BULLYING OR UNKIND?
September 18, 2018
Let’s be honest, we all occasionally say or do something that hurts someone, even if it’s unintentional. But it’s important to understand that not every unkind act or word constitutes bullying.
Kids especially, who are still navigating how to get along with others, often say things that are “mean” such as, “I don’t like you,” or, “I don’t want to play with you,” which although not nice, do not make the child a bully. Instead of labelling statements like this as “aggressive behaviour,” it can be a great opportunity for a valuable conversation between children, to find out why the person who upset the other feels that way.
Although no parent likes to see their kids upset, telling them that every unkind thing is bullying actually makes authentic bullying lose its meaning. So what exactly does bullying mean?
The dictionary says it is, “using superior strength or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force him or her to do what they want.”
Bullying occurs in four main ways:
- Physical – hitting, shoving, coercing, unwanted sexual contact etc.
- Verbal – spreading rumours, threatening, derogatory comments etc.
- Social – excluding, humiliating, ganging up on etc.
- Cyber – putting down, making fun of, intimidating etc. on social media or texting
Here are a few examples that your child may experience to help you determine what is bullying and should be addressed, and what is just unkind and you can support them through.
BEING LEFT OUT VERSUS BEING EXCLUDED
While children should be nice to all their peers, expecting them to be close friends with everyone is not realistic. Being left off the guest list for a birthday party or playdate does hurt, but is not bullying. You can help your child by reminding them that they can’t include everyone in their own special events and ask guests to not discuss in front of those who aren’t invited.
When there is intent to exclude – bragging with a group who went to an event in front of the person not invited, posting photos online of the event and tagging someone not invited etc. – this is bullying.
EXPRESSING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS – INNOCENT VERSUS MALICIOUS
Kids speak their minds without thinking. Although it can hurt the recipient, it’s normal to have a child ask things like, “why are you fat?” or “what are those red marks on your face?” This is coming from a place of innocence and is not bullying. Adults can help kids ask questions in appropriate ways, as well as teaching those on the receiving end to express how they didn’t like what was said in the unkind way.
When kids have asked their question and received an answer, or been told it hurts the person to keep talking about it but continue to do so to embarrass or humiliate them, that is bullying.
TEASING VERSUS INTENT TO HURT
Kids joke around and tease each other. When all parties find it good natured, teasing can actually be a healthy part of friendships as it comes with a sense of comfortability.
But when teasing becomes cruel, with the intention of hurting someone through derogatory comments and name calling, spreading rumours, or making threats, it becomes bullying.
At Kids Inc. we believe teachers and parents need to lead by example, modelling kindness in our own conversations and when handling conflict resolution. By doing this, children will be better equipped to handle situations appropriately. We also encourage parents and kids to discuss the difference between unkind behaviour and bullying so you know when to report and when to teach coping methods.