What Bullying Is Not
When talking about bullying, it is very important for students, teachers, and parents to understand what bullying is not. Many times, a single act or behavior is hurtful, but it is not considered bullying.
The history between the individuals is also a consideration when determining if the behavior meets the definition of bullying. Have there been past conflicts? Are there “neighborhood issue”? Have these two individuals had a dating relationship? (These may not be considered bullying).
It is very important for the victim to know what bullying is not to make sure that when things seem hurtful, they will not fall immediately into the category of bullying, because the way to overcome bullying is different from the way to overcome other hurtful acts.
- Not liking someone – It is very natural that people do not like everyone around them and, as unpleasant as it may be to know someone does not like you, verbal and non-verbal messages of “I don’t like you” are not acts of bullying.
- Being Excluded – Again, it is very natural for people to gather around a group of friends and we cannot be friends with everyone, so it is acceptable that when kids have a party or play a game at the playground, they will include their friends and exclude others. It is very important to remind kids they do the same thing sometimes too and, although exclusion is unpleasant, it is not an act of bullying.
- Accidentally Bumping Into Someone – When people bump into others, the reaction depends mostly on the bumped person’s mood. If they have had a bad day, they think it was an act of aggressive behavior, but if they are in the good mood, they smile back and attract an apology. It is very important for teachers and parents to explain that some accidents happen without any bad intention and it is important not to create a big conflict, because it was NOT an act of bullying.
- Making Other Kids Play Things a Certain Way – Again, this is very natural behavior. Wanting things to be done our way is normal and is not an act of bullying. To make sure kids do not fall into considering it as an aggressive or “bossy” behavior, we need to teach them assertiveness. Again, although it is not fun or pleasant, this is NOT bullying.
- A Single Act of Telling a Joke About Someone – Making fun of other people is not fun for them, but the difference between having a sense of humor and making fun of someone is very fine. It is important to teach kids (and grownups) that things they say as jokes should also be amusing for the others. If not, they should stop. Unless it happens over and over again and done deliberately to hurt someone, telling jokes about people is NOT bullying.
- Arguments – Arguments are just heated disagreements between two (or more) people (or groups). It is natural that people have different interests and disagree on many things. Think about it, most of us have disagreements with ourselves, so it is very understandable to have disagreements with others. The argument itself is NOT a form of bullying, although some people turn arguments into bullying, because they want to win the arguments so much. They use every means to get what they want and find a weakness in the other person, abuse knowledge or trust they have gained and use it against the other person. It is very important to distinguish between natural disagreements and bullying during an argument.
- Expression of Unpleasant Thoughts or Feelings Regarding Others – Again, Communication requires at least two players. Although it may be unpleasant to hear what someone things about you, it is NOT a form of bullying but a very natural thing. In every communication, there are disagreements and some form of judgment about each others attitude and behavior. If someone says to you, “I think this was not a nice gesture” or You insulted me when you said this”, this is NOT bullying but an expression of thoughts and feelings.
- Isolated Acts of Harassment, Aggressive Behavior, Intimidation or Meanness – The definition of bullying states that there is a repetition in the behavior. Bullying is a conscious, repeated, hostile, aggressive behavior of an individual or a group abusing their position with the intention to harm others or gain real or perceived power. Therefore, anything that happens once is NOT an act of bullying. As a parent, it is important that you pay attention to what your kids are telling you and find out if things are happening more than once.