The word is used so often these days that sometimes I think we have lost all semblance of what it really means. If someone is mean to you on the Internet…they are a bully. If a kid hits your kid at school one day on the playground….they are a bully. If your kid calls another kid a name….they are a bully. On and on. Round and round. You would think the world is FULL of bullies.
So let’s take a moment and look at the definition of bully.
use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants. from Google
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. from StopBullying.gov
Both of these definitions lead us to see that NONE of the examples I mentioned are actually examples of bullying. They can end up there but at that moment they are not.
We as parents really need to make sure we understand the use of the word “bully” and be careful of how we use it in front of our children. When our children come to us to tell us of a hurt they have experienced, it is hard not to jump to “OMG! I can’t believe you are having to deal with that terrible BULLY! I will talk to your teacher immediately!”. Believe me….I’ve been there. I’ve said it.
But here’s what happens.
Then the hurt child goes to school and yells at the other kid “My mom says you’re a BULLY!” Then other kids start saying “Bully, bully, you are a bully!”. It happens. Then that child who maybe just had a bad day and lashed out in anger or who truly has behavioural issues at school is surrounded by kids yelling “Bully!”. That child who may be eaten up with anxiety over their hatred of school sees their classmates looking at them and yelling the most hated word in education today.
And something in that child dies.
The next time they feel out of control, the hit comes easier because that is what is expected of them anyway, right?
Think about it.
I am not saying not to take up for your child. I’m really not. You SHOULD have a great relationship with your child’s school and teacher. No child should have to go to school in fear of another child. However, school is a right of ALL children even those with behaviour problems. Getting rid of “that kid” or “that bully” is often unrealistic. Where would they go exactly?
Also know that for every kid that is hurt who has a parent worried about them going to school there is ALSO a parent of a child with trouble at school. A parent who gets a sour feeling in their stomach every day at drop off and cringes every time the phone rings because it might be the school. Who has to tell their kid that the kids calling him a bully aren’t also bullies….even when they think that those kids might be.
As parents, we are all worried about how our kids will manage in this world of ours. Let’s just not be too quick to label. Kids….all kids…..need a chance to figure it out without having to carry a word like Bully around. It’s just too heavy.
Before you ask…this is not about Evan specifically. It is a bit about him and his troubles last year but more about what I see in the world around me.