In the past few years, the subject of bullying has been in the media and programs presented to children in school on a regular basis. With all of the intense publicity, parents, teachers and students have become hyper-sensitive to this subject. This sensitivity can get all of us very confused; the words, “I am being bullied”, or “My child is being bullied,” seem to come more quickly to the lips of parents and students. Everything that happens seems to get labeled as ‘bullying’.
What is bullying? Bullying is a form of emotional or physical abuse. Bullying is not just a conflict between two individuals, and it is not a one time physical contact. Bullying behavior may be an aggressive physical activity or the exclusion of someone from playing in the game with the others, but the behavior is not bullying unless it has the following three characteristics:
- Deliberate (with the intention to hurt someone)
- Repeated (the aggressor targets the same person again and again)
- Power imbalance (the target is perceived or is as vulnerable)
Although we would like to quickly recognize and label the behavior by asking if the three characteristics apply, it is not quite that easy. Bullying behavior should always be treated seriously because it may lead to bullying, as defined above, or it may need to be looked at more closely to determine if the three characteristics actually apply to the individuals involved. It is not as simple as it may appear.
The month of October is Bully Prevention Month. Beginning this month, I hope to provide a closer look at this subject for parents, teachers and students that will begin a conversation on creating a culture of peace in our schools and community.