Bullies love to get a reaction so they need to understand that doing nothing is his best defense.

Dear Classroom Whisperer:

Last year, I had a student who had previously been bullied and who decide to “take matters into his own hands” with a student 5 years younger than him. It began when he hit the younger student with a plastic hockey stick because he wasn’t following the rules of the game and there were other incidents where he physically harmed him over the course of the school year. I spoke to the parents who said that they had told him to stand up for himself so he always felt justified when someone isn’t playing by the rules, or wrongs him, or is being “a jerk.”

I want the behavior to stop but I also want a good plan if it does happen. Do you have suggestions?


Teacher in Montana


Dear Marisa:

I’d start by having a long talk with him and his parents about bullies and what they really want. Bullies love to get a reaction so they need to understand that doing nothing is his best defense. But if he does feel like he needs to take a stand, you all need to agree that it’ll be in words only.

I encourage you all to role play with him so he has some simple and quick things he can say when things don’t go his way. When the class is heading out to recess, constantly reminded to walk away if his words don’t work, and to remember that becoming physical is only an option if he himself is being physically threatened by another person and, even then, only if that person is a true threat, meaning his age and size.

I would also tell him that he can come to you anytime he feels threatened, but that hitting is not an option. Talk to him about what should happen if he does hit again, what discipline he suggests and if that’s a reasonable option. If not, I’d suggest that if he is required to play alone at the next recess based on the safety for all concerned.

Finally, I’d also focus on what behaviors he’s exhibiting that are causing him to be a repeat target of bullying. This is not about blaming him, it’s about helping him overcome social challenges that kids pick up on and helping him to become more aware of himself and how he can avoid these situations going forward.

Thanks so much for your question and for all you do everyday to give our kids the skills they need to really succeed. Have a great year and stay in touch and let me know how things are going.

If you have a question, reply to this post, find me on Twitter @rustymayinc or you can email me!


Rusty May is a Classroom Whisperer who thrives to inspire educators to connect more completely with all their students by training them to be assertive classroom managers and positive disciplinarians. In 2002 Rusty created SchoolToolsTv.Com, a daily SEL show that reaches 25k Students per day. His inspiration are his wife and their two children.

Rusty’s trainings are fun, interactive and full of real tools you can start using in your classroom the very next day without any prep or additional busy work on your end. Ask for a free quote today!