How Nannies Can Teach Children to Stand Up to Bullies

We can teach children that are being bullied to respect themselves by standing up to bullies.

There is a lot of new information about dealing with bullies all over the Internet, journals, and textbooks. The current belief of many child psychologists, teachers, and guidance counselors today is to teach children to stand up for themselves.

The best way to teach children to stand up for themselves is to role-play with the child to practice speaking assertively to the bully. Have the child practice telling the bully to stop.

Here are some things Lois Flaherty M.D. of the American Psychiatric Association says kids can do about being bullied:

1. Tell the bully to stop. You can say, “Cut it out! That’s not funny,” “You are being mean,” or “Don’t speak to her that way!” Children should do whatever they can to let the bully know that what he or she is doing is stupid and mean. Many bullies may not realize their words and actions are mean and once confronted will stop.

2. If you feel like you can’t speak up, walk away from the situation and tell the nearest adult.

3. Make sure to tell your parents and teacher.

4. Involve as many people as possible, including other friends or classmates, parents, teachers, school counselors, and even the principal.

5. Do NOT use violence against bullies or try to get revenge on your own.

In How to Say it to Your Kids, Dr. Paul Coleman says what not to say to kids who are being bullied is:

  • “Just ignore him. He’ll go away eventually.” It is impossible to ignore a bully unless you spend your time in hiding, Fear is best overcome by teaching assertiveness.
  • “But you’re so tall and strong! You don’t have to be pushed around by anyone.” Size and strength are less a factor than [a] child’s personality. Shyer or more sensitive children can easily be intimidated. It is better to coach him in effective responses and praise that performance.
  • “You’re getting older now. I can’t solve all your problems for you. I’m sure you can figure this one out [yourself].” The consequences of being bullied can be devastating. At best, kids are humiliated. At worst, they harbor deep resentments and may take matters into their own hands by finding a weapon. [Children] need your full support, the support of the school, and sensitivity to the feelings of humiliation or anger that can result.
  • “He didn’t hit you, he just called you names,” of “He didn’t tease you, he just stared at you.” Don’t underestimate how intimidating non-physical forms of bullying can be.
  • Best Nanny Newsletter would like to add, “Just hit him back next time.” Violence is never an appropriate way to solve a problem or deal with anger or frustration.

What do you tell children to do if they are being bullied?


  1. A camper is picking on my charge this summer and my charge does not want to go back to camp. The parents are telling him to ignore it and/or say something funny back. I mentioned that we ought to teach him to stand up for himself by saying something assertive after I saw a show on Oprah about the topic, but they shrugged it off. I agree that ignoring might be good idea at first but better in the long run to teach children how to stand up for themselves. No one has right to be mean to them, not even their parents or me!Katherine F., Boston

  2. I have said "ignore him" before to kids that are being bullied. Great to know there are better options. I guess ignoring would be good once or twice but eventually we all should learn to be assertive: kind and fair to others and ourselves.Melissa Mount Kisco NY

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