While most bullying young people experience is verbal, physical aggression is real, especially among guys. Some people are constantly pushed, punched or tripped in the hallway. Or they may get their lunch trays knocked out of their hands or their milk poured over their heads.
If this is happening to you, how can you make it stop?
Some actions are crimes and should be treated as such. It’s not helpful to think of these types of behaviors as bullying. People who commit crimes against you deserve to be punished. No one should be allowed to cause damage to your body or property, or to cause you serious pain. If someone bashes you over the head with a baseball bat or punches you in the face, their behavior is a crime, called assault and battery. If someone knocks your computer down and it breaks, their behavior is called vandalism. If someone takes your cell phone from you and doesn’t return it, their action is called theft. People should not get away with these types of crimes, and they should be made to pay you or others back for the damage they caused. When a crime is committed, it is appropriate to inform the authorities.
I need to warn you, though, going to the authorities doesn’t automatically make things better. You will need to prove that a crime was committed and that isn’t always easy. When the authorities, whether they are police or school administrators, interrogate your alleged attackers, they are likely to deny your accusations and could even blame you. The person who wronged you might hate you for reporting them. Now they want revenge against you and may do something even worse to you than they did in the beginning.
So, what should you do? Use the Golden Rule. Let’s say someone is certain that you committed a crime against them. How would you prefer that they handled the situation? Would you want them to go to the authorities, or would you want them to talk to you directly about the problem? Of course, you’d prefer they talk to you directly.
And would you prefer that they speak to you angrily and threateningly, or in a calm, friendly manner? The second, of course.
So, go to the authorities only as a last resort. First talk to the people who hurt you directly, without anger, as though they are friends who did something wrong rather than enemies who need to be defeated. You may need help to begin this process. Maybe you can tell your school principal that you’d like to hold a meeting with the people who hurt you, or ask your parents to set up a meeting with the parents of the students who hurt you. When you talk to them, calmly and politely explain what was done to you and how it hurt you. If they don’t think you’re just trying to get them in trouble, they’ll be more likely to admit what they did and offer to make up for the harm they caused.
If these efforts don’t work, let your them know that you’d hate to get them in trouble, but they may leave you no choice. If they refuse to acknowledge what they did to you, you may need to go to the authorities. Still, don’t get angry. Let them know that you are being left no choice.
Now, what about repeated physical attacks that aren’t hurting you physically, but are annoying, humiliating and leave you feeling angry?
Ask yourself, “Are they angry with me?” If so, they may look like the bad guys to you, but they feel that they are wronged by you! If they’re angry, it means they don’t like the way you’re treating them, so they get back at you by attacking you. Are you giving them dirty looks, insulting them, talking badly about them to other people or threatening them? Are you telling on them? If you’re doing any of these things, from their point of view you’re the bad guy and they feel justified attacking you. Stop doing these things for a week and see what happens. If they stop attacking you because they’re no longer angry with you, great.
It’s most likely, though, that they’re physically aggravating you just for the fun of it. If they’re not causing you real pain or injury and they’re not angry—they’re just laughing when you get upset—you can be pretty sure that the real reason they do it is because you’re getting upset.
So, don’t give them the satisfaction. If you’re not hurt, act like nothing happened. They’ll respect you more because you’re tough and refuse to get upset by nonsense. They also won’t be having any fun picking on you. They might try some more, but when they see that they can’t provoke you to get upset, they’ll probably stop.
If they still continue attacking you or if they’re actually causing you pain, don’t keep quiet about it. Ask them calmly and curiously, “Are you mad at me?” This will turn the situation from a physical one to a verbal one. If they aren’t mad, they’ll realize they have no good reason to hit you, and will probably stop. If they are mad at you, they’ll probably tell you why. Then you can discuss the matter and try to resolve it. But they won’t be hitting you. They’ll be talking.
Remember, the option of going for help is always available. But first try to solve the problem by yourself. If you succeed, you’ll be proud of yourself, and you’ll get more respect.