In a previously post here, and in all of the Bullying Prevention trainings I offer for professionals, parents, and kids, I make a distinction between behaviors that are rude, behaviors that are mean, and behaviors that are true examples of bullying.
Why begin with this potentially pedantic defining of terms?
Here’s the thing: In our culture of 24/7 news cycles and social media sound bytes, we have a better opportunity than ever to bring attention to important issues. In the last few years, Americans have collectively paid attention to the issue of bullying like never before: Millions of school children have been given a voice, all 50 states have passed anti-bullying legislation, and thousands of adults have been trained in important strategies to keep kids safe and dignified.
These are significant achievements.
At the same time, however, gratuitous and misinformed references to bullying have, in too many communities, created a “boy who cried wolf” phenomenon in which adults are jaded by the over-reporting of bullying and this actual life-and-death issue among young people loses its urgency.
It is important for all of us—teachers, administrators, counselors, youth workers, parents, and kids—to properly distinguish between rude, mean, and bullying so that all know what to pay attention to and how best to intervene.
I created the activity below for educators, counselors, social workers, school psychologists, youth workers, and parents to use with kids to help them learn and integrate accurate behavioral definitions of rude, mean, and bullying. Please feel free to use this activity with the young people in your life to teach them about the key distinctions between these three behaviors. (Make sure to keep my name and contact information in the loop if you make photocopies of this activity or use it in any type of presentation.)
SMALL GROUP ACTIVITY: Is It Rude, Is It Mean, or Is It Bullying?
After reviewing distinctions between rude, mean, and bullying behavior, read the following scenarios aloud to kids. Challenge kids to move to a designated section in the room if the behavior represents bullying, to a different section if the behavior demonstrates meanness, and to a third section if the behavior is considered rude. Allow kids time to discuss why they chose to stand in a particular section, encouraging personal examples and reflection, as appropriate.
For more information and activity ideas on how to teach skills key skills for understanding & ending bullying, visit signewhitson.com or see the
Whitson, S. (2016). The 8 Keys to End Bullying Activity Book for Kids & Tweens: Worksheets, Quizzes, Games, & Skills for Putting the Keys Into Action (8 Keys to Mental Health). New York: W.W.Norton & Co.