When Bullying has Become a Buzzword

pink shirt day to stop bullying and anti-bullying

Stop Bullying

I don’t know anyone-child or adult-that doesn’t have a bullying story. I talked about bullying before here. And, just after the Oscars, I wondered if commenting on weight is bullying.

I’ve been bullied. My kids have been bullied. My friends have been bullied. The children of my friends have been bullied. Like actually been bullied. As in, ‘I don’t want to go back. I’m afraid’ bullied.

Unfortunately, though, that’s not always the case when the word is used, or rather overused. I’m concerned that we’ve lost sight of what true pervasive malicious meanness is.

We’ve forgotten that in this world, sometimes people say mean, teasing, or stupid things. And that’s not bullying. That’s just life. Crappy, dorky, normal, everyday life.

Accusing someone of bullying has become a tool for kids to get someone in trouble. Employing phrases like anti-bullying measures and zero tolerance have become a way for people to pay lip service to stop bullying without really doing anything. All the wolf-crying is diluting the message. And children are suffering in so many ways.

I’m so scared the word bullying is losing steam, and the true horrible destructive nature of the action will get lost amongst its buzzword-ness. That scares me.

I had to threaten to call the police before the school stopped another boy from kicking and punching my son to the point he wouldn’t go to school anymore. That’s bullying.
Boys told my kid his shirt was funny looking. That’s not bullying. Its just mean.
I was FIRED from a job by the very person that was tormenting me at work. She stayed, I went. That’s bullying.
My kids observed other kids making fun of SPECIAL NEEDS kids. Nobody said anything. That’s bullying.
A girl told another girl she wasn’t invited to her party and couldn’t sit at their table for lunch. That’s not bullying. Its just mean.
A teenager spread rumours that a boy was gay and posted it all over Facebook. That’s bullying.
A car full of teenage girls drove by another girl, laughed at her, then drove off. That’s not bullying. Its just mean.

I’m GLAD people will wear pink tomorrow to make us aware that we have to DO something. But, I hope they don’t think wearing a t-shirt is actually DOING SOMETHING. We’re all aware that we, as a society, have a problem. But, the the solution is hidden in what we as human beings do after we take the t-shirt off.

What can you ACTUALLY do to stop bullying?

1. Teach your children NOT to bully. Teach and MODEL kindness, compassion, empathy, and acceptance for ALL people.

2. TAKE YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND! Everybody’s kid screws up! If you know your child is being nasty, TAKE CARE OF IT! You aren’t doing your precious flower any favours by not seeing their weaknesses as well as their strengths. If your child is bullying at school, they are obviously in need of help from you, their caregiver. Do your JOB.

3. Teach them that COOL kids are not the bystanders, but those who stand up for others. Let them know that being a bystander is JUST AS BAD as being a bully.

4. Let school administrations know that ZERO tolerance doesn’t mean ‘we’ll investigate.’ Controlling destructive behaviour is not the time to be politically correct. We’re growing up people, and we need to teach them that there are consequences, not just conversations.

5. Teach your children to advocate for themselves, and not be afraid to tell. Take the power back from the bully.

6. Teach your children the life skills they’ll need to manage not nice people, and help them to discern between bullying and meanness. Give them the tools to answer to nasty words, and the power to rise above. Encourage them to seek out friends who will value them and stick up for them, as opposed to those who may blow like the wind when the opportunity arises.

I’m still wearing pink on this February Leap Year Day. Because I believe we have a problem. Its a mean world we seem to have created. And it’s got to stop. We need more than awareness. We need action.

For more information, go to PINK SHIRT DAY.CA

What do you think? What are you doing to stop bullying?

Let’s link up to other posts about bullying. Please put yours in the comments or send me a message and I’ll put a link.

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  1. You’re absolutely right to distinguish between being mean and bullying. We all see both on a regular basis and need to be clear on which is which. I really hope the message about bullying doesn’t become diluted. There are so many kids afraid and pushed to the brink. We talk and inform our kids and call them out if they make mistakes. By the same token we’re pretty clear that just because someone doesn’t like them or teases them, it does not make them a bully.

    • thanks Kat. I am so worried because when something is ‘in’ then it goes ‘out’ and a new buzz topic is picked up. This issue is too serious and pervasive to be pushed under the rug.

  2. I love how you clearly address that part (most) of the problem and the key to the solution are us as parents. Somebody’s kid is the bully and it is our responsibility to make sure that it isn’t ours.

  3. I agree, Mara. We parents — and adults (i.e. educators) — have to take our heads out of the sand and lead the way to better life skills and behavior.

  4. Paula Schuck says:

    Mara: you hit it dead on. Looking for a post I have written on this. Bullying sucks. But we are all casting shadows on what it really means and kids get confused. My kids will say so and so tells me I can’t sit beside her. She is a bulky. NOPE. Just mean and you know a kid. Also kids sometimes don’t wanna play with everybody. As an adult sending the message on the schoolyard that everyone must play with everyone else is not accurate either. I don’t want to be friends with everyone. That is life. I believe we greatly miss the mark as adults by neglecting to see bullying as our problem. It is an adult problem and kids too often are left without a person to back them up. Also every time some shortsighted bureaucrat or politician cuts funding to something like children’s mental health they fuel the fire. We all have a duty.


    • Paula Schuck says:

      Not a bulky, a bully. Stupid autocorrect.

    • true. so true. bullying is an adult problem because its our job to raise these kids to be responsible caring adults. our world is so complicated. these kids need all the help they can get to sort through the muck.

  5. You make some great points. If we dilute what bullying actually is, I can see how fighting against it will only become more difficult. My son was a victim of real bullying, and school administrators wanted to blow it off as ‘boys being boys.’ When it becomes physical, it goes beyond that ‘being mean’ threshold. Schools need to do more about educating their teachers and administrators on how to address bullying.

    (visiting via Blogger Comment Club)

    • You are so right!! I cannot even begin to tell you how sick I am about the schools ‘no tolerance’ policies. There needs to be action and education. There must be a way to effectively deal with bullying while educating the children on kindness.

  6. I love this post– thank you so much for it! I completely agree that often people forget the difference between being mean and bullying. You included some awesome examples to show the difference. This year my high schooler experienced bullying from a teacher- no she was not just being mean. When we went in to discuss it with the administration they were great- but afterwards- WOW! The teacher was allowed to act like a 5 year old and pretend my son wasn’t in her class. You cannot imagine how frustrated it made him as he was told to act like an adult. Thankfully he is now out of her class but I fear for others who must deal with her- as she did not learn anything from the situation. We learned a lot.

    I found your blog through the blogger comment club- thanks for letting me visit.

  7. You said it girl! The only thing that I disagree on, is that mean comments can be bullying too. It all depends on the nature and intention. I work with Signe Whitson, she specializes in girl bullying. I think that girl bullying is a different animal that boy bullying. It doesn’t always involve physical violence, but it does just as much if not more damage to a person. I have been bullied, manipulated and judged all of my life – it HURTS! Yes, it is mean, but it is also a method of bullying. Bullying is defined by the CDC as the following –
    “Attack or intimidation with the intention to cause
    fear, distress, or harm that is either physical (hitting,
    punching), verbal (name calling, teasing), or
    psychological/relational (rumors, social exclusion); A real or perceived imbalance of power between the bully and the victim; and Repeated attacks or intimidation between the same
    children over time.

    Girl bullying falls into the gray area of course. My bullying actually came from my parents, strange I know. Being a parent now and a survivor of bullying, I can say honestly it is our JOB as parents to STOP this behavior. Many of the bullies are just demonstrating what they deal with at home, or lash out because they don’t have support at home.

    I am building a movement on bullying being a parent’s role in stopping and preventing. We lead by example. Check out my blog http://www.ourmommyhood.com and also http://www.signewhitson.com. She has some great insight and advice for parents to help their children.

    Thank you for this post, it has motivated me to get my post started on bullying.

    • Hi Shannon, thanks so much for your comment. I totally agree with you actually-girl bullying is bullying. What I meant by meanness, and maybe I could have clarified more, is those one off comments as opposed to systematic, pervasive meanness. Often times at my kids’ school, I see accusations of bullying that are just normal childhood behaviour. I don’t think there’s anything grey about the way girls torment each other. I’m glad you’re building movement around parental involvement in stopping bullying. Please count me in!

  8. my daughter has been bullied. by a mean girl. this post is so important! thank you!

  9. My son is only two and I’ve already worried about what he might face someday when he’s older and in school. I hope that all the awareness the issue is getting now will pave the way for more tolerant schools and policies in place to make them that way.

    • its human nature that meanness and bullying will always be around. I hope though, that people start to help their children to understand the power of their words so at least it becomes less.


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