Bully 101- Six Bullying Survival Tips That Aren’t Dumb

There’s been a lot written about the age old problem of bullying. All of it well meaning, but a much of it apparently authored either by politically vulnerable educators or armchair “authorities” who seem never to have personally experienced a schoolyard High Noon showdown. I’m neither of those.


  • Never let ‘em see you sweat.   Don’t overreact to anything people may say or call you. If you’re no fun to pick on, they’ll (eventually) leave you alone. If you give them a show, just one time, well… let’s put it this way: it’s going to be a long school year.
  • There’s safety in numbers.   Yours; not theirs! Stay close to your friends for mutual support. If you’re new and don’t have any yet, make some — fast. If you have friends, stick up for them, too.
  • Don’t you play along.   If you join in picking on someone, three things happen: Bullies get bolder. You’re being just as bad as them. AND, you too become fair game! Remember, bullies don’t have friends, just victims and those who one day will be.
  • Enable ‘Response Able’ authorities.   If you’re being bullied, tell someone who can do something about it. When telling your teacher, ask for a little discretion. Catching the bully in the act is a much better plan than confrontations that can lead to paybacks! Also remember the adult secret word, NOTIFY — as in, “I wanted to notify you that I’m being picked on in case I might have to defend myself.” Trust me, that phrase will get people’s attention.
  • Never get tough.   Don’t believe people who say that bullies are cowards who back down if you stand up to them. They won’t be there when you find out that bullies are cowards who will beat you up if you try it. BUT, should things EVER threaten to get violent, all the games end. No one has the right to injury you for fun. You don’t tolerate it. Walk/run away if you can. Fight if you must. Win if you do. Combat is not a sport. There is no second place.
  • Develop true self-confidence and esteem.   Bullies don’t have it. That's why they need victims. Victims don’t have it. That's why they attract bullies. Confidence cures both. How do you get it? For starters, find adults you can trust to believe in you honestly, and then… believe them instead of other kids!

Note. This last tip is perhaps the single most important — for kids on both sides of the issue. Over the years, a good number of parents first came to our dojo because their child was being bullied. Sure, we taught them to defend themselves, but few ever actually needed to. Instead, some months later, the parents would all report the same thing: “It just stopped. Isn’t that amazing?” Of course, we knew better. Karate techniques weren’t the only things their kid had learned from us.



Update:   Since I wrote this piece, much has been done in schools across the country to address this problem. While results seem promising, there is an aspect of the issue we mustn't ignore: Bullying, or dominance behavior, is a natural part of human maturation. In boys, it's especially physical; in girls it's social. Personally, I don't think bullying will ever be completely eliminated, and, candidly, I  have to wonder about the unintended consequenses if it were? Having said that, perhaps an alternative reasonable approach is watchful, responsible tolerance. Growing up is an ordeal, and - to a point - ought to be, but it shouldn't cripple you. (By the way, I write this as someone who was most definitely on the short end of the stick.)





© 2004 Salvatore T. Musco. All Rights Reserved.