Published October 27, 2015
If you're confronted by the schoolyard bully, do something strange. If the bully wants your lunch money, offer to buy him or her lunch or talk to someone in the group behind the leader -- even take to all fours and bark like a dog.
US psychiatrist Stuart Twemlow, currently visiting Australia, offers this radical advice to children who are picked on at school, saying bullies have trouble processing behavior that doesn't follow the normal pattern -- threat followed by fear.
"There's a lot someone being bullied can do besides hitting the bully, which is what their parents generally want them to do," said Twemlow, who consulted for the FBI after the Columbine High School massacre.
"For primary school it's still best to go through a teacher, but by the time they get to middle school they will likely need to take it into their own hands in some way. The question is how. One technique I talk about is to do something strange or look behind the bully as they're talking to you and address someone else.
"If they want your lunch money, ask if they want to have lunch with you instead. I even know a kid who was confronted by a bully and simply started to act like a dog, on all fours barking. You make the bully lose power because you don't respond the way he wants you to."
Twemlow told The Australian one of the keys is to give skills to those on the sidelines to discourage bullying.
"In order to reduce bullying we need to encourage bystanders to become 'upstanders' -- to take an active role in stopping bullying or assisting victims to exit bullying situations."