Standing up to a bully and being an upstander for others can be downright terrifying for children.  It takes tremendous courage, timing and very likely practice to be effective.  In the heat of the moment it could be incredibly helpful to be armed with a few phrases to quickly grab and use against the tormentor.

Bullying stops in less than 10 seconds, 57% of the time when someone intervenes on behalf of the victim.

Signe Whitson is a nationally recognized author and educator on bullying prevention.  Adapted from her STANding up to Bullying, she offers the following phrases for children to use.  These short, to-the-point exclamations inform the aggressor that not only they will not participate in bullying behavior, but they will not be bullied either.  She recommends that children practice a few select phrases that are comfortable and genuine for them to use.  Furthermore, practicing and delivering these phrases should be done in an assertive manner and not through tears or whining.  Assertive phrases are not meant to put down or attack the bully, but rather show a strength of character and/or concern for the target.

  • “Friends don’t treat each other that way.”
  • “I need a friend that will treat me/others kindly.”
  • “Not cool!”
  • “Knock it off!”
  • “Cut it out!”
  • “Stop it!”
  • “I don’t want to be treated that way. / I don’t want you to treat him/her that way.”
  • “I like the way I look. I like the way he/she looks.”
  • “That’s not funny.”
  • “I can take a joke, but what you said was not funny – it was mean.”
  • “Friends don’t do that to friends.”
  • “That’s bullying.”

It is important to coach our children about how to respond to inappropriate behavior from others.  It is never ok for any child to be bullied.  Ultimately, it is up to adults to STOP the bullying. Coaching children with powerful, assertive phrases can build confidence and can be a tool to stop inappropriate and bullying behavior.