Mother: “My daughter, who is in grade 7, is doing very well in school, has plenty of friends and is generally confident. But she still has trouble standing up for herself. She is aware of this, has previously had a resilience course and has found her own way of solving situations independently. She ignores intimidating or bullying behavior and makes sure it doesn’t affect her emotionally. At least she acts intelligently. She succeeds very well, but not always, especially against empowered and physical children. Recently, she has been intimidated daily by the same classmate when the teacher is not looking. We are involved parents, we talk to our daughter, she tells us what is going on and, if necessary, we talk to the teacher. But if the ‘intelligent’ course of action does not help, may I advise my child to give a strong answer in that classmate’s ‘language’ and to act physically, such as pushing back, scratching her notebook, etc.?”

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Recommend daughter to run away

Ron Scholte: „I would never recommend copying the behavior of the perpetrator. We know the success stories of victims who one day give their bully a big punch, so that the bullying ends immediately. That success is not for everyone. For example, if you are a head smaller, it is not useful. If such behavior is not your daughter’s style, she may not be skilled enough at it to emerge victorious. Then there is a chance that she will be laughed at, or the bullying behavior will escalate further. Ignoring the bullying carries the risk that the bully will go the extra mile.

“I would advise your daughter to run away and tell the teacher. They can then talk to the class about the correct response. A bully is fueled by attention to his behavior. As long as it is sanctioned by bystanders, it will continue to exist. If it is agreed in the class that everyone will intervene as soon as the bully starts, or turn their backs on the perpetrator, it is no longer reinforced. Ultimately, the school is responsible for classroom safety.”

Reinforce your child’s own style

Marga Akkerman: “You can discuss this dilemma with your daughter. She herself knows where her strength lies: would she like to throw a punch herself? We want to teach our children to hold their own when intimidated. I advocate strengthening the child’s own style, which increases self-confidence. And that’s in your daughter’s case to figure it out with the help of her mind.

“Doing the same thing in return is often seen as an effective approach, but the question is whether your child can push back with persuasion if that is not her style. If your daughter feels more confident, the influence of the harassment will diminish. Moreover, a physical solution is not preferred and can have an escalating effect.

“Your daughter might also ask the bully, ‘Why are you acting like that to me? Perhaps the intimidation is aimed at provoking contact, out of curiosity: who are you anyway? Do you dare to give something back?

“Get the teacher on, the bully needs a lesson in social behavior. The fact that a teacher does not see the bullying behavior itself is never a reason not to tackle the bullying.”