It's a common belief among people such as teachers and parents or other carers/guardians that a good way to prevent being bullied is to simply ignore the aggressor, as that apparently gives them no sort of entertainment to suck out. No matter who the victim is that's being talked to, this advice is more often that not going to be a given.

But I've had doubts about this. Depending on the extent of this bullying, wouldn't said aggressor try to find other ways to make a victim suffer, even if it's slightly more secretive? Isn't it usually the case generally as well that a problem won't simply go away if it goes ignored?

Does simply ignoring a bully help against being bullied?

  • 7
    I never heard somebody try to claim that ignoring a bully will STOP bullying, but it seemed to me always to be one technique for dealing with bullying (at least among adolescents). In any case you need to differentiate between childish behavior/bullying and adult bullying. One is most likely from lack of or desire of attention, and another is due to abuse of power (or relational abuse). They are dealt with (and reacted upon) differently.
    – n00b
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 1:46
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    @GeorgeChalhoub Seems possible to collect evidence for this.
    – gerrit
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 10:45
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    1) The victim generally doesn't really have the option to "ignore" being, say, stuffed into a school locker or getting pelted with lunch. 2) when everyone else ignores the bully it just means that the victim concludes nobody's going to stand up for them and the bully concludes that they can keep on going as long as it amuses them. Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 13:15
  • 4
    I think this idea is used strictly when the bullying is emotional, not physically. Most bullying does not involve assault or any activity that breaks the law (which is changing with anti-bullying laws being passed). Just ignoring someone acting mean/bitchy towards you is often cited, as it is just a logical and adult way of dealing with not everyone liking you.
    – Jonathon
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 1:55
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    @n00b: its what I was always told when I was a kid. It didn't work for me. Commented May 22, 2017 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


THE claim "Bullies are looking for attention. Ignore them and the bullying will stop" is considered to be a myth since research shows that bullies are looking for control, and they rarely stop if their behavior is ignored. The level of bullying usually increases if the bullying is not addressed by adults since researchers in 2010 showed that recourse to "avoidance" type strategies would lead to an increase in the frequency of bullying while recourse to "approach"-type strategies would lead to a reduction in it.

Referring to Clara Clark in 2015, avoidance creates anger in the bullied individual which might impact in the futureand does not resolve the current conflict completely.

Research has shown that the majority of children who attempt to ignore a bully only success in pretending to do so. Ultimately, this may be the process by which increased anger manifests itself in the victims despite on the surface seeming to avoid and ignore the bully. Whats more is that avoidance strategies also train children to avoid interpersonal conflict and ignore it, as opposed to resolving the conflict, which may have negative implications for both school life and beyond.

Research in 2002 also showed that bullying as a continuum in which many students engage in these behaviors at various levels and research by Nancy Gropper et.al. indicates that when asked about bullying in schools, students expressed a desire for teachers and others to intervene rather than ignore it.

Referring to APA, large-scale evaluations over a period of more than 20 years of Olweus Bullying Prevention Program which is offered to all of Norway's public schools have yielded quite positive results such as substantial reductions typically in the 30-50 percent range in the frequency with which students report being bullied and bullying others, significant reductions in students' reports of general antisocial behavior and Improvements in students' satisfaction with school life. Partial replications of the program in England and the United States have also yielded positive, though somewhat weaker results.

The intervention program is built on four key principles. These principles involve creating a school - and ideally, also a home - environment characterized by:

(1) warmth, positive interest, and involvement from adults;

(2) firm limits on unacceptable behavior;

(3) consistent application of non-punitive, non-physical sanctions for unacceptable behavior and violation of rules, and

(4), adults who act as authorities and positive role models.

The above program also has similar characteristics of the CDC bullying prevention points mentioned here.

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    What is a "non-punitive sanction"? A sanction is, by definition, a punishment.
    – phoog
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 20:54
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    @phoog I think they're just trying to sound smart, instead of just saying "time-outs".
    – user11643
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 4:47
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    "bullies are looking for control". So it is with almost all human action. Control means security.
    – user11643
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 4:53
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    @phoog Maybe a non-punitive sanction would be a response that seems reasonably related and not arbitrary. For example if your son bullies other kids when he goes alone but not when he goes with his older brother, you might require him to stick with his older brother, rather than reducing his allowance.
    – Chaim
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 17:06
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    @Chaim that seems plausible, but doesn't address the fact that sanction is, in this sense, a synonym for punishment.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 17:26

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