October is Bully Prevention Month!

En Espanol

Dear Families: October is bully-prevention month, and I want to provide information about different types of behaviors. In a 2012 article called “Rude Vs. Mean Vs. Bullying: Defining the Differences” by Signe Whitson, a child and adolescent therapist, shared information about how it is important to distinguish between “rude,” “mean,” and “bullying” behaviors so that everyone involved with children, including the students themselves, “know what to pay attention to and when to intervene.”  Please note that the author refers to the behavior as rude, mean, or bullying – not the child; this is important because these are terms for the behavior, as we would never label children in this manner.

Rude or Impolite Behavior:  Rude, Signe Whitson says, is saying or doing something that hurts someone else without intending to cause harm. In children, this takes the form of social errors like “burping in someone’s face, jumping ahead in line, throwing a crushed-up pile of leaves in someone’s face.” An important aspect of this includes: “Incidents of rudeness are usually spontaneous, unplanned inconsideration, based on thoughtlessness, poor manners or narcissism, but not meant actually to hurt someone.”

Mean Behavior: Being mean involves “purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once (or maybe twice).” Unlike rudeness, “mean behavior very much aims to hurt or devalue someone. Very often, mean behavior in kids is motivated by angry feelings and/or the misguided goal of propping themselves up in comparison to the person they are putting down.” Rudeness and mean behavior require correction, and they are “different from bullying in important ways that should be understood and differentiated.”

Bullying Behavior: Bullying is “intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power. Kids who bully say or do something intentionally hurtful to others, keep doing it, and have no sense of regret or remorse — even when targets show or express their hurt or tell them to stop.” Whitson gives examples of multiple kinds of bullying, including physical and verbal aggression, relational aggression (like social exclusion, hazing, or rumor spreading), and cyberbullying. A key aspect of all of them is the ongoing nature of the behavior, which leaves the victims feeling powerless and fearful.

It’s important for our staff and families to understand that peer conflicts will occur as children start playing and interacting with each other in a school-based setting.  Skills such as sharing, waiting a turn, listening, joining an activity, greeting peers, lining up, following the rules of a game, and so on are prime spots for conflict to occur.  Some students may be verbally or physically aggressive at our school because they have not yet learned typical, age-appropriate language or social skills. Some students may act impulsively, try to get peer attention negatively or act a certain way to be considered ‘cool’ or to fit in.

Grown-ups at home and school can help students understand strategies to report, prevent, and repair bullying behavior. We help them understand that reporting concerning behaviors is not tattling, which is telling on someone to get them in trouble. Instead, it helps keep everyone safe, and adults can help teach the skills needed to get along in a school setting. Staff at our school also work to prevent, teach, and intervene with pro-social skills such as sharing, helping, including others, using kind words, asking for help when needed, and so on. Finally, we will ask our students to repair any harm caused through apology or mediation. 

By understanding and talking to children and staff about the differences in behaviors, we can better identify the behavior and take appropriate action. Please contact your child’s teacher with any questions or concerns and to request strategies or responses that are developmentally and age-appropriate for them.

Respectfully –

Erica Bowman, principal

Cited and Related Sources:

Signe Whitson article – 2012

A Mighty Girl

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