Aaron's advice about bullying

We asked you to send in your worries and concerns about bullying. You told us about your experiences and asked questions that some of you were too afraid to talk to others about.

CBBC’s agony uncle Aaron Balick has looked at what you sent in and written some helpful advice.

Why does bullying happen?

Aaron says:  There are lots of reasons why someone might become a bully but it's almost always because the bully is not really feeling okay inside. People who feel okay inside generally don't bully. The bully might have been bullied themselves, or maybe they’re having a bad time at home. 

Bullying is like taking out your problems on other people. That's why it's important not to feel like it's your fault if you get bullied. If you're a bully, getting help for yourself will stop you from bullying.

My best friend gets bullied - what should I do?

Aaron says:  The best thing you can do is to be supportive and understanding to your friend - listen to them and comfort them. It’s important to stand up for them but it's best not to try and stop all the bullying yourself. 

Encourage your friend to tell a teacher and get the school involved. Each school has an anti-bullying plan. With help from the school, get others to stand up for your friend so there's no room for bullying anymore.

I'm worried that I'll get bullied when I go to secondary school.

Aaron says:  Going to a new school is a great way to make a new start. If you bring your worries with you, you'll start off being afraid rather than being excited, and that's not a great start. So instead of scaring yourself, see if you can imagine your new start as a really good one where you make new friends and all your mates look after each other.

Your new school will be aware about bullying and have an anti-bullying plan so, if it does start, you can get help with it and you won't be left on your own. Just know you can seek help straight away and get it sorted if it happens: but it probably won’t.

My teachers aren't doing anything about the bullying that's happening to me.

Aaron says: Unfortunately, even though teachers are required by their schools to respond to bullying, sometimes they are not so quick to pick up on it. That's why you have to be clear with them about what's going on.

Choose the teacher you feel most comfortable with, take them aside and tell them EXACTLY what's going on: who’s bullying you, what they’re doing and where it’s happening. If that teacher doesn't respond, try another teacher, or alert your parent. Make sure SOMEBODY listens. Don’t suffer in silence.

My mum doesn't believe that I'm being bullied.

Aaron says:  Sometimes a parent either doesn't want to believe something terrible is happening to their child, or they think it's just harmless joking around. However, bullying is bullying and somebody needs to know about it.

That's why it's important to tell your mum exactly what's happening and that it’s making you feel miserable. Hopefully then she'll listen. If she still doesn't, find another grown up who will and ask them to help.

I'm embarrassed because my mum wants to come into school to stop the bullying.

Aaron says:  One of the biggest reasons people don't say when they are being bullied is because they are worried about this very thing. Even though it might feel embarrassing, you've done the right thing. Your mum is going to the school because she is concerned. The school will know how to handle these things carefully, so I wouldn't worry too much.

If you are worried though, tell your mum why so she can take your concerns with her to school. Then the school will take them into consideration when they deal with the bullying problem. Be reassured, you've done the right thing!

I've been bullied for a long time - will it ever stop?

Aaron says: The longer that bullying goes on, the more it can feel like it will never end and nothing will ever get better. Nothing could be further from the truth. The simple fact is that bullying happens less and less the older you get so, in general, it will calm down for everyone.

In your case though, it's already happened long enough and it should stop now. If you haven't already, please tell someone at school (or a parent) what's going on, and for how long. You don't want to wait for it to stop on its own. You deserve better than to have been bullied for so long, so make sure you get the help to make it end now. Trust me, it CAN stop. You just need the help to make it stop.

I get bullied and feel like hiding from school.

Aaron says:   School can become a very scary place when you are being bullied there. That's too bad, because it should be the opposite of that: safe and welcoming. The bullies win when they scare people off because you feel like you have to hide.

The school is a place to learn and make friends, not to be bullied or to bully. Speak to a teacher or parent straight away and tell them how serious the problem is. Get the support you need to make school a safe place for you. You can't do this on your own, so please reach out and get help to make it better.

The bullies start on me when I try to stick up for my friends. What should I do?

Aaron says:  I think it's great that you're sticking up for your friends. If more people did that, there would be so many people sticking up for each other that there’d be no one left to bully. If that's not how it is at your school, it means there's still work to be done.

The best thing to do is to support your friends who are being bullied by telling a trusted teacher. Once the school gets involved, you'll have even more support in sticking up for people being bullied and the bullies won't be able to carry on. You're setting a great example, now let the school support others to do the same.

What should I do if I hear people say things behind someone else's back?

Aaron says:  Gossiping nasty stuff about people behind their backs is a sure way to get the ball rolling towards bullying, if it's not already happening. It's not harmless. The easiest thing to do in this case is not participate in bad mouthing. Just don't add to the conversation.

Even better (if you feel up to it) is to say something like, "C'mon guys, lay off, so-and-so isn't so bad," or "Don't we have something better to do than to slag off so-and-so?" By not participating in that kind of talk it makes other people less comfortable to do so. So live by that old saying, "If you don't have something nice to say about somebody, don't say anything at all".

Should I ask my friends to stick up for me?

Aaron says:  Friends should be there to support you, listen to you, and yes, at times stick up for you too. I the end it’s their choice whether they stick up for you. What you can do is tell them how you feel about what's going on, and tell them how they might be able to help. Then, it's up to them to decide what to do next.

Most importantly is that you talk about what's going on with your school, so it's not just down to you and your friends to sort a bullying problem out. With the school involved, everybody will be out to solve the problem, and you won't feel so alone with it.

Should I learn martial arts to defend myself from bullies?

Aaron says:  Learning martial arts is a great way to get fit and build your self-confidence. Building your self-confidence is the single biggest weapon you have against being bullied - far better than just knowing how to physically defend yourself.

But learning to be good at something, ANYTHING really, is a great first step to feeling good about yourself. 

I get bullied because I'm different. Should I change to stop the bullying?

Aaron says:  Sometimes bullies like to bully the difference right out of us. By doing that, they win. Do you want them to win? We all have parts of ourselves that we'd like to improve, and it's important to change and grow to make those changes. 

However, if we're changing because someone else wants us to change, it's probably not such a good thing. Differences are usually good things (wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same?).

Also, there are lots of differences that we can't change. In those cases, it's important to accept and be proud of your differences. Feel pride in them, and don't let the bullies make you believe you should change for them.

I get picked on because I don't have many friends.

Aaron says:  When people get picked on a lot, they often start to feel badly about themselves and think that they don't have much to offer other people. They start to believe what the bullies say and stop making an effort to find new friends.

Try not to believe this about yourself. Share your feelings with a parent or a teacher and see if you can get some help to stop being picked on. It's also important to know that it’s not the number of friends you have that’s important, it’s the quality of your relationships.

Having one or two really good friends is better than having a dozen distant ones. If you’re having trouble making friends at school, think of an after-school activity you could join where you might meet new friends.

I get bullied because I'm no good at sports. What should I do?

Aaron says:  Everybody is different and that means not everybody is good at the same stuff. If you’re not good at sports, I’m sure there’s something else you are good at. While you should get some support to deal with the bullying, it’s also a good idea to find an activity that you like, and that you are good at.

When you feel confident and secure that you’re good at something, being good at sport becomes less important. Once you feel that pride in what you do well, you’ll care less about what other people want you to be good at.

I am bullied because of my size - is there anything I can do?

Aaron says:  It’s important for you to know that at a certain age everybody is growing at different rates, so the sizes between you and others is likely to be really different for a while - trust me, I know. I was WAY behind everyone for a couple of years.

The good news is that in time, most people catch up and the differences are much less noticeable. While you can do something about the bullying (talking to someone at home or at school), you can’t do anything just now about your size.

For that reason, you shouldn’t take the bullying seriously. It will change. In fact, one day you may be looking down on the bully – but you’ll know better than to bully back!

What should you do if you are being picked on because of assumptions about whether you are gay?

Aaron says:  This is called ‘homophobic bullying’ and it’s just not allowed. Check out your school’s anti-bullying plan and get it sorted. Unfortunately people can get bullied if others think they are gay, or don’t act in ways boys and girls are ‘expected’ to act. Try not to let it get you down. There’s no right way to be a boy or a girl, and no laws about who you’re allowed to fancy! 

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