Bully Awareness Week
Stand up against bullying wear purple on November 15!
This week is to bring awareness to the issue of bullying. It’s a week for our students, staff and parents to understand what bullying is and isn’t. How students and adults can help bullied students. For students to reflect on their behaviors and how they might improve peer relationships. And for victims of bullying, how they can get help.
Over describing different types of conflict by using the word Bullying causes the word to loss its importance and significance.
It is important to distinguish between rude, mean and bullying so that teachers, school administrators, police, youth workers, parents and kids all know what to pay attention to and when to intervene.
If kids and parents improperly classify rudeness and mean behavior as bullying- we run the risk of not giving the word Bullying the importance it deserves. As we have heard too often in the news, a child's future may depend on a non-jaded adult's ability to discern between rudeness at the bus stop and life-altering bullying.
Here are the differences:
Everyone is having Fun
No one is getting hurt
Everyone is participating equally
Hurt feelings will cause the teasing to stop.
No one is having fun
There is a possible solution to the disagreement
Equal balance of power
Hurting someone on purpose
Reaction to a strong feeling or emotion (they may be feeling hurt)
An isolated event (does not happen regularly)
Attacked physically, socially, and/or emotionally
Unequal balance of power
Happens more than once over a time period
Hurting someone on purpose
Rude = Inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else.
From kids, rudeness might look like burping in someone's face, jumping ahead in line, bragging about achieving the highest grade or even throwing a crushed-up pile of leaves in someone's face. On their own, any of these behaviors could appear as elements of bullying, but when looked at in context, incidents of rudeness are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners or narcissism, but not meant to really hurt someone.
Mean = Purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once (or maybe twice).
The main distinction between "rude" and "mean" behavior has to do with intention; while rudeness is often unintentional, mean behavior very much aims to hurt or depreciate someone. Kids are mean to each other when they criticize clothing, appearance, intelligence, coolness or just about anything else they can find to belittle. Meanness also sounds like words spoken in anger -- impulsive cruelty often regretted in short order. Very often, mean behavior in kids occur because of angry feelings and/or the misguided goal of propping themselves up in comparison to the person they are putting down. Commonly, meanness in kids sounds an awful lot like:
• "Are you seriously wearing that sweater again? Didn't you just wear it, like, last week? Get a life."
• "You are so fat/ugly/stupid."
• "I hate you!" “I’m not your friend!”
Make no mistake; mean behaviors can wound deeply, and adults can make a huge difference in the lives of young people when they hold kids accountable for being mean. Yet, meanness is different from bullying in important ways. Understand the differences and differentiate when it comes to intervention.
Bullying = Intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.
Experts agree that bullying entails three key elements: an intent to harm, a power imbalance and repeated acts or threats of aggressive behavior. Kids who bully say or do something intentionally hurtful to others and they keep doing it, with no sense of regret or remorse -- even when targets of bullying show or express their hurt or tell the aggressors to stop.
Bullying may be physical, verbal, relational or carried out via technology:
• Physical aggression This kind of bullying includes hitting, punching, kicking, spitting, tripping, hair pulling, and a range of other behaviors that involve physical aggression.
• Verbal aggression is what our parents used to advise us to "just ignore." We now know that despite the adage, words and threats can, indeed, hurt and can even cause profound, lasting harm.
• Relational aggression is a form of bullying in which kids use their friendship--or the threat of taking their friendship away--to hurt someone. Social exclusion, shunning, hazing, and rumor spreading are all forms of this pervasive type of bullying that can be especially crushing to kids.
• Cyber-bullying is a specific form of bullying that involves technology. It is the "willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices." Notably, the likelihood of repeated harm is especially high with cyber-bullying because multiple parties access electronic messages, resulting in repeated exposure and repeated harm.
(Adapted from an article written by Signe Whitson, Author; Child and adolescent therapist written for the Huffington Post.)
An example of what is NOT Bullying
Last week, a boy bullied my daughter badly after school! She was getting off her bus when this kid from our neighborhood threw a fistful of leaves right in her face! When she got home, she still had leaves in the hood of her coat. It's just awful! I don't know what to do about these bullies."
"Was she very upset when she got home?" I empathized.
"No. She just brushed the leaves off and told me they were having fun together," she said.
"Oh," I answered knowingly, aware that oftentimes kids try to downplay victimization by bullies from their parents, due to the embarrassment and shame they feel. "Did you get the sense she was covering for the boy?"
"No, no. She really seemed to think it was fun. She said that she threw leaves back at him, which I told her NEVER to do again! The nerve of those kids."
"Those 'kids,' I clarified. "Was it just the one boy throwing leaves or were there a bunch of kids all ganging up on her?"
"No, it was just this one boy that lives about a block from us," she assured me.
"Is he usually mean to her? Has he bothered her after school before?" I asked, eager at this point to figure out what the bullying issue was.
"No. I don't think so at least. That was the first time she ever said anything about him. It was the first time that I noticed the leaves all over her coat. But it better be the last time! I won't stand for that kid bullying her. Next time, I am going to make sure the Principal knows what is going on after school lets out!"