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Lesson 5 – How to Handle Physical Bullying

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“I’m warning you! Call me ‘snotnose’ one more time and you’ll be washing this from your hair!”

WARNING: I want it to be clear that what I tell you about physical bullying applies only when the bullies are kids who are more or less emotionally stable. Even though they are a small minority, there are kids who are extremely disturbed and dangerous. If they are bullying you, you should either avoid them or make sure you have people to protect you when you are near them.

Teasing does not have to be limited to words. Often, kids may try to get you upset by pushing you or hitting you. What should you do then?

It all depends on how much it hurts you. Usually, kids do not really mean to injure you. They’re just playing another game with you. They want to annoy you and hopefully get you in trouble. For instance, you are standing on line in school and the kid behind you gives you a shove. Then you turn around, push him back really hard, and yell, “Stop pushing me!” Nobody saw the kid pushing you, but everyone, including the teacher, saw and heard you, and now you are the one in trouble. So the kid who pushed you scores a real big victory.

The best thing to do, if you didn’t get hurt, is just to make believe you didn’t notice. The kid who pushed you does not want to get in trouble, he only want to get you in trouble, so he has to avoid being seen pushing you. Therefore, he probably will not risk pushing you again, or maybe he’ll just push you very lightly. If he does, then you should again make believe you didn’t notice. And don’t tell on him, because then he’ll know it bothered you. He’ll also be mad at you for telling on him, so he’ll try to get back at you later. But if you don’t do anything back, then he won’t have the pleasure of annoying you, and he also won’t have any reason to be mad at you.

What if the kid really hurt you? Should you ignore that, too?

No! No one has a right to hurt you. But it’s important to realize that serious fights don’t just happen from out of nowhere. Strangers don’t just come up to you and hit you in the face with all their might. Almost every physical fight starts with a word fight. Kids call you names, tempers flare up, you start threatening each other, and before you know it, fists are flying. However, if you follow the advice that I’ve given you till now, then words will never make you mad, and physical fights just won’t develop.

But what if someone does really hurt you? Unless your life is in danger, don’t hit back. If you hit back, then you might get into trouble along with the kid who hit you. Also, he may hit you back even harder, and the fight will get worse and worse.

What, then, should you do? If you weren’t injured so badly that you need first-aid from a nurse or doctor, calmly let the kid know how hurt you are. Don’t sound mad, because that will only make him madder at you. Chances are that he’ll even apologize at this point. If he continues hitting you then it’s OK to go ahead and tell a teacher or other adult authority.

If the hit was so serious that you needed medical help, that’s t he time you must let the authorities know. Remember, no one has a right to hurt you, and if they do, they need to be disciplined so they won’t do it again. But if it doesn’t really hurt, then why should you make a big deal over it? You will look like a baby and lose the respect of your friends if you go around telling on kids who didn’t even hurt you.

There is another common type of physical bullying. Kids will demand that you give them your possessions, or they forcefully take your things from you . What should you do about this?

If they ask you for things, like money or your lunch, ignore them. Make believe that you don’t hear them. When you do this, don’t look scared. Even if they are bigger than you, they are still not allowed to hurt you, and they will probably leave you alone after a while.

If they continue to pester you, say calmly, “I’d love to give you what you want, but I can’t.” Don’t explain why, and don’t get into a debate about why you can’t give it to them. If necessary, repeat something like, “I’d really like to help you, but I can’t.” By starting out saying that you would like to make them happy, they can’t claim that you are against them.

At this point, they will probably leave you alone. But they might not. They may take something by force. What do you do then?

It’s important to realize that when bullies take something away from you, they are usually not doing it because they really want to keep it. They are only playing a game with you and trying to get you upset. That’s why the worst thing to do is to get mad. It’s also a bad idea to try to grab it back. The best thing usually is to be calm. Say something like, “I really need my [item] back.” Chances are that if you wait patiently, they will give it back to you, and the calmer you are, the quicker it’ll happen. You also have another choice, but I don’t recommend this unless you really can pull it off smoothly. If the thing they took is not fragile, like a baseball cap, you can turn it into a game of Monkey in the Middle. You try to get it back while they throw it back and forth to each other. If you are going to do this, it has to be clear to everyone that you are having fun, that you aren’t mad, and that you are being a good sport. The bullies just might end up being your friends when you do this.

However, if other kids take your hat and don’t return it even though you are being calm, you should not allow them to get away it because this is stealing, and stealing is crime. Calmly say something like, “I really do need my hat back.” If they don’t return it by the time you need it, you can say, “I would like my hat back, and I really don’t want to get anyone in trouble.” If they don’t get the message and return the hat, then you can report it to the appropriate adults. If the object was taken by schoolmates, tell the school. If it was done by neighborhood kids, tell your parents and the parents of the kids who stole your stuff.

Under no circumstances should you give your bullies money or lunch or things like that. They will take you for a sucker, and keep coming back with more demands. If they are seriously threatening you, tell your parents, teachers, or principals. If nothing helps, you can always go to the police. Stealing and extortion are serious crimes, and society should protect you from this when necessary.

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