Use therapy technique to deal with bully

Published 10:45 am Saturday, March 1, 2014

by Abbie Long

Question: I am 11-years old. I ride the bus to school. There is this girl on my bus who always calls me fat and ugly. I ignore her at first, but when she keeps on saying stuff I lose it. I say bad things or do bad things. I don’t want to tell my teacher or my mom because I know the mean girl will get more mean. What should I do?

Answer: Way to go! The fact that you asked me for advice shows how strong you are. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help you.

The first thing I suggest is for you to find a quiet place where you can be alone. Take a stuffed animal with you. Sit down across from it and look it in its eyes. Smile and tell it, “I am sorry you feel that way.”

Don’t be embarrassed. I talk to my stuffed bear named Barnabas all the time. He is a great listener and he understands me when nobody else does. And remember, nobody has to know what you are doing because you are alone. Keep practicing on your animal until you feel really comfortable.

I want you to name your stuffed animal after the mean girl on your bus. Let’s suppose her name is Ashley. Now, look your stuffed Ashley in the eyes, start smiling, and tell her “I am sorry you feel that way.” Then, ask yourself how you feel while you are talking to your stuffed Ashley. If you feel still feel completely comfortable, you are ready for the next step. If, however, you feel any anger, embarrassment, shame or lack of confidence, go stand in front of a mirror. Look into it, picture the face of your stuffed Ashley, and practice telling her, “I am sorry you feel this way” until you feel really comfortable.

The next step is for you to start picturing the real Ashley as your stuffed animal Ashley every time you see her. For example, if you see her walking down the hall at school, picture your animal walking down the hall instead. Picturing the real Ashley this way is funny and should make you laugh a little. Practicing on your stuffed animal, watching yourself in the mirror, and picturing the real Ashley as your stuffed Ashley will help you build your confidence.

Finally, when you are ready to smile and tell the real Ashley, who now looks like your stuffed Ashley, “I am sorry you feel that way,” wait for her approach you. When she does, make sure you have something in your pocket you can hold to give you comfort. I keep a wooden cross in mine. I have a friend who keeps a piece of soft fabric in hers. When the real Ashley says something mean to you, picture her as your stuffed Ashley, hold your pocket comfort item, smile, and say, “I am sorry you feel that way.” Do not add another word. No exceptions allowed. Every time she says something mean repeat that process.

Eventually the real Ashley will get tired of saying mean things because she’ll see she’s not upsetting you. She will walk away, you will set a good example for others, and you will win! If you are not quite ready to smile and tell the real Ashley, “I am sorry you feel that way,” walk away from her whenever she approaches you or you will probably “lose it.”

Please, if you ever feel physically threatened by the real Ashley or anybody else, go immediately and tell an adult or school official. By doing so, you may not only save your own life but also stop her from hurting other people in the future.

Barnabas and I both want to tell you we know you can do it.


ABBIE LONG is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to