Telling Victims to “Toughen Up” When They Report Harassment

Good evening, everyone. Tonight, I want to mention the widely held belief that bullying toughens kids up and why I think it’s one of the biggest falsehoods I have ever heard.

So you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher or principal and a child comes to you to report being harassed. In response, you tell him/her that he/she is just going to have to toughen up (I was told that many times when I was being bullied) or you very dismissively tell the child that bullying will toughen them up. It’s the equivalent of the victim having a baseball bat taken to their legs and having both limbs broken, then assuring them, “the bone will be even stronger than before once it heals”. I’m sure you get the point.

It is this type of attitude which allows the abuse to continue and re-victimizes the victim!

Here is why I think that it’s the stupidest response an adult can give to a child or teen

  1. You are indirectly and maybe unknowingly shifting the blame back onto the poor child. You are sending them the message that the harassment is his fault because he is weak or a coward.
  2. Kids and teens will take the “toughen up” fallacy as the go-ahead to escalate the violence.
  3. Telling a child to “toughen up” means that a fight will ensue, the victim will more than likely get the blame and be suspended from school, then the parents (the ones who probably advised the child to “toughen up” will admonish the child for fighting at school and getting the suspension. As a result, the victim will be even more confused as to what recourse to take the next time they are bullied.
  4. Bullying does not toughen anyone up! It shuts them down!

Instead of telling them to toughen up, either intervene, or advise them on effective ways to protect themselves so that they can break the cycle.

Have a wonderful evening, everyone!

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2 thoughts on “Telling Victims to “Toughen Up” When They Report Harassment

    • It did me too, Neoi. Even then, I thought it was the stupidest advice ever given and I wanted to scream, “BUT HOW DO I TOUGHEN UP???” I eventually took it as a green light to get physical with my bullies and it either got me suspended, or angered the bullies so that they would send friends after me for, “beating them up”. The advice ended up making me even more confused as to what recourse to take the next time I was harassed.

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