ActivityStanding Up

Look Around . . .

Victims often respond to bullies’ demands with either passive submission or retaliatory aggression—rather than with self-confidence and assertiveness. 

Assertiveness means expressing one’s feelings and defending one’s rights while respecting the feelings and rights of others. 

Potential victims can protect themselves by learning to respond assertively. Assertive responses neither provoke the bully nor reward him or her with submission. An assertive manner also provides a child with an air of self-confidence and a sense of control that can deter a bully’s approach from the start. Role-playing exercises help children use body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and words to respond assertively to a bully. 

1. Review the chart Bullying Actions and Victim Responses in advance. Select one or two examples from the Bullying (Provoking) column that fit your children’s ages and circumstances. Feel free to adapt and/or embellish the scenarios, or add your own examples.

2. Explain that there are three ways to respond to a bully: by Giving In (Submissive), Hurting Back (Aggressive), and Standing Up (Assertive). Define Standing Up, referring to the definition of assertiveness above. Explain and discuss why Standing Up is usually more effective in preventing or stopping bullying than the other two types of responses.  Review Tips for Standing Up to Bullies.

3. Have another adult assume the role of the Bully while you demonstrate the types of responses. Make sure to exaggerate the differences between them. 

4. Have the children watch, describe, and imitate your nonverbal communication (e.g., posture, eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice), as well as your words and actions. 

5. Recruit a child volunteer to role-play the Victim. Encourage the volunteer to use his or her own words and to practice the response several times—each time improving it based on feedback from the group.

Teen girl smiling


Standing Up

This activity will. . .


Help children understand differences between submissive, aggressive, and assertive behaviors.


Give children guidance and practice in responding to a bully's provocations with verbal and nonverbal assertiveness.


One way to help children escape their victim role is to change their outlook from one of helplessness there is nothing that can be done to stop the bully to one of confidence there are specific things that victims, bystanders, and adults can do to stop the bully. Each time a child practices an assertive response, fearful and helpless thoughts are replaced by strong and confident ones.