It’s a huge mistake when people urge the victim of bullies to “just laugh with them.”
This is lousy advice and it rarely works.
For the sake of this article, the term “bullying” or “bully” refers to ridicule and taunts, rather than physical aggression or verbal threats of harm.
So let’s take Dyrina, a teen who keeps getting ridiculed. The cards are stacked against her from the start, because she’s introverted, not charismatic.
Her name is pronounced DY-REEN-UH. Within days of starting ninth grade, Dyrina began hearing kids call her diarrhea. All sorts of jokes came out of this as time went on; you can imagine it.
One day Dyrina reported this to her mother. Her mother told her to “laugh along with them and they’ll stop bothering you.” Her father offered the same advice.
Dyrina felt really awkward pretending that the taunts were amusing and funny. She felt totally out of her skin putting on the fake smiles and phony grins.
She even tossed in a few vocal chuckles, and immediately felt alien. This can’t be the right way to handle this, she thought.
Furthermore, the bullying continued.
Laughing Is not a Weapon
“Pretending to laugh at a bully’s insults doesn’t usually work because body language is the most honest form of communication,” says Misty Rosier, a licensed clinical mental health clinician out of Utah who has worked with teens for 15+ years and is a frequent presenter on the topic of bullying.
“A bully can see right through the victim, their real emotions and reaction, based on their non-verbal response.”
If you read enough online posts by former bully victims, you might come across one in which the ex-victim says that he ended the bullying by “laughing along with them.”
It’s common advice, actually, but commonality doesn’t mean a high efficiency rate.
Bullies can spot the attempt of the victim to “laugh along with it” a mile away—the victim’s body language, eyes and mannerisms give off their distress like a neon sign.
The only way this could ever stop the bullying is if the victim truly, intrinsically, sincerely was amused.
And YES, this will take the mean kid by surprise and has the potential to close him or her down.
But doggone it, nasty kids can also easily tell the difference between genuine amusement and a forced act by a stressed individual.
Ridicule on the Parent’s Job
Would you, as the parent, as the adult, follow your own advice if, every day on the job, coworkers ridiculed you for your body weight?
“Hey fatty, where’s that report? I wanted that report an hour ago! What’ve you been doing, stuffing your pig face with donuts all morning?”
Yep, laugh along with them. See how long you can last putting on this absurd charade – whether the ridicule is about your size, religion or accent.
See how soon it takes you to file a complaint with the HR department.
Maybe you have a scar from a horrible car accident that killed your best friend and they’re constantly pointing out how ugly it is. Would you simply laugh along with these workplace bullies?
THINK good and hard before you tell a bullied child to “just laugh along with it.” Even if the “teasing” sounds insignificant.