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School's starting soon. Last year I bullied this boy. (I'm a girl.) I attacked him even though he's stronger because I knew he wouldn't hit a girl. I insulted him. I humiliated him every chance I got. I want to start over. I want to apologize but I don't know how. I feel awful for doing this. He doesn't trust me. How do I show him I changed?
- Jess

First, be proud of yourself for changing. It's not easy to admit that you bullied someone or to stop once you start. And it takes a lot of courage to try to make up for past bullying behavior.

Offering an apology to someone you've bullied is a great first step toward starting over. If you can, take him aside and say, "I want to apologize for my actions last year." Being authentic and speaking from the heart can help. Tell him, "I feel really bad for what I did. It's been on my mind all summer."

People who are bullied often have difficulty trusting others, especially the people who have bullied them in the past. So don't expect the other person to automatically accept your apology. For instance, he might ignore your apology, yell at you, or even tease you.

Be patient. You've probably heard that "actions speak louder than words." So after offering words of apology, you then need to show him that you've really changed: Be kind and helpful to him and others. Over time, he should get the hint that you've changed — then you can both move on.

This will take time. To get past any ups and downs, it can help to focus on two things: First, what you're doing takes courage and you can take pride in the fact that you are taking real steps to change. Second, whatever happens, you're building some good skills and learning more about yourself and the kind of person you want to be.

Reviewed by: Michael Morrow, PhD
Date reviewed: August 2011

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

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