Would you tell a Zebra that if you don't bite the lion, the lion won't bite you? No of course not. We know that's unrealistic... predators do what predators do... and lions eat zebra.
And yet we (as a society) often expect a teenager who is confronted by a bully (a predator) to just say "Leave me alone" and walk away.
Unfortunately, that approach only encourages a predator to attack. Why? Because it's an indication that you are a risk-free target ... an easy kill.
Also, predators of every kind are hard-wired to chase their intended victim if they turn and make a run for it... or just try to walk away.
But even zebra know that if you're going to run, you should always try to discourage the predator from following... in their case, with a quick kick to the head!
So let's look at how your child can discourage a bully's advance....
Firstly, the most important point to keep in mind is this : As long as a bully experiences no risk of pain or injury, they will keep trying to close the distance on their intended victim.
A bully generally closes the distance by using threats and intimidation... which usually frightens the victim into being passive. Or if that doesn't work, a bully might even switch from being aggressive to being friendly... move in close, put their arm around the victim, and then suddenly start punching.
I've even seen situations where a predator was pushed away, then claimed that they had been assaulted... at which stage the victim thought they had done the wrong thing, and they actually let the predator get close (again), and suffered a sudden surprise attack.
So distance is always the first-and-best defensive response. There's no point trying to get a predator to see reason... their brain doesn't work like that... all they can see is an easy kill.
We (as parents) might not like the idea of our children having to stand-up to a bully and potentially be attacked and traumatised. But the least we can do is arm our children with the facts... to empower them with an understanding of a bully's attack ritual :
- first they select their victim and make eye contact
- then they close the distance
- and try to intimidate their victim into not resisting
- then they launch a sudden surprise attack.
So the best thing to do is never let a person you don't feel good about get too close to you. As soon as they try to get within two feet, atep away or move around to create a safe distance... and don't let them talk their way in close to you.
You can tell them to "Stay back" or "Back off"... but don't expect them to really listen to what you say. All they want is to get in close and attack... so regardless of what you say all they're going to hear is "Blah, blah, blah."
If they keep trying to get close to you, then firmly push them away with both hands... and step back away yourself to open the distance even more.
If they don't look like giving up, then start speaking their language... the language of intimidation. Stand side-on, drop your chin, point with your forefinger, and aggressively tell them to "Back-off... just back-off", or something to that effect.
This is called a de-escalation tactic... and the body-language is called a primal threat indicator ... something that a bully will unconsciously recognise as serious intent.
It sends a message that maybe - just maybe - you could cause them some pain and suffering.
Finally, keep in mind that if your children are given the facts about how-and-why bullies use threats and intimidation, then they've got a better chance of handling a confrontation themselves. And using these simple psychological tactics will not only develop self-confidence, it will lay the groundwork for handling bullies in later life... both on the street, and in the work-place.
It's Primal Protection.
For a quick course in Standing Up to a Bully, click on the link below :