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How to Stop Bullying in Schools

Advice

When your daughter faces bullies at school, you might feel powerless to help her. It's likely that she won't want you to get involved—if she even opens up to you about the bullying in the first place. But there are steps you can take to empower her to stand up for herself: 

Help Her Ignore Bullies

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Girls hear this advice a lot. Sometimes ignoring bullying works, and sometimes it doesn’t. You can help your girl be more successful by practicing these tips together:

  • Look the part. When she’s ignoring a bully, she should do her best to look neutral or matter-of-fact, or even bored or annoyed—anything but scared or hurt. Remind her that bullies want to upset her, so she should try to show that their efforts are failing. Practice your best neutral faces together in front of a mirror.
  • Walk away. If she doesn’t need to stay in the same area as the bully, she should walk away. The best exit is for her to hold her head high, wear her neutral face, and leave the room without saying a word. 
  • Distract herself. It’s a lot easier to ignore a bully if she can pay attention to someone or something else. Encourage her to find that person to talk with or that thing to do.  
  • Think fast. If ignoring is going to work, it will work fast. If she’s tried ignoring and the bullying continues for several days, chances are she needs a new plan. 
  • Assess her stress. Is she thinking about the bullying all the time? If ignoring  a bully is affecting her happiness most days, causing her to feel sad or worried, it’s time for her to try another strategy. Remind her that she’s not in the wrong here, and it’s absolutely OK to stand up for herself. Ignoring a bully is one option, but there are many others she can try. 

Empower Her to Speak Up

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Girls have lots of reasons for not standing up for themselves, but staying quiet doesn’t always work. On the other hand, getting in someone’s face or talking behind her back isn’t the answer either. Encourage her to be assertive—speaking up with confidence, honesty, and respect for others. Explain to her that being assertive is the halfway point between being a pushover and being a bully. She should let the person know she is not OK with the bullying, but in a way that isn’t mean and doesn’t keep a fight going.

Practice a few of these assertive phrases at home so she can stand up for herself when she needs to:

  • Tell it like it is: “I don’t like it when…”
  • Simply disagree. “I don’t think so.”
  • Act surprised. “I can’t believe you said that!”
  • Let her have her point of view. “That’s your opinion.”
  • Ask a question. “Was that really necessary?”
  • Use the one-word technique. “Wow” or “Really.” Or “Whatever.”
  • Question what she said. “That doesn’t make sense.”
  • Just chuckle and walk away. “That’s pretty funny…”
  • Act confused. “What? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
  • Say her name. “Monica!”

Get Help

girl-studying

If she’s tried ignoring the bully and she’s tried standing up for herself, but the bully isn’t backing down, it's time for her to get help. Here's how:  

  • Step 1: Reach out. Many girls feel embarrassed about being bullied. Remind her that it’s NOT her fault. Thank her for talking to you about it, and come up with a new plan that you’re both comfortable with.  
  • Step 2: Keep track. Encourage her to start writing down when and where the bullying happens. She can add a note about how she handles the bullying, too, for each incident that she records. 
  • Step 3: Heads up! Encourage her to loop in her teachers and let them know what she’s tried so far. They can keep an eye out for the bullying and possibly catch it while it’s happening.   
  • Step 4: Give a warning. She should say firmly, “Leave me alone” or “This is bullying and you need to stop.” That’s enough to send the message that she means business. (Of course, if the bullying is severe and she feels unsafe, she can’t wait. She should go straight to step 5.)  
  • Step 5: Enough is enough. If she’s kept track of the bullying and told the bully to stop, but the bullying continues, it’s time to make a full report to the teacher or principal. It’s a good idea to accompany your girl during this meeting and make sure she brings all the notes she’s been keeping.    

Facing a bully causes a lot of pain—for both your daughter and you. But helping your girl take the right actions can empower her to be a stronger, more confident person.

Adapted from Stand Up for Yourself & Your Friends by Patti Kelley Criswell. ©2009, 2016 American Girl.
©2020 American Girl. All American Girl marks are trademarks of American Girl.

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