Minimizing the Target – How to Not be a Target for Bullying
How to not be a target for bullying
Bullies don’t attack anyone and everyone. They aren’t just lashing out, taking their anger out on whoever happens to be around. They are predators who very carefully pick out the students they think will make the easiest prey. They don’t want someone who will fight back. They’re not looking for a fair fight or a competition. They are looking to utterly dominate another person.
In this post, we are going to discuss what bullies look for in their targets and ways students can minimize the target by avoiding behaviors that might make them look appealing to bullies.
Bullies target students who are different
Bullies target students who are different in some way. The victim’s difference gives the bully the ammunition they crave to attack the victim’s standing in the school social order. It gives the bully more social power when they are able to destroy the social status of another. The differences can be the way the target looks, dresses, talks, acts, or things they enjoy.
Bullies target the loners
Targets of bullies tend to be shy, quiet people who don’t have many friends. The bullies want an easy mark, so they’ll avoid people who have friends around who might stand up against the bully. An isolated target is the most appealing for a bully. Bullies will often stalk their targets, waiting until they are alone before they attack. The best defense for a target is to initiate and maintain friendships, and avoid being alone in places where they are likely to run into the bully.
Bullies target students who appear non-assertive
The leading character trait among victims of bullying is non-assertiveness. Non-assertive students communicate through their body language and the way they speak that they lack self-confidence and that they’re less likely to stand up to the bully or report the incident.
Bullies pay close attention to these signals of non-assertiveness when looking for a target. Non-assertive students can learn to make themselves more assertive with work and focus. Assertive doesn’t mean aggressive. Assertive is the healthy middle ground between passive and aggressive. Some targets take this too far and become bullies themselves. You want to encourage your child to be self-assure in their dealings with peers, not to lash out.
Some things you can encourage your child to work on are:
Non-assertive students speak hesitantly and softly. Practice some conversations with your child to help them focus on modulating their voice to sound more relaxed and self-confident. Help them smooth out and reduce pauses in their speech, getting rid of ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’.
A target won’t feel either relaxed or self-confident the next time they encounter the bully, but practicing vocal tone can help them sound that way, making them less appealing to the bully. The self-confidence may come over time as they break the power the bully has over them.
Eye contact can be a little trickier for a non-assertive child to master. Their tendency is usually to avoid eye contact, keeping their heads down and eyes averted. On the other side, too much eye contact, starring or glaring is overly aggressive.
You want to encourage your child to moderate their eye contact. Their eyes should be direct and frank. Have your student observe other students, focusing on what their eyes communicate.
A child’s posture is very telling. They communicate insecurity by hunching their shoulders and keeping their heads lowered. This is a sure sign to a bully that the student will be an easy target.
Have your child practice standing up straighter and keeping his or her head straight.
Non-assertive people tend to fidget with their hands. They excessively pop their knuckles, chew their nails, wring their hands, tap their fingers, toss their hair, or make other similar motions. Bullies interpret this as nervousness and insecurity.
Encourage your child to be conscious of these motions. They should avoid hand-to-face gestures and other fidgety movements. Have them focus on relaxing their hands. Have them start by putting their hands in their pockets when they’re tempted to fidget until they’ve broken the habit.
There’s no guaranteeing that bullying will stop when a target’s mannerisms change to be more assertive and self-assured, but it will make your child a less appealing target for bullies in the future. It will also empower your child, taking some of the power out of the bully’s hands.
Start a conversation with your child about the ways they might be able to minimize the target.
Read more about bullying prevention.
More info. on what to do if your child is being bullied.