Thursday, October 10, 2013

Conversation on Bullying

Can we talk about bullying?

It's running rampant, yes?  A serious problem in our schools and communities.

But what exactly is bullying?

Because I really feel like we are over-using the word.
A bully is "a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people."

Bullying is "to act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer."

Intimidate.  Domineer. Overbearing.  Blustering. Quarrelsome. Badgering.

Doesn't it seem like we are changing the definition?  Sometimes I feel like the accusations of bullying fly around when all that's really happening is a learning curve of social skills.

My daughter has an ability to be mean.  She can be bossy.  She can be controlling.  And a lot of times, when she gets bossy or tries to stick to the rules or tries to take charge in a situation, she is accused of bullying.

I see a distinct difference between being bossy and being a bully.

And I think it's dangerous to label every negative behavior between kids as bullying.

For Teagan, she often feels like she's trying to be helpful.  She'll be a great project manager or teacher someday.  Not only does she want to do things right on her own, she wants to make sure other people do things right, too.  So her intention is good.  And she doesn't recognize how her words and actions can be interpreted as overbearing.

And yes, there are times that she choose to be mean with her words.  I know that to be true.

But I also know that sometimes there is "drama" between 8 and 9 year olds as they start to experience first crushes and the embarassment of people finding out those crushes.

I consider bullying to be a person using their words or physical presence to intimidate, hurt, be cruel, cause damage.

But it seems that we want to label any disagreement between kids, any incident of gossip, any issue as bullying.

A friend of mine's son had a bully threaten to bring a gun and shoot him.  I see that as VERY different than my daughter getting caught up in drama with kids her age and each of them saying things and doing things in the midst of their emotions that end up causing hurt feelings.  A friend of mine's daughter has dealt with a kid on the playground who punches her every day.  I see that as VERY different than my daughter telling someone that the sky is supposed to be blue instead of purple in their drawing.

My long time readers know that we take bullying very seriously in our home.  And with recent events, we are going to reiginite the focus on being kind and filling buckets.

But I think there is a big misunderstanding (thanks in part to the media) about what bullying really is.

So let's talk about it.  Do you think bullying has become a buzz word applied to any negative child behavior?  Do you think bullying does cover any and every instance of someone feeling badly?  What is the gray area?  What is the clearly black/white area?



rebeca @ the average parent said...

I think you're right. Something that stands out to me is that bullying is done with intent and possibly forethought. There is the intention to hurt or intimidate another person. I think this one size fits all approach is dangerous, but that seems to be the method for public schools these days. Zero tolerance and such.

Dana C said...

I couldn't agree more. We are blatantly abusing the word.

Unknown said...

I agree completely, Liz.

Alison said...

Yes. The same thing has already happened to the word "hero," in my opinion. The difference is that overusing the word "bully" can have serious consequences in the new zero-tolerance world of schools.

Michelle@Gotchababy said...

Agreed! Sometimes I correct my daughter when she comes home with tales of observing something she's labeled as bullying.

That's not to say that an awareness of not being kind is bad, but there's a difference between being bossy/not going with the program/trying to exert your own leadership in a group and being hurtful on purpose.

Karen M. Peterson said...

I absolutely agree with this. "Bullying" has become little more than a buzz word, and the unfortunate thing about it is that it dilutes the true meaning of the word and makes actual instances of bullying seem less severe than they are.

Doreen McGettigan said...

I also could not agree more.
I think our little ones today are going to grow up so confused.
It is a fact that some people are natural leaders and some are natural followers. I wish parents could find the good qualities in each of those and nurture them.

Liz's Mom said...

We are creating "professional victims" who will never learn to stand up for themselves. The school of hard knocks will be particularly difficult...unless all those bullies follow them into the work force (which we are already seeing).