What is bullying?

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Many adults over a certain age commonly talk about how much worse bullying was when they were in school. These adults will tell you that their childhood took place during the days of stolen lunch money, massive wedgies, relentless teasing and intimidation and full on beatings. It would be wrong to suggest that bullying no longer exists in the school system, but it’s certainly nothing like it used to be. Schools now have zero tolerance policies which ensure that consequences for the bully are essentially mandatory, and supervision is far better than it used to be. Attitudes have also shifted heavily away from the nonsense that being bullied is a “right of passage” to adulthood. 

Bullying, by definition, is a repeated action over a period of time. Not minutes or hours, but days, weeks, months, even years. Kids are kids ‑ they will be mean sometimes, and a single instance of hitting or name‑calling does not constitute bullying. Misrepresenting a single incident as “bullying” can muddy the problem for those who are truly experiencing it. 

Kids are naturally inclined to use strong words to make sure that they are taken seriously. It is very common for kids to say that someone is “bullying” them, or that they are “being bullied”, after just one or two incidents of someone being unkind. It’s absolutely important for all instances of unkind treatment to be dealt with, but don’t be afraid to ask your child for more details so that you can properly present the facts to your child’s educators for a follow up.

Bullying has signs, but some bullying victims feel very intimidated and may try to hide what’s going on. This is why family time is important. Depending on a child’s age, there are certain times when important topics like school are more likely to come up, such as during dinner time or at bedtime. It’s important to stick to a routine to ensure that these important parts of the day are not rushed. If your child has always had a good experience at school but suddenly hates school this year or is having behaviour problems, don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

If you do suspect bullying, remember that educators are dedicated people who care about the children they work with. They will handle incidents swiftly, thoroughly, and with discretion. It is understandable that you will be upset about what your child is going through, but the best way to handle it is to work with school staff on a solution. 

The bottom line? Bullying is less of a problem than it used to be, but it remains one of parents’ top concerns when sending their kids off to school. This back-to-school season, be reassured that schools are safe, and that you can help by maintaining a strong connection with your child and their school so that you can stay informed about their educational experience. 

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