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I am a middle school student and I like to think I am a smart person. Typically people ask me to help them figure out problems; but there is one person I am having some trouble with. She sits next to me in science and never takes notes or listens to the teacher so she always asks me things like:

Tell me what to write down.

or

Could you tell me what the teachers said?

Sometimes she calls me offensive names. Today she was not listening and caused me to mess up my project, so I swatted her hand away and she grilled me about how rude that was. I know it was rude but I am human too.

She says she can't see what the teacher is writing on the white board, and she can't afford to have some glasses. But I know that there are a few ways to get money for glasses.

She also asks me to do her homework because she doesn't have WiFi, but most of the assignation won't need WiFi, but I can't say no. I feel like she is using me! I'm afraid this will get worse as time goes on. I feel scared to tell her that she needs to do work herself!

How can I tell her that I don't want to help her anymore and that she needs to do her work alone?

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    Hi and welcome to Interpersonal Skills! Your question, as it currently stands, is not clear. Please add what is the issue related to interpersonal skills you're having and what you want to achieve. I encourage you to take the tour and check help center to know what topics you can ask about here. – A J Sep 24 '19 at 4:27
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    Beside AJ's comment (please follow their advice) I'd advise you to take care of your own first. You're not dependant on her so why be scared? – Cdr. Powell Sep 24 '19 at 6:22
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    Related: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/15168/12962 – CaldeiraG Sep 24 '19 at 6:52
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    Why can't you say no to her ? Are you shy/anxious/... or are you scared of her ? Is she a bully ? – MlleMei Sep 26 '19 at 10:56
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First, I would recommend that you speak to your teacher about her. Specifically mention that she says she can't see the board. The teacher will have access to possibilities like speaking to her parents and connecting them with social services that can help pay for glasses if they can't afford them. I know I didn't want to tell my mom I couldn't see the board because I knew we didn't have much money and that glasses were expensive. Turns out the school and my mom were able to resolve it and I got my glasses. Telling the teacher is a kind thing to do, because it will help her get glasses if she needs them.

This could also have the effect of the teacher (temporarily or otherwise) moving her to the front of the room so she can see better until she gets her glasses and then she can't disturb you any more.

If she calls you offensive names, that can be hard to deal with when you're still in school. Depending on her motivation, it can be next to impossible for you to make her stop. You can try just telling her something along the lines of "That's not a nice thing to say. Don't call me that". Placing a clear, unambiguous boundary sometimes helps with people who are just a bit clueless but not malicious. However, with someone who is bullying you, that is unlikely to stop her. If she refuses to stop when you lay down a clear boundary, your only option is to avoid her and speak to an adult who can help such as a teacher or school counselor. There is unfortunately no interpersonal skill that can stop bullying.

If she stops calling you mean names but persists in asking you to do her homework, then what I've found most useful is to suggest that you study together. For example, if she asks you to do her math homework, tell her "I'm actually planning on working on that in the library after history class. You're welcome to join me." Repeat as needed. Some people who are genuinely struggling will gladly come and do their homework in the same place as you, maybe asking an occasional question but mostly working on their own. Someone who just wants their homework done for them will not show, or come once and never again when they realise that you won't do their work for them. If she shows and then keeps asking you to do her work completely for her, then respond "I'm happy to answer specific questions, but I'm not doing it for you." Again repeat as needed. Here, something like 'Show me how to solve question 2" is too broad and gets the canned response above, but a question like "I get a negative length as an answer on question 2, do you know what I'm doing wrong?" is a question you can help with.

If she wants to study with you all the time, then you can lay down a clear boundary that works for you, such as two hours a week, or Mondays and Wednesdays after class, or whatever suits you best. She is the one asking for a favour, so you get to decide the conditions. Saying something like "it only works for my schedule on X day, so I'm afraid you're on your own today, but I'll see you again next week" is perfectly acceptable. Trading is also completely acceptable: "I'll help you with maths if you give me some pointers for my history essay / look over my Spanish grammar / whatever she can help you with".

If you don't want to spend any time with her, then responding with "I'm sorry, I don't have time for that today. But I'm sure the teacher will help if you're stuck." will usually do the trick for me. If they persist, then raise your hand and tell the teacher that [girl's name] is really stuck and needs help with the homework. Let the teacher speak to her. People usually don't pester you again after that in my experience.

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  • "There is unfortunately no interpersonal skill that can stop bullying." I don't think this is true. It was proven that bullying is not focused on somehow different kids/people but rather on ones that let themselves be bullied. Neither fair to those one nor apologizing the bullies, just plain fact. – Divisadero Sep 26 '19 at 13:30
  • @Divisadero Does that study show that kids with some characteristics are never targeted in the first place, or does it show that you can stop already ongoing bullying by changing those characteristics? Because that's a crucial distinction when you want to give advice about stopping bullying. – Johanna Sep 27 '19 at 5:57
  • I was rather stating the fact/phenomenon. If such characteristic can be changed is pretty subjective I would say. But knowing what makes bullies choose their victims can be helpful. I avoided being bullied at young age by accident, just because I considered such a behavior as stupid and wanted nothing to do with such people. And as I acted assertively and not scared, mere annoyed, they moved on. Realized that I was a target of a bullying much later in my life. – Divisadero Sep 27 '19 at 11:25
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From how you wrote in your original post, you seem to feel affraid and desperate toward this situation.

To enhance Johanna's (very good) answer, I want to give you two tricks to make things less difficult.

How to feel less affraid towards someone (doesn't work for everybody, but you might want to give it a try): look on how you see this person. In your head your classmate is probably big and threatening. Try to imagine her being small, maybe in a black-white picture. You can try over time to imagine her in a ridicculous way, like with a high pitched voice, or wearing a clown's nose, or wearing some ridicculous clothes. Try to imagine her small and in a funny way as often as you can. This worked wonders for me when I was bullied on my previous workplace.

How to get yourself to tell her what you want to tell her in an assertive tone of voice. Practice at home, beginning with as less presure as you can. At first you will feel odd, your voice will feel weak and you will stumble on your words. But that is ok, since you are just practicing. If you keep on it, soon you will sound so much more confident, and when you try it telling to her, you will see it will be far less difficult. For extra practice, you can ask some good friend or family to role-play the situation. This is btw. what I did with my bullies at work.

Extra tip for possible guilt feelings: if you are not used to set boundaries, you might feel guilty for doing so. What worked for me was to get as soon as possible to a quiet place, alone, and tell myself how valuable I am, and how good I did to defend myself. Again, this feels odd at the beginning, but if done well, you end feeling much better.

Finally, I wish you lots of success.

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