Is it bullying or just rudeness?
Yesterday as I was walking towards my daughter on school grounds, I noticed a boy rolling a hoop. He was in line with where my daughter was splayed on the ground. As he came up to her, he rolled the hoop over her, continuing in the line he was travelling. She sat up, as the hoop made contact and then lowered herself back down. In my head, the mama bear was threatening to come out.
But what kind of behaviour had I just witnessed? I will admit to being sensitive to bullying. All through school I had a bully or a group of bullies who would make my life hell. I worry that this will happen to my kids as well. A part of me worried that this act was aggressive. But as I stepped back from my own experience I realised that the boy was just being rude.
Did he mean to roll the hoop over her and potentially provoke her to action? Probably not. Did he think to skirt around her? No, he didn’t. Recently I read quite a good article about this subject by Signe Whitson. The idea is that we tend to leap to “bullying” when something happens to our kids. In reality, the action might be rude or mean, but not bullying in the dangerous sense.
It’s important that we understand and address all sorts of behaviours with our kids because they need to learn to navigate that social stuff. That learning comes as much from working through the event with a trusted friend or adult, as it does from experiencing the event itself. Identifying bullying is important too because that is the stuff they won’t be able to deal with 100% on their own.
Sometimes kids are rude. They do something, or say something which hurts the other party or causes offense, but it’s unintentional. My own daughter is quite often rude. She talks non-stop about subjects that interest her but will not listen to others talk about subjects she has no interest in. She cuts in on conversations she hasn’t been involved in. She hugs without getting permission first.
Sometimes kids are mean. They might say something mean, or text something mean. This feels more serious than just rudeness, but it is usually a once off action. Friends can have a fight, say mean things and still be friends. Bullying on the other hand is something that is on-going. It singles out an individual or a group, and it excludes them somehow. Despite knowing how the singled out person feels, it doesn’t stop or instead escalates. The person on the receiving end feels disempowered and alone.
If we can witness or listen to these stories from our kids, and help them identify the moments that involve, rudeness, meanness or flat out bullying; we have a better chance of helping them know what to do next time. And we have a better chance of identifying those on-going problems too.
This blog was written by Kym Moore.
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