First, let’s look at a good definition that we can use as a checklist to determine if activity is actual bullying. It is a easy way to help even a child to determine if they are being bullied.
Bullying is when someone causes any sort of harm to others, on purpose and repeatedly, with a malicious or selfish intent.
- Any sort of harm – The result of bullying can be physical (bruises, pain, loss of property, etc.) But it can also be emotional (humiliation, embarrassment, feelings of inadequacy, loss of confidence, etc.). And it can be social (isolation, disenfranchisement, loss of social status, friendships, etc.) Remember that sticks and stones may break some bones but words can sometimes hurt me.
- On purpose – The activity must also be intentional. If someone accidentally bumps into you, it is not bullying. If someone innocently mispronounces your name, it is not bullying. In this case, the person is taking the action deliberately.
- Repeatedly – The person that is taking the action has a history and pattern of purposely causing harm to others. Sometimes people have bad days and, in their irritability, they say things that are unkind. But a bully always seems to have a bad day and takes it out on others.
- Malicious or selfish intent – Finally, we have to take into account the “why” the activity happened. Let’s look at the example of a loving parent that punishes a child for repeated misbehavior In this case, there is some kind of harm (even if just emotional). The punishment was done on purpose. If the child is repeating the misbehavior, the parent may have to consistently punish that child. So we are checking all the boxes except for this last one: intent. In this case, the parent is not punishing the child out of malice or selfishness but out of desire for a better future for that child.
Bullying is an insidious crime because in many cases, it is ignored or excused but it can have real lasting effects. It can rip away happiness, relationships, comfort and safety at a time when those things are so pivotal in providing a foundation for education and development. It can take a world that should be full of wondrous color and leave it feeling grey or even black. And this is true for the victim and the perpetrator.
Any time that your child brings bullying up, make sure to go through this checklist with him. We don’t want to confuse real acts of bullying with something that may more excusable.
If you are the parent of a child that is on either side of bullying (victim or perpetrator), please reach out to us and we can schedule a free, no obligation session to help work with your family.
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