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In honor of October being National Bullying Prevention Month in the USA and November 15-19 being Anti-Bullying Week in the UK, we’d like to examine the impact that bullying has on mental health.

According to the National Bullying Prevention Center:

  • One in five students report being a victim of bullying.
  • Males are more likely to be victims of physical bullying.
  • Females are more likely to report being victims of more social forms of bullying, such as being the target of a rumor, being excluded from social circles, or being a victim of cyberbullying.

Youth who are victims of bullying are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, have lower academic performance, and even drop out of school.

Earlier this month, we discussed five different tips for talking to your child about bullying. In this article, we’ll be discussing tactics for helping them (and even yourself) stand up to bullies. Let’s get started!

Standing Up to Bullies

I once read, “a lot of people are afraid to tell the truth, afraid to say no. That’s where toughness comes into play. Toughness is not being a bully. It’s having a backbone.”

Unfortunately, our children will always be dealing with bullies – to be honest, many of us are still dealing with adult bullies in our workplaces, in positions of leadership, and even in our churches. Learning to respect yourself enough, to truly know your own worth, is a skill that will take our children far.

Below are some tips and tricks I have used with my own children to stand up to those making them feel less than.

5 Ways to Handle a Bully

Just say no

You do not have to give a long elaborate explanation. If someone is pressuring you to do something that you do not want to do, or if they are doing something to you and you want them to stop, a firm and assertive “NO” goes a long way.

Stop them in their tracks

Often, a bully is not really expecting anyone to challenge them. Speaking up and saying, “I don’t like that, you need to stop right now” may surprise them and help to stop them in their tracks.a

Block it out

Envision a fog surrounding you or a big brick wall separating you from your bully. Their words and actions cannot penetrate the layer of protection you have for yourself.

Own your body language

Carry yourself in a way that shows you know you are worthy of respect. For me, that means putting on some heels and walking tall (well, as tall as I can be at 5 foot 3 inches ha). For your child, that might be back straight, chin up, and a big smile on his or her face.

Don’t be afraid of eye contact

Eye contact is a powerful tool. Often, bullies try to intimidate by forcing eye contact. Meeting their eyes is a sign that you are not easily intimidated.

Final Thoughts

In order to be able to be more assertive when it really counts, we must allow our children to practice being assertive and commanding respect within their daily living tasks. For example, teach your child the importance of a good firm handshake while maintaining eye contact. You can also practice having assertive conversations. 

Your home should also be a safe haven for your child to express themselves when someone (yes, even if that someone is you) has hurt their feelings. For example, maybe they feel like they are being disciplined unfairly, or they are unhappy with a new routine. By giving them the opportunity to express how they feel, you are showing them respect and allowing them the chance to “practice” being assertive. That doesn’t mean that the outcome will always go their way, but it does mean that you and your child can have a more productive conversation than what typically happens when hot tempers prevail.

Essentially, if we want our children to be comfortable being assertive with others, we must provide that safe place where they can practice being assertive, yet respectful, with us.

Finally, at The Lily Jo Project, we understand that discussing topics like bullying, what it truly means to be assertive, and how to express your frustration when something doesn’t go your way with our children can be really challenging. We have an online forum/community where members are free to ask questions and seek advice from other parents and those that work with youth. I moderate the group, and we would love to have you join. You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!

More Resources on Bullying

If you found this article helpful, check out these other resources on bullying.

For Teachers: Check out our Curriculum on Bullying for Children and Teens

Imagine if our world was full of people who were building each other up, rather than tearing each other down? It’d be a much better place to live, wouldn’t it?

Our series ‘SMILE’ is all about helping children and teens learn how to:

  • Identify what bullying looks like
  • Speak up about bullying
  • Stand up to bullies
  • Be sensitive to others who may be bullying
  • Reach out for help when they need it


This series is available to purchase for different age groups on our online learning platform – you can check them out here:

To get unlimited access to all of our video curriculum, you can sign up for a backstage pass here.


Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center. (2019). Bullying statistics. Retrieved from https://www.pacer.org/bullying/info/stats.asp

Nasir, R. and Johns, E. (2021). Quarterly suicide death registrations in England. Retrieved from https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/quarterlysuicidedeathregistrationsinengland/2001to2019registrationsandquarter1jantomartoquarter4octtodec2020provisionaldata 

National Health Care for the Homeless Council. (2018). Suicide and Homelessness. Retrieved from https://nhchc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/suicide-fact-sheet.pdf 

Rabin, R. (2021). U.S. Suicides Declined Overall in 2020 but May Have Risen Among People of Color. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/15/health/coronavirus-suicide-cdc.html 

Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2020). Communities. Retrieved from https://www.sprc.org/settings/communities

About the Author: Brandy Browne

Brandy Browne is a care coordinator for a local mental health agency in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.

Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.

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