What Everybody Ought to Know About Bullying

It’s wasn’t easy for me growing up with what many considered a girl’s name.  A boy named ‘Kelly” was often a regular target for bullies.  I wouldn’t change my name for the world though. It’s not only my identity, it has helped me become the person I am today.  My name forced me to stand up to the mean-spirited and helped forge a much-needed self-confidence at an early age.

While I’m what many consider a ‘big guy’ today, that wasn’t always the case. I was one of the smallest boys in my class until my eighth grade year.  I was shy too.  My first interests weren’t sports but rather art and writing. The combination of all of these qualities that made me, well ‘me’ often made me different, out of place, and teased.  I was not, however, a victim. I guess somewhere deep within my genetic code, my Irish DNA stepped up and helped me confront what I knew was wrong. When I found out that my name ‘Kelly’ was Irish for ‘warrior’ that sealed the deal. When others were being teased I would get involved.

I drank my milk, worked out with the football team, and graduated a ‘big guy’ with big plans. I was always on the lookout for people unable to speak up to bullies themselves. I understand where they’re coming from, because it isn’t easy.  As a teacher there is nothing that I enjoy more than correcting a bully, and helping the recipient of the abuse feel more confident and loved.  Even out in public, far from home, I walk into situations where someone is being victimized.  It’s just my nature. I’m still the Eagle Scout trying to be helpful, trying to make a difference.

Oddly, the bullying never ended.  It didn’t matter how old I was, where I was, how big I became, or what accomplishments I had achieved.  There has been a bully at each stage in my life.  Perhaps others don’t call them that, but I do.  Anyone that finds enjoyment at the suffering of another is a bully. (Here is a great webpage that highlights warning signs and characteristics of the typical bully.) It may be a coworker, a neighbor, or even that mean clerk in the checkout line. Regardless, there is no shortage to negative thinking, mean-spiritited bullies.  I have even read about cyber-bullying that uses texting, blogs, and social networks to harass and victimize. (Many states are considering more laws about bullying and greater punishments.)

So what do you do with a bully?  How do get on with your life when a bully steps into it?

Here’s what I want you to know about bullying:

1) It’s wrong and it isn’t just a part of growing up. While I have encountered bullying at each place in my life that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.  Bullying is wrong.  Don’t accept it as a part of life.  It needs to be dealt with immediately.

2) Confront a bully. I researched this and didn’t like what I read.  Nearly every article said ignore the bully, change your lifestyle to avoid attention from the bully.  Well, I’m no psychologist, so you might want a second opinion here, but confronting the bully always worked for me.  Involve your family, teachers, friends, coaches, and everyone you can, but confront the bully right away.  Always stand up for what is right.

3) Don’t encourage a bully. If you are laughing along with a bully making fun of someone else, you’re a bully too.  If you see bullying going on, and you do nothing to stop it, you’re part of the problem.  You have a responsibility as a bystander. The bully wants your attention and thinks you approve if you do nothing.  Repeat these words, “What you’re doing is wrong! Stop it!  Don’t do it again or I will report it to someone who will do something about it.”  Your behavior will be repeated by others. (Both the good, bad, and the indifferent.) We have all, at times, been guilty of taking a joke too far, and perhaps bullied someone. If so, we need to correct that mistake and make it right.

4) Invite everyone in on it. Don’t keep the bullying to yourself.  Tell everyone you know what  is going on.  Kids! I’m talking to you now.  You must let your parents know. Don’t keep it to yourself! It’s nothing to be ashamed about.  The bully should be ashamed. If you tell someone and they do nothing about it, keep talking until someone does.  Heck, email me, I’ll get involved.

5) Use the buddy system. Navy SEALS are the toughest warriors on the planet, but they don’t go into the water or anywhere without a buddy.  Why?  Because it’s dangerous.  If you are being bullied take a friend.  What if you don’t have a buddy?  Make one. I knew a teacher that was being bullied by a parent.  She went some places by herself and wanted the verbal abuse to stop.  She carried a digital recorder with her.  Once she played it back the bullying stopped. Surround yourself with positive people.

6) Bullying ends when confidence begins. If you really want bullying to end you must work on confidence.  I don’t mean work on it a little bit; I mean work on it a lot!  You can’t be bullied if you have confidence.  Confidence doesn’t allow you to second guess yourself. Confidence will encourage you to inform others about the problem. Confidence will give you the courage as a bystander to get involved. Confidence will help you in so many ways.

To conclude, I want to emphasize that there are clearly more good people in this world than bad, despite how the media portrays it. Ninety-nine percent of our interactions are good and wholesome, and our focus should be there.  If you have been bullied then you also know how powerful that one percent can be, and how it can alter a life.  Don’t let it.  Be heard. Find a buddy. Confront it. The greatest gift we can give in life is a second chance; in time please try to extend that gift to the person you once considered a bully.

Kelly Croy is an inspirational speaker, author, and artist. Please visit our website to book Kelly for your next event. www.kellycroy.com info@kellycroy.com 1-800-831-4825

Kelly’s  presentations have entertained and amazed audiences across the nation including corporations, schools, churches, conferences, and numerous other venues where people come together to be entertained and improve their lives. Please consider booking Kelly for your next event.

82 thoughts on “What Everybody Ought to Know About Bullying

  1. hey kelly really enjoyed reading that. I would never have thought of thinking like that about a name. I’m glad that you pursued more into the aart because youtr great at it. I really enjoy watching you bring it to life everytime i see it. I agree with the aspect you have here for bullies because ive been through some of this myself

    • Thank you Derek! I think we have all gone through this at different points in life. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  2. Thank you so much for this post Kelly!

    So inspiring. I have a young son (7). I’m constantly talking to him and asking him about school. I’ve made it so he can talk to me about anything and hopefully he will continue to as he gets older.

    I think it’s important to equip children and ourselves as adults with the idea that we are precious and valuable and in no way should we stand back and let anyone, be it kids in the playground or that ‘horrible’ boss, treat us otherwise. Confronting a bully is like facing a fear – if you don’t, it will eventually consume you.

    Many people will benefit from this post.


    • No, bullying is not natural. Bullying and other forms of cruelty are learned behaviour. As children, bullies were encouraged in their hateful behaviour by their overindulgent parents and apathetic, if not downright callous, school authorities.

      • Yes, in the case that I commented on above with my son’s current problem, you hit the nail on the head. How awful for parents that have risen to the top of the career to find that their children are not following in their footsteps because they did not take the time to teach them how to be kind considerate mature people.

      • Perhaps poliamorous is referring to bullying a kind of primordial behavior that reminds us that we, as humans, are still animals.

        We protect our property and lives (sometimes resorting to violence) not unlike other mammals.

        And while it’s true interacting with other people, in confined spaces or time frames, often produces a pecking order, there’s still no reason to physically or verbally belittle and ostracize someone else because they’re different than the established norms.

        Children can be very mean to each other. Part of figuring out you’re own identity is to compare and contrast yourself with the group. Some kids want to belong so badly, they’ll do anything. Others don’t care as much. Some kids want to maintain the status quo so much that they’ll intimidate anyone. Others don’t care as much.

        Kelly probably came across so many “do not provoke” and “avoid confrontation” articles about how to deal with bullies because one theory about why kids (or adults) bully is because they want attention. To be hated and feared is better than to be ignored.

        Parents have to teach their kids how to treat others, but they also have to give their kids the right amount of attention.

      • I wasn’t sure if you were refering to either me or poliamorous. You needn’t worry about *my* motives in posting here: I am deeply concerned about bullying and how evil it is. I wish you all the best with your child. *hugs*

  3. Thanks Kelly!
    My teenage son has been bullied all year by the son of a prominant elected official. I just found out last week when the other child physically attacked my son. All year long my son had said (child’s name) has been so annoying today! But he didn’t give me the specifics. My son has had bully training, seen the video <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200304/film-reviews-gum-in-my-hair-and-six-feet-under<"Gum in My Hair" about bullying, etc. He thought he had it under control by ignoring it. That didn’t help, obviously. I took the time to call the bully’s father. That alone was pretty amazing to the little schoolyard bully ring, led by the prominant politician’s son. “Dude! Your Mom called (the bully)’s FATHER!” Like that had never happened before! And his father told me that he had told his son to stay away from my son. (He said this in a way that made me think that he thought his son was the innocent victim and my son was the thug.) When I recapped the events at school that got both of our kids suspended – (the fight after the physical attack by the bully) – he honestly didn’t know, and was shocked. Why the Dad was completely out of touch is anyone’s guess… It was my son’s doctor that told me to call the bully’s FATHER. I questioned that, the father is at the State Capitol doing important (one assumes) things at the moment, etc. No, the FATHER needs to be aware of the actions. Even after the physical attack and suspension I was trying the “ignore it” approach. It wasn’t until a week after the physical attack by the bully when the bully and his group were on the playground and my son approached, and the bully said “come on guys, he’s here, let’s leave!” and they all walked away from my son, (ostracism) that I asked my son’s doctor for help. (I had already written letters to the school superintendent and met with her and my son’s teacher.) Apparantly none of this was known by the V.I.P.’s father….. I took my son out of school for one day when I found out that neither the school superintent nor the teacher would be present, that would be a bully holiday!

    All this is pretty amazing, I think, in light of the fact that my son attends a little country school with only 90 students from preschool to 8th grade. (He’s in 8th grade, they only have twelve 8th graders including the politician’s son!) You’d think the school could control it. In my opinion they have enough people supervising the kids. I can’t find fault with the school. So your article is especially important, because it helps the kids, and adults, from inside out. Most important – if you are being bullied, know it, know it’s wrong, believe you have the right and responsibility to do something about it, ask for help, don’t hide it, and believe that you have the right not to be bullied. In future posts I’d like to see your approach on bullyproofing your own actions and interactions, so that bullies aren’t attracted in the first place. Like sharks and wolves, bulley’s cut the weakest out of the pack and then attack…


    • Hi Mom of a 13 year old,

      Thanks for sharing your story with readers here.

      Your story touched me because when I was your son’s age, I was bullied at school too. I went to a ghetto school you see, and it was practically part of the culture there to pay ‘protection money’ to your classmates.

      What I learned then was that if you want to stand up to organized bullies, you gotta be prepared to take the fight all the way. Involve everyone. The school authorities, the law enforcement officers, the media even (which is easier in today’s internet age) and just about everyone else.

      I think you did good protecting your son. Let us know how it turns out later.

      • Thanks Mallcopdiary, I’m awaiting the 2nd phone call from the dignitary now. I truly believe the dad had no idea what was going on with his son. The dad sounded intelligent on the phone, not like a bully himself. He didn’t try to put me or my son down, and just told me that he would talk to his son about this and get back to me. I’ll save this link and post again when (if) V.I.P. rich dad ever calls me back… (Or if bully jr. trys any thing again…) I’m done with pompous people…

        One note, I honestly think that I never experienced bullying until I was an adult. I worked in one dept. for a county, (District Attorney, criminal division) with lawers and legal secretaries. I enjoyed the job and made good friends. I transferred to a different department for a promotion (District Attorney, family support) and moved into an overcrowed facility with 60 female clerks, and one male. The ladies targeted me as their victim, probably because whenever the attorneys visited the department they called out their hellos to me, invited me to lunch, etc. I had a “status” that they didn’t, so they tried to take me down a notch. Two nice ladies “adopted” me, walked me out of the building at break and lunch time, and accompanied me to the restroom. They introduced themselves to me, said they had seen what was going on, and that it was wrong. We tried together to make it stop and couldn’t. So I documented it all, went to my boss, who worked in another building and had no idea what was going on, and reported it. It was really gross, and even involved sexual harrasment among the female workers toward me. (They were younger and would talk, in infinate detail, about “last night” in my presence and wouldn’t stop when I asked them. Needless to say, the ringleader was questioned and fired, as well as some of her co-bullies. I went on to several other promotions, out of the area, and am healed from this. I gotta say, experiencieng bullying as the victim, as a clear headed, well educated, confident adult, was horrifying and sickening. Imagine that as a child? No way! This just cannot be tolerated. And when you read about violent incidents where the victims attack back? Nip it in the bud – prevent big violence….

        When the bully group at my son’s school ostracised him after the physical attack I was very blunt with the school superintendent – bullying and ostracism are a very violent combination…. Get the wrong mix of bully and victim and it’s a horrific result…

  4. I enjoyed reading this too.

    Sound advice, especially the bit about standing up to bullies.

    But usually, it isn’t just one bully. Predators tend to travel in packs after all. God knows I seen such bullying in the malls around here. A pack of teens tend to beat up on one lone kid or a smaller group.

    One time, there was even a smaller group picking on a bigger group. Like three versus a dozen. That’s because the dozen odd kids were just regular kids leaving the shop after some birthday thingy and the 3 were heavily tattooed and possibly armed. Here you see the wolf (a predator) vs. sheep (prey) mentality.

    It takes just one wolf to terrorize a whole flock of sheep, see? None of the dozen odd nicely-dressed kids wanted to be the first to step forward and tell the 3 thugs to get lost. Even though logic says if they ALL stepped forward at once, the minority 3 will be buried under a wave.

    Just sharing my experience here.

    • I agree! Here’s what I do to help my son and his little pack of sheep. They tend to pick on and tease each other good naturedly. I take that as an opportunity to teach them the moves and what to say if it was a REAL bully attack. I join in, as if I was one of the kids, and I say – “HEY! YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!!! (xyz kid) is MY FRIEND!!! YOU CAN’T DO THAT TO MY FRIEND WHEN I AM HERE!!! KNOWCK IT OFF!!!” So this helps the kids to have a pre-rehearsed script to fall back on auto-pilot when there is a real test. Just like fire drills, kids need bully-drills!!! Everyone laughs, it’s fun, and they appreciate the little mini lesson. (Followed by cupcakes, of course!)

  5. This is an important post. Thank you. I actually did my PhD dissertation on bullying in middle school, and I can’t stress enough how important your third point is: bystanders perpetuate bullying by doing nothing. Doing nothing sends an implicit message to the bully that their behavior is acceptable, and an implicit message to the victim that no one cares about their welfare. If I were an elementary or middle school teacher, I would really try to focus on educating kids about not being bystanders. It’s amazing how quickly bullies will back down when bystanders speak up.

  6. Thank you for this excellent post. I, too, had been a victim of bullying, and I only wish I had known about this information earlier in my life. Keep up the excellent work!

  7. Awesome post! I work with a non-profit focused on helping girls live healthier, more confident lives. My own middle school daughter has been the target of a bully, and most recently, so was I! It doesn’t matter what age or season of life that we are in, you are absolutely right, bullies are every where. And like you, I believe ignoring them only gives them more power. Thanks for the great post!

  8. What everyone missed here however is martial arts training.

    I agree with Kelly Croy, Mom of 13 year old and Jean about standing up to bullies. And yeah I do think teaching bystanders to stand up for their fellows would be helpful to the situation. The drills Mom of 13 year old came up with is helpful I think.

    But, you have to understand that sometimes, bullies are not cowards. They can be really tough and crazy. Especially when they are backed up by their mates, assorted weaponry and maybe drugs.

    So what I am saying is, when push comes to shove, you need a metaphorical big stick to back you up.

    I know folk wisdom recommends that martial arts lead to violence but that’s a myth really. Because the discipline and sacrifice (of time and money) involved meant that those losers with the intention to abuse their training for their short moments of sick pleasure can’t master the art to make it work.

    So yeah, all I am saying is, it is good to be confident enough to stand up to bullies, but you need a backup plan in case they call you bluff.

    • Yes, I agree Mallcopdiary. My son, the victim of the bully, has had formal training in karate for several years, and has achieved the status of green belt. He can competently defend himself against a full grown man. After the physical attack the he and the bully got into a fist fight, (after the bully refused to apologize.) I asked my son if he had used any of his formal training. He said he had only used blocks, but he did not use his attack moves. He just knew intuitively that his bully wasn’t trained in martial arts and he had a huge unfair advantage. He made this decision at a gut level. I think that if he had been in a fight that came as a surprise, and the attacker was unknown, he would have used every move he knew to disable the bully. I strongly agree, effective self defense training is really important. Especially against unknown bullies, outside of school. Kids need to know how to defend themselves against violent criminals, a big word for “bully.”

  9. Great post. Keep on doing what you are doing. I am especially surprised you would add that you would help the person themselves (with email and whatnot). You are of a good mind and spirit, Kelly. Pretty inspirational stuff!

  10. When I read your name I immediately thought of a Kelly I had in my class when I first started teaching. Due to his size, I fear without careful guidance he may have been more of a bully-er than the recipient. I often think of him because I really liked the kid in spite of the potential problems I saw.
    I wrote about bullying right after the massacre at Fort Hood a couple months back.http://atticannie.wordpress.com/2009/11/07/what-if-we-could-stop-bullying/
    As a retired teacher, I have always been interested in helping the victims of such a vile practice. Keep on speaking out. The world needs more teachers like you. AA

  11. Thank you! I can’t believe I seen this. I’m 27 yrs old and beside myself that I have a bully. I just starting using the word bully last Sunday to place what she’s doing to me. I have been ignoring her and that’s what I’ve been told to do but its nots helping. So I’m taking your advice! I like it!

  12. Kelly,
    I just read your article. Wonderful. I agree with you whole heartedly. I hope that many’many people get to read it.
    Be strong and continue to write!

  13. As a last resort-and only as a last resort-you may have to throw a punch or two. As a young girl I was bullied by the guys in my class. I tried telling the teacher. Didn’t work. I tried telling my mother. Didn’t work. I tried ignoring them, only made it worse. However, when I actually physically fought back it stopped-why? Because some people don’t understand diplomacy and will harrass you until you throw a punch their way, that they understand. We have come to a dangerous point in this country where we say nothing can be resolved by fighting. WRONG!!! Granted, you don’t want to come out swinging in every situation but sometimes fighting is exactly what it takes. I didn’t win all those fights-though most of them I did-but even if I didn’t win they got the message, Dena will fight back I better leave her alone. Of course today with Columbines and Virgina Techs one must be careful since they might go home and get their gun and off you. Anyway, it is something to think about.

  14. Hi Kelly, I really enjoyed reading your blog. I’ll be sure to back up and read previous ones too. I work with kids who are diagnosed with autism and related special needs. These kids need to hear that ‘ignoring’ the bully won’t work, most likely. I’ll be visiting your page!

  15. Great post Kelly. You’re right in that it is a life skill, not just a school problem, to learn to stand up to bullying behaviour.

    Have you seen this brilliant song about bullying and hiding in the crowd from Katie Miller Heidke (Australian artist). Time for everyone to step up and speak out. For our children, for our own lives.

  16. Sorry, I just wanted to link via URL – if you want to take out the big black box, feel free to do so.

  17. I love how you point out that bullies are not just a part of childhood, but present in every stage of life. As someone who didn’t always have the confidence to stand up against bullies, I’m inspired by you.

  18. I think one of the most powerful things is confronting the bully. Once they see you’re not playing around with them, and will not allow them to speak to you any kind of way, they will back down.

  19. Oh btw, before this slips from my mind…

    I read this article about bullying in Taiwanese schools and one school adopted this unorthodox method to control bullying. There never was a follow-up article and the school wasn’t named I think so I will never know how this will turn out.

    What this school did was erect a boxing ring. And made it a rule that if any students have unresolved business between them, they are to settle it like real men in the ring. One on one and with a teacher as referee to ensure that they have a good clean fight.

    I think I understand the psychology behind this gambit.

    You see, teenagers frequently get into trouble because of their misguided notion of what ‘honor’ is. They think they have a reputation as ‘hard men’ to protect.

    So it means if the teachers say ‘oh please come to us if you are being bullied and we will take care of it,’ it sounds too much like ‘snitching’ to these kids.

    On the other hand, telling the kids to approach a teacher so he can referee a boxing match between the two parties is just… different. But it has the same result, see? The teacher gets to know about the incident BEFORE a fight breaks out.

    And now onward to the ring. Yeah the fight goes on. And aren’t the school authorities supposed to prevent fighting?

    Well, I think this school took the view that there’s no way you can completely stop fighting amongst the student population, so they set out to civilize it instead. And see, the thing about a boxing match at the amateur level is that it consists of rules and head gear and other protective equipment. By the time the 2 contestants are standing facing each other in the ring, the initial adrenaline from the school yard challenge would have died down a bit. And trust me, I used to box, so I know that fighting an opponent under the spotlight, in front of a referee and spectators is different from fighting in a school yard.

    So half the time, the fight would fizzle out after a few half-hearted jabs. Well, if the fight does go on, there’s the referee to make sure nobody really gets hurt.

    Neat idea, eh?

    • Hmm — might work for some boys. Not so good with girls, who use different bullying tactics (usu. ostracization). But what if the bully wins the boxing match? What if the bully consistently wins matches? His rep at the school goes up and he continues to harass weaker students just to show off his prowess. I’m not convinced this changes a bully’s behavior.

      • Yeah I agree it wouldn’t work with girls. That school was probably a boys school then. Or because it is an Asian school, they assume that only boys engage in bullying.

        I thought about what you said about how a bully might win the match. You made a good point.

        But the thing is, there is no foolproof way to tackle bullying. And based on my own experience, the terrifying thing about bullying is team work. The solitary bully isn’t as scary as a whole pack of bullies.

        There was a jock at my school who liked to ‘wrestle’ me, but since it was just him all by himself, I wasn’t that scared of him even when I lost. The scariest bullies of my childhood were the bunch of non-jocks who weren’t even as big as that jock. But they banded together and through team work, they scared the hell out of me and every other student who crossed their path.

        So at least with that boxing match gambit, bullies have to do their dirty work alone. And let’s say one particularly strong bully starts winning matches, eventually the odds will catch up with him and he will face an even stronger opponent who beats him.

        It isn’t a fool proof plan I admit, but like I said, at least it eliminates team work among the bullies.

  20. This is a great post! In our area we have seen an increased use of weaponry including knives. I am ever concerned that the level of violence associated with bullying is also increasing.

    Students in our local high schools have been stabbed, shot, and killed. Not in great numbers – but one is already too many.

    Great points made, but in some cases, speaking up in certain neighborhoods could cost you more than a little heckling and terse words.

    • sadly, in these neighborhoods and all over the world, the young and old have forgotten that once you take someone’s life, you die along with them. there is no “I’m really sorry, or please can i take that back”. Death is permanent and the killer, whether they are aware of it or not have decided to alter their existence. They become consumers of life not producers—but how do we stop this? One kid at a time. you get in their face and you TEACH like Kelly! You SHOW them how to deal with all the emotions involved in growing up. You get them involved in things better than their circumstances—is it expensive? of course! Perhaps! but we would be wise to invest our lives into this. Our children depend on the youth outgrowing this ridiculous notion that life is like any other pair of shoes or gadget you can lose…life is THE most important gift.

    • It seems that escalating to violence and then to more lethal forms of violence is just one way of trying to stop the victims from speaking up. If the bully is willing to go farther the the victim, he/she has the advantage.

      I think this is why it is important like Kelly said to “invite everyone in.” If violence is on the table, then you have to be willing to go to school officials and police and parents; get everyone involved.

      If you’re dealing with a real sociapath who keeps escalating the violence, the end result may be that someone in authority with the power to intervene removes that bully from the situation.

      On the other hand, if things are so bad that the bully and his gang can’t be controlled by lawful authority–maybe it’s time to remove yourself and/or your kid from the situation.

  21. What an amazing post! Kelly…I was the shortest, chubbiest and athletically challenged kid, all through elementary and middle school. I was bullied and because i didn’t know anyone that would listen I simply bowed my head and took the beatings and name calling.

    I have three children now and thanks to God I have been given the wisdom not to sacrifice my time with them for the sake of work and self fullfilment. I am alot more confident now than ever in my life, I just wish i could’ve had a true friend to walk with me all those years ago, so that the healing of the pain would not have left such a deep scar. While I am alive and healthy, my kids will never walk alone!

    May God Bless you and your work. May all of us hearing your advice be empowered to stand up for ourselves and for our children,in a peaceful but firm way. We cannot allow those individuals who reject the notion of a happy life, ruin our lives. I look forward to keeping up with your work.

  22. Great post and thanks for sharing your experience. Bullying seemed to go away for me after high school, but I never want to relive those early years.

  23. Wow! A Sister-in-Law just sent me the link for this article. It’s refreshing to hear a different take on the topic. It makes a whole lot more sense than any of the suggestions I’ve been getting from my sons’ school and well-meaning relatives. It wasn’t until reading this article that I realised that I was in year eleven in high-school before most of the bullies left me alone (with the exception of a few females after some of ‘their’ males started paying me attention). It occured to me that this was the time when I started pretending to be confident, and obviously carried it off really well. My sons are both bully-targets. What I found interesting, if not alarming, was that my eldest, who is eight, seems to be attracting more and more negative interactions from more and more bullies at school. He does as the school teaches and walks away and ignores them (which really isn’t ignoring them because he carries the hurt away with him), but I think other kids, particularly ones who are being bullied at school themselves, must see him then as an easy mark, and so they come after him as well. And the irony is that their Father used to teach Kung Fu, and still practices it, so the boys can fight, and they can hit hard enough to take the other kids down, but we’ve taught them not to use it unless their in real danger. My kids don’t swear either, so again they’re open to verbal abuse on a whole different level.
    I’m rambling, but I think this approach makes sense, and I’m going to have my eight yar old read this article tonight for himself – hopefully it will inspire him! <3

    • I was exactly where your 8-yr-old son is when I was a kid. Yes, being targeted by one or two and trying to ignore them just leads to being targeted by more and more. And yes, you don’t really walk away unhurt even if it’s all words — the scars are for life (at least in my case they were). I think it’s important Kelly says to confront bullies, not necessarily fight them. Just verbally standing up to them (no need to swear) can show backbone. I never did and I regret it. I wish to goodness someone had given me some coaching, a script, a few choice phrases to shout back, anything… and helped me practice so that I could do it in the terrifying moment of facing my tormentors. I now realize as an adult that this was a terrible mistake my parents and teachers made in not giving me any response other than “ignore them.” In fact, my teachers modeled that behavior by ignoring the small stuff that went on in class — and of course they never saw the worse stuff that went on in the restroom, the playground, the bus… all out of sight/hearing of any adult. Please don’t just tell your kid to be bolder or to use karate — no matter how silly it sounds, find a way to role play with him, help him find acceptable answers. Let him “play” the bully and you play the “victim” and that way he can tell you exactly what he’s up against, how relentless it is, and you can help him figure out what might work without breaking his own moral code. The only thing I will say for myself is that I never stooped to their level. I did not swear because it would have compromised a part of who I was. I did not fight because that just wasn’t me. I will say I always had one or two good friends to stand by me. Those of us who go through such shaming know the value of true friends more than anyone on this planet. When I could not find my voice, one of them sometimes did speak back to the bullies, and it helped. I have always found it easy to know a genuine friend when I meet one, and I imagine that bullies have no idea what a real friend is like, so I know my path has been the better one for life.

  24. Kelly,

    I read this piece with interest as I have also experienced bullying throughout my life, from school age onwards – I’ve made a stand against office bullies and even lost my job as a result. I have no regrets about my actions and you make some excellent points about dealing with the situation.

    I do think it’s important to share the information about the bully with someone else – the difficulty for children may be finding someone to take it seriously. I remember one bullying incident that took place during an art class when I was 12, where the whole class were involved and the teacher watched, listened and did nothing. I remember being more angry with the teacher because the kids were just stupid kids but the teacher is supposed to stop it.

    One additional point that is crucial for anyone experiencing bullying, or helping another deal with it, to understand is this: bullying has nothing to do with the person experiencing it, it is all about the person dishing it out. It is a sign of weakness on the part of the bully and not the recipient.

    Chances are the bully will try this behaviour out with many different people and in many different situations, and will only continue to use the behaviour in situations where they get the desired response. The problem occurs when the bullying behaviour actually locks into negative feelings we have about ourselves, and we begin to see the bullying behaviour as somehow ‘justified’.

    I hope you don’t mind my sharing a couple of great techniques I’ve come across for taking control of the situation:

    If the bullying occurs in front of others, stand up or raise your voice when responding to attract as much attention to the situation as possible. It shouldn’t be angry or emotional, just loud. If others see / hear there is a problem, they will more likely come to your help and you are also creating witnesses to the event.

    Bullies can be sneaky and may avoid others witnessing their attacks. If you are requested to attend a meeting with a bully where there are no others present, either ask for someone else to be present or ask for an agenda of the meeting beforehand. Don’t allow yourself to be ambushed. They are unlikely to commit anything abusive to paper and if they go off topic in the meeting you can refer back to the agenda or simply leave the meeting.

    My favourite technique, used by a friend after taking advice about a long-standing office bully situation, was simply to take out a pen and paper, in front of the bully, and write down everything they said – and I mean everything:

    ‘You are so useless. You can’t even do the simplest things right. I don’t know how you ever got this job and if I had my way… what are you doing? why are you writing that down? stop it. stop it right now.’

    When they see that their comments are being recorded, it should make them think twice about what they say. In my friend’s case, the bullying stopped the very first time she did this.

    The above examples show you can take control of the situation and there is no aggression involved, which I think is the main reason people baulk at confronting a bully. Having a ‘script’ or a range of possible actions prepared beforehand can increase the sense of control over the situation and reduces feelings of helplessness or fear. You don’t have to out-fight them, simply out-maneouvre them.

    Nobody becomes a victim by experiencing bullying, only by allowing another person to have undue influence over their experience and enjoyment of life on an ongoing basis.

    • Chances are the bully will try this behaviour out with many different people and in many different situations, and will only continue to use the behaviour in situations where they get the desired response.

      What’s the modus operandi?

      1. Select a target.
      2. Make a demand and a threat (“Give me X or else Y happens”).
      3. Gauge if above step was a success.
      4. Lather, rinse, repeat until disciplined.

      What is the desired response. Does it differ depending on why the antagonist is doling out cacophony and intimidation?

      Any kind of response would work for the bully that isn’t getting enough attention at home. But what about the bully whose desired response is submission and silence?

      What would a teenager do if he or she is being intimidated by a member of a gang? Non-violent ways of confronting antagonist may not be effective.

    • kunstler,

      Optimism is not foolishness. Cynicism is not wisdom.

      Optimism is a decision to believe that you can make things better by your choices. If you choose to believe you can’t make anything better, you won’t.

  25. I stumbled across this post by accident, but it is completely relevant to my life and my daughter’s life right now. She attends a small, rural school where bullying has become an epidemic. The administration pays a lot of lip service to eradicating bullying in the school, but nothing is ever actually done. Bullies don’t face any meaningful consequences, and they’ve definitely gotten the message that they can do whatever they want.

    So much of the bullying is on such a subtle level that it goes undetected by teachers and other school staff. Speaking out isn’t encouraged the way it should be, and no one wants to be a “tattle-tale”. It seems that it’s been left up to the victims to deal with on their own. I like that your post gives concrete ideas on how to do just that.

    I’ve used role-playing with my daughter to give her an arsenal of responses to help deal with a bully. That seems to help more than anything else we’ve tried. The buddy system is also helpful. After a girl threatened to stab my daughter to death last year, we made it very clear that she shouldn’t ever be alone with that girl. Unfortunately, the school didn’t take the situation seriously and my daughter does end up being paired with the bully for various things.

    Sometimes I wonder if schools are just at a loss for how to cope with the bullying issue. And it doesn’t help that some parents are in denial (or simply don’t care) about what their kids are doing. Low self-esteem seems to be at the root of all of it…if schools and parents would concentrate on building children’s self-esteem, I can’t help but feel that a lot of the bullying would cease.

    Thanks for the great post!

  26. You either learn to deal with bullying or you fold under it. It does not matter where you go in life, you’ll meet some of it when you are young.
    It is better for somebody to try bullying you, than hate you behind your back. I used to deal with it very severly, and I was not a big boy, just very hard, and swift. I made some good friends that way.

  27. Good suggestions but as I found as a kid and as Phoebe Prince discovered before she died, bullies cannot always be controlled or redirected by anything or anyone but themselves.

    Some of the comments point the finger at the victim. For too long we’ve been blaming the victim for the actions of another. That is one behavior which needs to change before we can ever truly deal with bullying at any level.

  28. Good suggestions but as I found as a kid and as Phoebe Prince discovered before she died, bullies cannot always be controlled or redirected by anything or anyone but themselves.

    Some of the comments point the finger at the victim. For too long we’ve been blaming the victim for the actions of another. That is one behavior which needs to change before we can ever truly deal with bullying at any level.

  29. I was being bullied for some time, and I never said anything to the person who was bullying me. He only used “verbal bullying” and said bad things to me all the time. Then he started pushing me, but once he did that I decided to fight back…and well, now he’s scared of me 😀 Bullies turn out to be scaredy-cats.

  30. This is the best advice I have read on bullying. I was buliied in high school until I decided one day that it had to stop. I confronted my bully face to face and was ready to do battle. It shocked him and, after that, we became good friends.

    I am not suggesting that confronting today’s bullies will make the victims good friends with them. I am suggesting, however, that we should confront bullies more. If we don’t, the bullies get more powerful and mean. I think today’s bullies in school are meaner than any in history. Even when their bullying results in tragedy, many of them appear to have little remorse.

    Unfortunately, some parents of these bullies seem to do more to enable them than stop them.

    Keep up the good work. God bless.

  31. I only wish my “bully” would show herself. She’s a cyberstalker who has messed with a friend’s life for years. Now she’s glommed on to me, simply because I know one of her other targets (she found me when she busted into his computer and stole email addresses).

    I ignore her completely, but it still rankles me that she continues to obsessively follow my blog. She broke into my computer with a keylogger at one point, and who knows what info she stole? I had to change banks and passwords, get a new OS, up my security measures, and let everyone in my life know that this person is plaguing me and may decide to discredit me.

    She’s not harmless, and she’s not going away. She’s messed with my friend’s business and personal life, accusing him of things, stirring up sexual innuendos toward his female business associates, trying to befriend his ex-wife and his daughters and friends, then digging for info.

    What I wouldn’t give to find out exactly who she is (if indeed it even is a female; she assumes so many different personas in her quest to mess with her targets it’s unreal). Why spend so much energy just to mess with people? If I knew who she was, I’d have a case maybe, but she obviously knows her way around computers. Maybe someday cyber laws will catch up to these types of sickos.

    In the meantime, I’m just hoping that karma catches up to her one day. She deserves as much negativity in her own life as she’s caused in others’. If I could confront her in reality? I would seriously want to punch her lights out.

  32. I believe in karma. A certain boy in jr. high and high school made a friend’s life a living hell day in and day out. We friends protected each other when we were together but you can’t choose your school schedules. Anyway, in spite of learning disabilities, she went on to college and got happily married. A couple years out of school the bully died of 57 stab wounds in a drug deal gone bad. I am not a vindictive person, but I have to admit the news made me laugh out loud. Most people who heard about it responded, “If anyone deserved to die that way…” There is justice, sooner or later, for all bullies.

  33. Jan,
    You are correct. It is all about Karma, but you still have to stand, and act. Karma can take a long time to work its way through to those who bully. But they get their payback in the end. Somebody takes them apart.
    Once, in Central Park in New York, where I was for the first time in my life, I saw a young child on a tricycle, going from child to child, creating havoc.
    At last, he met another his own- seeming age on a tricycle too, who really let him have it, full blast.

  34. Hey Kelly that was great. I think I will be more confident in my approach when my friends are being bullied. Your first two paragraphs remind me of that one Johnny Cash song “A Boy Named Sue” except for the beating up your dad part. XD

  35. Thanks for this post. Not all psychologist recommends avoidance – your suggestions to” Involve your family, teachers, friends, coaches, and everyone you can, but confront the bully right away. Always stand up for what is right” was spot on.

    Leo Rocker
    Practice Manager at Quirky Kid Clinic

  36. I am glad to hear someone finally say that standing up to the bully works. No-one ever says it, but it’s true. I have been bullied at every stage in my life, but the moment i decided to turn around and tell the bully to back off, to push back when being pusshed ect. they went away. They don’t expect it, because they KNOW that everyone says don’t react, they have come to expect that. Standing your ground scares them a bit.

  37. Thanks for this straightforward, intelligent, sensible approach to a topic that for some reason too many otherwise good, otherwise sensible people wish to see as an inarguable, unchangeable fact of life. I believe that if we all (or even if most of us) did exactly what you say to do in this post (i.e. make bullying socially unacceptable, and nip it in the bud whenever and wherever it starts), the world would be a much better place. Bullying isn’t good for anyone, bullies included!

  38. Absolutely right, stand up to a bully! (Appeasement sure stopped Hitler at Munich in 1938, didn’t it?) Confronting a bully may not being the easiest thing and it may have take a while to win, but it must be done. Tyranny and misery are the alternative.

  39. We have a bully free household. My son knows that if he wants to invite certain people to the house, he would have to invite them AND their parents, and that I would have to be present, too. Bullies are cowards. They won’t do their tricks when the parents are around. My son deserves kindness, trust and fun in his life. In my home I won’t settle for less. It’s a shame that schools don’t adopt that policy, too. What if, on a condition of attendance, the bullies are identified and their parents have to attend every class with them, accompony them on the playground, go to the cafeteria and restroom with them? Bullies are frequently kids that are unsupervised by their parents or gardians. By involving their parents, the parents have the opportunity to learn firsthand what is going on and correcting their child’s behavior.

    By the way, for previous readers of my comments, I have not yet received the second call from the highly placed dignatary I spoke with over his son’s behavior when he bullied my son all school year and eventually physically attacked him.

    My recomendation – when someone is bullying your child, write a letter to the school superintendent and school board, and call the bully’s parents or guardians. You’ve got to lay down to be a door mat.

    I will follow up in this post when/if the highly placed elected official deals with his rich snot bully kid.

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  41. Bullying never does stop. I was the kid everyone picked on. Now I am someone they try to. I jsut got fed up and started pushing back. I am truly tired of being bullied. I am a no traditional student, and sometimes even teachers are the bullies. No more, and no letting others be bullied either.

    Great post Kelly, this is a problem, and not jst a normal part of life.

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