Fun Activity Helps Kids Tell the Difference Between Bullying and Other Forms of Conflict & Aggression0
In my book, 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools and in this article featured online in Psychology Today, I make a distinction between behaviors that are rude, behaviors that are mean, and behaviors that are true examples of bullying. I explain why it is critical that parents and professionals are able to discern the differences between these troubling behaviors and explain the risks of lumping all bad behaviors under the bullying umbrella.
I created the activity below for educators, counselors. social workers, school psychologists, youth workers and parents to use with kids to help them learn and integrate behavioral definitions of rude, mean, and bullying. Please feel free to use this activity with the young people in your life to teach them about the key distinctions between these three behaviors. (I do ask that you include my name and contact information if you make photocopies of this activity or use it in any type of presentation.
ACTIVITY: Is it Rude, Is it Mean, or Is it Bullying?
After reviewing the distinctions between rude, mean, and bullying behavior (below), read the following scenarios aloud to kids. Challenge kids to move to a designated section in the room if the behavior represents bullying, to a different section if the behavior demonstrates meanness, and to a third section if the behavior is considered rude. Allow kids time to discuss why they chose to stand in a particular section, encouraging personal examples and reflection, as appropriate. An Answer Key is provided to guide your discussion.
Rude = Accidentally saying or doing something hurtful.
Rude behaviors include:
- Burping in someone’s face
- Butting in line
- Bragging about making a team
Rude behaviors are usually thoughtless and ill-mannered, but not meant to actually hurt someone else.
Mean = Saying or doing something to hurt a person on purpose, once or maybe twice.
The main difference between “rude” and “mean” behavior is that rudeness is usually unplanned. Mean behavior, on the other hand, is done on purpose.
Mean behaviors include:
- Making fun of what someone looks like or what they are wearing
- I don’t like your short hair. You look like a boy.
- Why did you wear that dress?
- Insulting someone’s intelligence or ability
- You’re so stupid.
- You stink at soccer.
- Saying or doing something unkind after a fight with a friend.
- Saying, “I hate you.”
- Taking something that doesn’t belong to you.
Make no mistake; mean behaviors are very hurtful and should be avoided at all times! Still, meanness is different from bullying in important ways that we’ll talk about next.
Bullying = Cruel behavior, done on purpose and repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.
To best understand bullying, remember the 3 P’s:
- It is done on Purpose; there is nothing “accidental” or unplanned about bullying
- It is a Pattern; the cruelty happens over and over again
- It is all about Power; the cruel person has more control and influence than his/her target
Kids who bully say or do something purposefully hurtful to others and they keep doing it again and again, with no sense of guilt or shame. Kids who bully have more power than the kids they pick on. This power may come from being older, stronger, or bigger in size or it may come from getting several kids to gang up on one target, to make that target feel hurt and alone.
- Kayla tells MacKenzie that she can’t sit with her on the bus today because she is saving the seat for a girl from her Social Studies class.
- Lucas tells Damien that he can’t play with the Legos because he is the worst builder in the whole first grade.
- Talia makes plans to go to the school dance with her new friend, Gwen. Katie tells Talia that if she hangs out at the dance with Gwen that everyone will think she is a total weirdo and no one will like her anymore. At lunch that day, Katie convinces everyone that it would be a really funny joke to all laugh out loud when Talia approached the lunch table.
- Devin and David are friends. In school, they had an argument. Devin called David a name and David shoved him out of his way.
- Maggie is making fun of the fact that Jessie hangs out with the boys at recess and wears long basketball shorts to school every day. In gym class, Maggie told her to go play on the boys’ team and the day before in homeroom, she wrote the words “You’re so gay” on Jessie’s desk.
- Brady told JP he would beat him up if he touched his cars, then shoved JP out of his way. During math class, he threw a spitball at JP and kicked his chair out from under him. He threatened to punch JP if JP told the teacher.
- Emma and Brit play on the same field hockey team and are normally best friends, but have been in an argument for three days. Emma called Brit a mean name after practice and Brit send Emma a mean text.
- Kayla & MacKenzie: Kayla is being rude, but here is no evidence of intentional meanness, repetitive behavior or a power imbalance.
- Lucas & Damien: Lucas is being mean. It appears that his words are intended to hurt Damien. There is no evidence of repetitive behavior or a power imbalance, however.
- Talia & Katie: Katie is acting like a bully. She has creating an unfair balance of power by getting all of the girls at the lunch table to laugh at Talia. She is also using words like “everyone” and “no one” to threaten Talia about how she will be socially excluded if she does not do what Katie wants her to do.
- Devin & David: Devin and David are engaging in rough play, or rude behavior. This is not bullying because the boys are usually friends, the power balance is relatively equal and the boys are not intending to harm each other.
- Maggie & Jessie: Maggie is acting like a bully. She is making fun of Jessie repeatedly, with intention to cause harm. Slurs based on sexual orientation are particularly cruel for young people and should be taken seriously by adults wishing to create a positive school culture.
- Brady & JP: Brady is acting like a bully. He is engaging in repetitive cruel behavior, designed to hurt JP. He is using intimidation and threats to create a power imbalance.
- Emma & Brit: Emma and Brit are being mean to each other. They are intending to hurt each other with their words and texts. The girls are normally friends, though, and at this point, this appears to be a mutual argument rather than a repetitive pattern of one-sided cruelty.
If you know a young person who would benefit from exploring the distinctions between rude, mean, and bullying and/or who would like to learn skills for managing conflict and bullying check out the 8 Keys to End Bullying Activity Book for Kids & Tweens. This book (and Companion Guide, sold separately or as a set) provides dozens of worksheets, quizzes, activities, puzzles, and skill-building games to teach these concepts and much, much more. Check it out here!
One of the most common reasons parents approach me is to ask for my advice on how to help their child handle a bullying situation at school. Fear for their child’s well-being combined with a sense of powerlessness at changing peer dynamics often leaves moms, dads, and other caregivers feeling helpless. The bad news is that conflict and bullying are pervasive among school-aged kids and most students will be impacted by physical or social aggression either directly or indirectly. The good news is that there are many, many ways that parents can help safeguard their children and positively impact kids’ relationships. Here are five of the simplest—yet most powerful—do’s and don’ts parents can use to help their kids handle conflict and bullying:
1. Words Matter
Do help kids understand the difference between unintentionally rude behavior (such as butting ahead in the lunch line), mean comments said in a moment of anger between friends (e.g. “You’re not my best friend anymore”), and bullying behavior that is characteristically marked by purposeful cruelty that is repeated over time and involves an abuse of power (whether that power be size and strength or social rank at school.)
Don’t allow kids to over-label rude and mean behaviors as ‘bullying.’ In recent years, gratuitous references to bullying in schools and communities have created a “little boy who cried wolf” phenomena, resulting in jaded adults failing to take action when needed and vulnerable children missing out on the adult support they desperately need.
2. Conflict is OK
Do teach your child that it is perfectly normal to disagree with a friend. Differences of opinion are perfectly acceptable and learning how to communicate them respectfully is a critical social skill.
Don’t worry that you’re too much of a helicopter parent if you intervene in your child’s friendship conflict. Kids are not born knowing how to resolve conflict (goodness knows too many people make it to adulthood without this knowledge!). Young people need supportive adults to coach them in how to disagree without arguing and how to apologize after they’ve behaved badly.
To read the rest of the article, please visit Signe’s blog on Psychology Today.
During the elementary school years, most kids are very aware of technology but still quite naïve about all of the hurtful ways in which it can be used. Well into their adolescence even, many kids remain oblivious to the legal consequences of their online actions. This real-life example of innocence-gone-awry by way of technology underscores that one of the most important things adults can do to bring an end to cyberbullying is to teach young kids about the risks of their online behavior and to give them skills to protect themselves from lasting harm.
For the full article, please click here or paste this link into your browser: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/signe-whitson/what-happens-when-kids-ma_b_5953026.html
A middle school Special Education teacher from Wisconsin recently reviewed my book, How to Be Angry, on her blog, Half-Past Kissin’ Time and on Amazon. She has some great insights about using the book with tweens and teens. Please check her review out here:
Through the wonders of social media, I have met up with some fascinating people doing great work with kids. Recently, I connected with Heather Thomas at The Helpful Counselor, who was nice enough to share my post about 4 Things Your Tween Needs to Know to Stay Strong in the Face of Bullying. I hate to bounce you from one site to the next, but please check out my post over on her site, then check out all of the other great things she has to offer!
As an author and educator on bullying, I have a keen sense about the urgency of my message but also a healthy awareness that as people sit down to attend one of my trainings, they may begin as “prisoners.” In other words, some boss or supervisor somewhere assigned the person to attend, though what they’d really rather be doing is preparing their classroom, working on lesson plans, collaborating with other teachers, or, well, anything but listening to another talking head droning on and on about an educator’s obligation to stop bullying. Yes, the bullying that was once never talked about has now have become so pervasive (and too often finger-wagging) that us anti-bullying messengers have run the risk of sounding like the teachers in the Charlie Brown cartoons.
My goal is always to turn the prisoners into opportunity-seekers: to help educator’s understand that they are in the rare position to “be that one person” in a child’s life who makes the child feel heard, understood, valued, defended, and strong. Likewise, teachers can reach out to kids who bully, understand the pain behind their aggressive behavior, and teach those students better way to behave, more constructive ways to exert power and control in their lives. As Haim Ginnot once said, teachers really are THE decisive element in the classroom.
This article, featured online in Science Daily, is a great tool for helping teachers, parents, and all adults understand the long term impact of bullying and realize that stopping bullying is not just one more item on the To Do list, but rather a critical opportunity to make all of the difference in a child’s long term well-being:
Great article in Education Week about the moral obligation of educators–and all adults–to remain connected with kids and take decisive action to prioritize the dignity and safety of young people.
“…schools have a responsibility not only to help students learn, but also to keep them safe, physically and emotionally, while they are in our care. If we are not addressing the culture of bullying and public shaming, if we are not doing everything we can to teach young people how to treat each other kindly and civilly, if we are ignoring social and emotional crises unfolding before our eyes, we are failing Rehtaeh and thousands like her.”
Classroom teachers have everything to do with stopping bullying. There. I said it. I often hesitate to make this assertion so plainly when speaking to educators, fearing my next move will have to be fending off rotten tomatoes lobbed at my head by teachers who won’t stand for having yet another responsibility heaped onto their already-overflowing plates.
If the spoiled fruit ever were to be thrown my way, I would understand the sentiment, but the fact that they never are is a true testament to the tremendous job that most classroom teachers willingly take on every day of the school year. The teachers who are making a difference in the movement to stop bullying are engaged role models of kindness and expert masters of diplomacy. They are true champions of the underdog and astute shapers of peer culture. They are not afraid to be direct and to confront bullying behavior whenever they see it. These teachers are improving the lives of young people each and every day and demonstrating that time spent on bullying prevention is time saved on conflict, alienation, academic struggles, and victimization. What follows are four strategies for stopping bullying that effective teachers share in common:
Click here to read my article on the HuffingtonPost that explains four strategies effective teachers use to stop bullying in their classrooms and schools:
I’m super-excited to share with you the cover of my new book, due out in the Spring of 2014, via Norton Publishers. The best part (aside from hoping to help lots of teachers, counselors, and kids, of course) is no more waking up at 5am to sneak in some quiet writing hours! Cheers to sleeping in for the rest of the Summer!!