I have no doubts: bullying is a bad thing.
But, kids are mean. Kids don’t know how to deal with the other kid who is ‘different’, and ‘different’ kids get picked on.
Understand where I’m coming from. I grew up as the ‘different’ kid: a bit socially-awkward, a bit un-sporty, a lot nerdy. Low fruit for mean kids, and for the kids who need to make themselves look good by making others look worse. But, the only time I’ve ever considered myself ‘bullied’ is in the workplace, as an adult. Many other kids probably had a similar experience to me through school, and learnt that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words leave deep scars, making you question your worth well into adulthood when the things that once made you ‘weird’ now may even make you the envy of the ‘normal’.
Here is my question: is there a difference between bullying and kids being mean?
If there is, what’s the difference? If we label all acts of kids being mean as bullying, do some kids end up more victimised: not only are they taunted by their peers, they are now labeled as ‘bullied’ by the grown ups. But if we blanket say that most ‘bullying’ is just kids being mean, then do the genuine bullies - the ones that seek out weak kids to make fun of - get away with it more easily. And if we say that kids are just mean, are we implying that it’s okay, it’s just a part of growing up, and ignore the kids on the receiving end?
If there is a difference - and I think there probably is - we need a different approach to dealing with the bully as we do with dealing with the kids who are mean. And whether there is a difference or not, dealing with bullying can’t be just left up to the schools. It needs to start at home. We need to teach our children to be resilient, confident and respectful of differences. (I also like to remind my son that he doesn’t have to be friends with the dominant personalities that like to call the shots, often at his expense: there’s plenty of nice kids at school to play with!) Not that schools have no responsibility, but, like most things, schools, parents and students need to work together to make it work.
What do you think? (Feel free to disagree!)