Here at the middle school, we don’t tolerate bullying or mean behavior, but it is important to be able to distinguish the difference. The key difference between mean behavior and bullying is that bullying is mean behavior that is repeated often and over a period of time. Mean behavior is a random comment or act of unkindness. I often refer to the definition of bullying that is posted on my wall:
“Bullying is any mean look, gesture, word or action that is repeated over time, and that hurts another person’s body, things, feelings or friendships. ”
There are many different definitions of bullying, but this one seems to make sense to the students. Ignoring bullying is not the answer. The best technique to resolve it is to report it–to a trusted adult, a parent, a teacher, an administrator or the counselor. If the student is worried about doing that, bring a friend along for moral support. Some kids view that as “tattling”, but truly, letting a bully repeat the behavior is not doing him/her any favors either–it only allows the behavior to become a pattern, and what kind of success in life will that person have if their mode of operation is bullying?
We also teach kids to problem-solve, if the situation has not become too intense, using “I Statements”. The pattern is as follows:
I feel____________________(tell the person how you feel)
when you _________________(describe the behavior, what the person is doing that’s bothering you)
because I___________________(describe why it bothers you)
and I want__________________(tell them what you want them to instead)
If we can get kids to verbalize how they feel to one another, it will prevent a lot of conflict.
And finally, another technique I encourage kids to use is to suggest that they go to that “neutral place” when they’re upset with their friends. Don’t “hate” them, just be neutral with them. On a scale of 1 to 10, one being serious dislike, 10 being madly in love with, go to 5, a great neutral number. Embrace the 5!