I have been involved in bullying prevention for a while now. And I love helping other people navigate the complicated situation of bullying. But, I have always been bothered by the small percentage of parents who get caught up in the idea of bullying without knowing what it is. What I mean by this is, they are not able to distinguish between normal conflict and bullying nor can they tell the difference between bullying and unkind behavior.
And while no child should ever be subjected to another child's mean behavior, it's very important that you call a situation what it is. Are the kids being mean, or are they bullying? Both situations need to be dealt with, but it's important to distinguish between mean behavior and bullying. When parents label every mean thing bullying, the issue of bullying becomes diluted and the serious issues can get buried or overlooked.
Yes, kids can be unkind and yes kids will disagree. But not every negative and uncomfortable thing a child experiences is bullying. For a situation to be considered bullying, three components must exist.
First, there has to be a power imbalance. In other words, one child is more powerful in some way. For instance, there is a power imbalance when one child is bigger, stronger or more popular. Second, the action must be repeated. A one-time incident is not bullying. Bullying is a pattern of behavior that is repeated over time. And third, the action is intentional. A bully always intends to hurt another person either emotionally or physically.
Also, it's important for parents to remember that these are kids they are dealing with. My heart breaks to hear another parent talking badly about a child, even a bully. Remember, kids are still growing and learning. And they make mistakes. Sometimes their mistakes include bullying another child. And while they should definitely be held accountable for bullying behavior, I don't feel they should be the subject of gossip and rumors.
Keep in mind, kids change. Even the child who bullied your child yesterday could behave differently today. What's more, some kids are bully-victims. What this means is that while they may bully others, they also are on the receiving end of bullying. And while this doesn't make their behavior acceptable, the picture is often more complicated than you realize.
So please don't label a child a bully for the rest of his life. Allow room in your heart for him to mature and to change. Keep an open mind. And please speak as respectfully about another person's child as you expect them to speak about your child. Just because a child bullied your child does not give you a license to say anything you want. You still must model respect for your child.
For more ideas on how to view kids who bully, check out 4 Things Parents Should Remember About Bullies.
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