simply, by reacting to it. As mentioned above, ignore it, don't feed into it, pretend you don't hear it, and it will cease to affect you. The tormentors will stop, and search for a target who is easier to provoke.

As for being shunned from a "select group" or circle, by "excluding" a particular child, the snobs are actually doing the kid a favor. No one needs to have those kinds of people in their close circles. A parent would be well-advised to teach their child that a group behaving in that way is not one to which you wish to belong, anyhow.

These are the types of people who will boot you out as fast as they accepted you in the day you show up wearing the "wrong" shoes, or minus the latest hot gadget. They will turn from friend to backstabber in a heartbeat.

Those people are not to be coveted as friends, for they will not be your friend when the chips are down. They will not stand by you, but will scurry away like the proverbial rats from a sinking ship. They have not an ounce of scruples or leadership qualities among them.

Learning to stand on their own, with pride in their achievements and interests, learning leadership skills--be a leader, not a follower--those are the bully-proofing lessons kids need to learn.


Here, I have to draw a hard line in the sand, and borrow some current vernacular, saying, "Really?" "Seriously?" You don't want to get me started on that!

If someone is giving your kid a hard time over the internet, it is as simple as "unfriending" or deleting that person from your social media lists. Again, this is in the same category as verbal taunting, and it can only "get to you" if you allow it.

It is not a matter over which to become all "freaked out." It is at a distance, and in truth, can do you no harm. If the pest is, however, a known local, with whom the kid has contact at school or at extra-curricular activities, then again, it becomes a matter of reporting to the appropriate authorities.

But someone they "met" online who lives in another state? Please! Let's have a reality check, here.


The Final Analysis

So, the solution to bullying of any type is, do not feed into it. Do not acknowledge them; do not give them fodder to work with. Their whole aim is to get a rise out of you, and if they fail, they will stop, and look for a more responsive target.

And if it does come to physically defending yourself at school, don't get into a knock-down drag-out brawl. Just one or two hits to knock the offender off balance, and walk away. Self defense is about giving yourself time to get away, not about beating the other guy senseless.

I think all kids should learn self-defense, for then the bullying would stop: all the would-be bullies would know that anyone they chose to pick on was capable of repelling any attack.

© 2012 Liz Elias


Submit a Comment
  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Seeker7--

    Thank you so very much for your high praise and support. I totally agree that so much of this "psychological profiling" is pure nonsense based upon a lot of book-learned theories with little basis in practical applications.

    I truly appreciate your input and thanks much for the votes!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    9 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Lizzy this is the best and most sensible hub I've read on bullying! Not only that, but it comes from the perspective of your good self, who has actually gone through an incident like this and so its not based on 'psychological types' or 'group behaviour' stuff that gets spouted about so much.

    For any child lacking in self-esteem I agree with you 100% - self defense lessons not only improve their confidence but their who attitude towards themselves does change drammatically!

    I also agree about most of the 'in-groups' at school. If you really watch these idiots, not only do they push out anyone who, as you rightly say, happens to turn up in the wrong shoes, but their whole attitude to each other sucks! Jealousy, bickering and back-stabbing are the norm for these groups and that's with the so-called 'friends' in the group! Nope - no decent kid needs or should want to be in with a shallow and silly crowd like that! These jokers are only beefing up their own low self-esteem by displaying the gadgets and the clothes costing a mint to all who will bother to look! They do indeed need to be pitied more than anything else.

    Wonderful hub + voted up everything except funny!!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, prasetio30,

    Thank you very much. I'm glad you found the article useful.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    9 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Very inspiring hub. I learn many things from you. Thanks for writing and share with us. ~prasetio

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, habee--

    Indeed! Let me at 'em! That has crossed the line into physical contact bullying, for how else would they get these items from her? I would definitely inform the school authorities, AND teach her to defend herself.

    I can describe a single, simple "let go of me NOW!" maneuver if someone grabs your arm, use the index finger and thumbnail of your other hand to grasp any finger of theirs you can get at, and with the thumbnail, press down with all your might on the "moon" area of their fingernail, just in front of the cuticle. Try it on yourself. It hurts--a lot! Unless you're dealing with a battle-hardened soldier or some idiot high on PCP, this will usually make them let go pronto.

    Once they let go, tell her to make a full-speed beeline for the principal's office, or the nearest teacher. Zero tolerance for bullies!

    Best wishes.

  • habee profile image

    Holle Abee 

    9 years ago from Georgia

    Perfect timing! My granddaughter is being bullied by 2 older boys. They steal her snacks, her money, and other items. Can I just go deal with them?? lol.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, Nell--You are right--words can hurt if the child is not taught how to brush it off, and "consider the source" instead of internalizing it. We should teach our kids to be proud to be leaders instead of followers; and that the only opinions that should matter to us are those of our loved ones...(nd sometimes, not even those, depending on the demeanor of said family)...If the child can be taught that jealousy is usually the root, and those kids are to be pitied instead, I think it might end the problem.

    Good for you for standing up for yourself at last. I hope YOU didn't get into too much trouble for that reaction. ;-)

    Thanks for the votes and share!

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    9 years ago from England

    Hi, I wish I had known about sticks and stones so to speak when I was at school, I was bullied constantly and the words did hurt, I was scared to go to school and eventually started getting pushed around. Until one day. I did what you did, only worse, a girl stopped in front of me and kicked backwards at my legs. I lost it. I picked her up and threw her against the headmasters door! then I grabbed her hair and kept hitting her head against the wall, I never got bullied again! it should never have come to that, if the teachers did their jobs properly, then bullying would die out, great hub, and so true, voted and shared! nell

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Hezekiah,

    Thanks very much for the compliment. I'm pleased that you found the article useful.

    I do not know enough about Japanese culture to say whether or not your daughter might encounter issues. If there are any problems in that culture with children being harassed for "looking different," then whether or not your child has issues may have to do with which parent she most resembles: you, or your wife.

    Otherwise, I'd still recommend self-defense classes, and a good dose of self-esteem building in the home. Best wishes to you.

  • Hezekiah profile image


    9 years ago from Japan

    Nice Hub lot's to learn here

    I'am from an Afro Caribbean background married to a Japanese woman, my daughter goes to school in Japan. She may encounter issues, or may not. Difficult to say though.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, independentminded,

    Thanks very much for sharing your insight, and for the compliment. I agree with you, it is disgusting in the extreme, not to mention maddening, unethical, moronic and a few other far less lady-like terms.

    If only there were some way to get back what we had, but those of us with a backbone are among the aging and dying-off generation, while those of the following generations have been bred to be spineless. I shudder to think what this means for our country in another 30 years. I doubt I'll be here to see it, and for that I am thankful.

  • profile image


    9 years ago know what? The first paragraph in your posting says it a nutshell! It's absolutely spot-on. Moreover, this doesn't just happen in schools among kids, either. It happens among adults in the workplace, and online, as well. It's disgusting. I still remember, as recently as 30 years ago, if someone was hassled in anyway or form, and the person under attack stood up for him or herself, people sided with the person who stuck up for him or herself in such matters, essentially telling the bully/tormentor that s/he deserved what s/he got. Nowadays, as you've pointed out, more victims have been bred, and more bullies and tormentors get rewarded for their actions and behaviors. It's disgusting.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, mary615,

    You know what? The schools these days are TEACHING kids to be victims! By punishing the kids for defending themselves, thus, indirectly, REWARDING the bullying behavior, this certainly teaches a "Lie down & roll over--let people walk all over you" lifestyle.

    I have to ask--is your son in a private school, or a public school? Actually, come to think of it, it does not matter.

    If it were me, I'd be walking in there, giving them a piece of my mind in no uncertain terms and pointedly reminding them EXACTLY WHO IT IS PAYING THEIR SALARY--that would be YOU! Ergo, THEY work for YOU...and not the other way around.

    (Doctors these days tend to make the same misjudgement about who works for whom...) It is up to each of us to set them all straight.

    Thanks for stopping by, and I wish your son all the best. Send him to self defence class anyway--even if he never has to use it, it is a great confidence booster.

    I'll definitely check out your hub.

  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 

    9 years ago from Florida

    I enjoyed your article. I have a 16 yr. old son who is very shy and so, he could be an easy target for bullies. So far he's been OK, but I worry for him. In our schools, if a kid acts in self defence in any way as you describe, they will be kicked out of school. I try to teach him to "stand tall", but that is not his personality. I wrote a Hub on being an introvert. Read it when you have some time. I was terribly shy as a kid, and it's tough.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ GoodLady--Thank you very much for your kind words. I, too, hope this article gains wide circulation, so I can perhaps be one who helps put a stop to this sort of thing. Thanks much for the votes and the share; I appreciate it.

    @independentminded--Thank you for your comment and support of the notion of self-defense classes.

    As to your second point, while it is true that those other things are found within the technicacl, dictionary definition of bullying, "frightening; tyrannical behavior," etc., My intent was to point out that you can only be bullied if you ALLOW yourself to be bullied--hence my advice of ignoring it; turning a deaf ear to taunts. Thank you for pointing that out. I believe I will make an addition to my article to address that behavior.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    I agree with the idea of a kid who's constantly a target of physical bullying being involved in a self-defense course to at least boost his/her confidence, and reduce the chances of being the target of schoolyard bullies in the future.

    However, I have to disagree with the notion that bullying is only physical. Bullying doesn't necessarily and always have to be physical. It can take the form of constantly baiting and ordering another person around, shunning, taunting, and constantly excluding him or her from social circles or whatever

  • GoodLady profile image

    Penelope Hart 

    9 years ago from Rome, Italy

    You are so right and I sincerely hope your Hub is read by as many parents as possible. Self defense course to gain time to run away is brilliant. All your suggestions are exactly right and just. And very wise. Voting up and sharing


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