How To Untrain A Bully

Have you ever felt like this? Like any excitement or good things or fun you felt as you started your day had been sucked away, and there you were, feeling faded and fragile. Bullies can do that to us. A single comment, look, or action can make us feel bad, but a trademark of bullies is the continued comments, looks, or actions that make us feel bad every day, leaving us wilted like a flower without sun or fresh water.

Traditionally it was thought most kids who bully do it because they’re insecure or just not very smart. When your parents were kids they were probably told to ignore bullies, or that bullying was just something kids had to deal with growing up. Do your parents tell you that? If they do, it may be because that’s what they were told.

Although some bullies may be insecure, that’s not always the case. Most people who bully want to feel in control, whether it’s because they don’t feel control in other areas of their life or they feel power over other people will help them climb the social ladder. One way bullies choose to get this feeling of control is to try to control other people’s emotions; and sometimes the person they pick is you.

If some time in your life, that person IS you, here is one thing you can do:

Change your reaction to it

Yes, this sounds crazy, because you really are upset, but it really will help. It’s different than ignoring it, and it doesn’t mean you don’t care about it. It means keeping control of your emotions (remember the saying “You’re not the boss of me”? Well, a bully is not the boss of you OR how you feel about yourself –     YOU ARE!).

I like to think of untraining a bully as similar to how we ‘untrained’ our dog from scratching at the screen door.  When he was a puppy he would scratch at the screen door to go outside. We didn’t want him to ruin the door so we would open the door right away, to stop the scratching. What we didn’t realize was by doing that we were teaching him scratching at the screen door gets him exactly what he wants, right away.

It’s the same with a bully. The bully teases to get a reaction, whether it’s anger, fear, sadness, whatever. When you respond with that reaction it’s like when we opened the screen door – you think what you’re doing will make it stop, but really you’re giving them exactly what they want, so they learn to do it again and again to get the reaction from you again and again.

So how did we ‘untrain’ the dog? We changed our reaction to the scratching. Instead of opening the door, we walked away.   It took awhile for him to stop, and it was hard not to open the door when he scratched because we didn’t want him to ruin the screen, but it worked. When he realized the door wasn’t going to open when he scratched, he was ‘untrained’, and he stopped scratching.

The same can work with bullies – you can change your reaction to the bullying. Be calm and stay in control of your emotions. It may take awhile, but in time the bully should learn they can not control you or your emotions.

And always remember – talk to people you are close to when someone isn’t treating you right. You do not have to deal with these situations alone!


“Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to it’s power”   – Shirley Maclaine




Posted on July 22, 2011, in Getting Along With People, You Are Not Alone and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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