Brenda Yoder, MA

Brenda is a writer, speaker, and educator. She has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a BA in Education. She currently is a school counselor and behavioral service provider. She writes at and is a contributing writer for The Purpose magazine, The Hometown Treasurer, Circle of Friends Ministries, Not Alone Mom, and is a speaker for Stonecroft Ministries. She was awarded the Touchstone Teaching award in 2003 & 2004.

what bullying is 150x150 Hes Bullying Me What Bullying Is And Ways To Empower KidsThroughout the media and the schoolyard, kids say, “He’s bullying me!” When we hear the word “bullying” we listen and jump to action. Or do we? Is it becoming overused like the boy who cried wolf?

Kids have always been mean to each other. With media reports of preteen and teen suicides and acts of violence tied to bullying, parents need to know what bullying is, what it isn’t, and how to help kids respond.

According to a new bullying law in my state, bullying occurs when someone harms a child on purpose, the behavior is done over time, is repeated, unwanted and where there is an imbalance of power.  There are several kinds of bullying:

  • Physical bullying is physical contact hurting or injuring a child.
  • Verbal bullying is name-calling, making offensive remarks or joking about a person’s gender, religion, ethnicity, social status or the way they look.
  • Indirect bullying includes spreading rumors or stories about someone or excluding someone from a group on purpose.
  • Intimidation is when a person threatens someone else and frightens that person enough to make him or her do what the instigator wants them to do.
  • Cyber bullying is done by sending messages, pictures, or information with electronic devices or through the internet and social media.

When a child is being bullied (being harmed on purpose, unwanted, over time, repeatedly, when there’s an imbalance of power), he or she needs to be empowered to respond and not be affected by intimidation or ridicule.

Basic strategies for responding to bullying behavior include:

  • Walking away. This is the least risky to a child and should be the first response instead of standing and taking verbal abuse. If at school, a child can walk towards a public location or where there are other groups of people or adults.
  • Changing the subject. When a target (the person being bullied) of bullying behavior plays into the conversation, they are taking the perpetrator’s bait. When a target changes the subject, he or she may catch the bully off guard while showing he isn’t entering the bully’s trap.
  • Using humor. Responding with a humorous comeback also catches the bully off guard and shows him or her that intimidation tactics aren’t effective. If there’s a crowd witnessing the situation, it also gives bystanders an opportunity to turn the conversation to something else.
  • Telling an adult or reporting anonymously to a parent, school official, law enforcement or other trusted adults.
  • Telling the perpetrator to stop the behavior. This gives the target power to voice their authority over their space, personhood and property. However, this may be risky for a target depending on their age and situation. Giving a child other responses to bullying behavior is important because telling the perpetrator to stop, in some cases, could escalate the bully’s behavior.

Helping kids know they have power to set boundaries around their mind, body, and emotions gives them strength to respond to bullying behavior when it happens. It’s also helpful when children aren’t being bullied (repeated, overtime, etc.), but are still dealing with conflict with friends and mean peers. Not all mean behavior is bullying. Kids need to have tools to respond to mean behavior whether it’s one-time (not bullying) or repeated behavior over time (bullying).

Kids need to be empowered in today’s world of increasing violence and aggression. What are ways you empower your children? What are tools they’ve used to stand up to aggressive behavior?



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