Should You Fight Back Against a Bully?

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

This lesson will help you see the pros and cons of fighting back against bullies. The unintended consequences of fighting back and the impact of peer pressure will also be discussed.

Me and Bullying

Imagine this, I was 12 years old, and coming to a brand new country. You see, I was born and raised in Belgium, but when my parents divorced and my Mom met an American man, I suddenly found myself in a brand new country and culture. There I was facing a new language, new fashions, new ways of life, and headed straight towards the horrors of seventh grade. Oh yeah, it wasn't looking pretty. To beat it all I was oddly tall and thin, and had an accent, which only made things worse.

So, that fall when I entered the 7th grade, I was an immediate target for school bullies who poked at whatever they could. They laughed at my accent, my height, and my clothes. I remember that back then comments such as 'how's the sky up there' and 'how's it going 2 by 4' were normal every day occurrences. I didn't know how to react, and in the end I just kept to myself and felt sad. So was this the right reaction or should I have fought back?

Let's take a closer look at bullying and the choice to fight back, and consider peer pressure and some of the potential consequences of defending yourself.

Bullies are Everywhere

There isn't a school or neighborhood in this country that doesn't have its share of bullies. According to the website dosomething.org, about 3.2 million kids are bullied each year, and approximately 160,000 skip school because of it. These are some scary numbers! What's worse is that most kids who are bullied like I was, don't tell their parents or friends and keep it to themselves. Often times, adults don't intervene because many don't see bullying as a problem. So kids that are bullied often feel very much alone.

Bullying Behavior

There are lots of ways a bully can treat you badly. These include:

  • Making fun of you.
  • Threatening to hurt you.
  • Spreading vicious rumors.
  • Excluding you from activities.
  • Physically fighting with you.

Bullies tend to target kids certain kids over which they believe they can hold power. Many times when kids bully others they do so to gain popularity with their friends. Let's take a look at fighting back against bullies and the consequences it can have.

Enough is Enough

Sometimes we get tired of being bullied and want to do something about it. At times, this is even encouraged by parents, who tell us that they expect us to fight back and stand up for ourselves. The question is, is fighting back the right course of action? Will it make things worse or will it make things better?

Fighting Back Physically

First, it's important to remember that it's not always possible to fight back physically. You may not know how to fight, or simply don't want to put yourself in that position. We also know that not all bullying takes place in person. Actually, a lot of bullying takes place in cyberspace and through social media like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. This type of bullying is difficult to respond to physically because the person is often anonymous and hiding behind a computer screen.

So should you fight back or not fight back? Certainly in situations where you are physically in danger, and there is no other immediate solution, you have every right to defend yourself against aggressive physical behavior. At times, simply demonstrating your willingness to fight back will distract the aggressor's attention away from you and he or she may retreat. As a rule of thumb, fighting is not advised as the first response if the bullying behavior is not an immediate threat. Fighting can lead to injuries, legal consequences, or worse.

Peer Pressure

At times when we decide to confide in our friends that we are being bullied, our friends will encourage us to retaliate and may even want to be part of the plan. This is what is known as peer pressure. It's important to resist the temptation to give into peer pressure in these instances because this can have serious consequences, resulting in school behavior referrals, disciplinary action, and punishments at home. Actually, if peers are encouraging retaliation and you follow through with violence, the police may even be called in.

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