Your Definition of Bullying and What Do You Tell Your Kids?

Updated on October 25, 2012
V.T. asks from McKinney, TX
19 answers

Have we gone to far with what we classify as bullying? Is simply being mean bullying? Personally, I think bullying is an unrelenting attack on an individual. But to call someone a name or to make an insensitive joke or to hurt someone's feelings isn't bullying, unless it is constant. I think all these things can be the start of bullying, but isolated incidents of these actions are not bullying. What's your definition?

As a parent, what do you tell your kids? I think we all tell them that bullying is wrong and we won't stand for it, but what do we tell them to combat it? My kids are 3 and 8 months, so I'm not faced with what I consider bullying yet, but there are some kids in 3 year old's class that are mean. I don't think they are old enough to bully. I think they are just mean and don't understand the consequences that being mean can have on another kid. However, when kids are mean to my daughter, I encourage her to use her voice, tell them to stop, that she doesn't like it, and she not going to listen to them anymore and walk away. If it continues, than tell a teacher. I want her to know that she has the strength to stop it. As she gets older, it won't be that simple.

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answers from Philadelphia on

i agree. correct emmy when a kid is mean to her or doesnt want to play and she says they are a bully i say either
no, their not a bully J. because they didnt want to play, you both have a choice
no they J. were not nice, find a nicer kid.

i think this bullying term being over sensationalized is meaning kids cant interact like hugging, no rough housing...they dont learn social skills.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I also hate the word bully! Every time a kid gets called a name the name caller is automacticly a are not always nice and some people are waaaaaay to sensitive!

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answers from Chicago on

I agree with you. Bullying is consistent intimidating, abusive behavior (physical or verbal). Shunning is also a form of bullying. Random meanness, shoving, or name calling, while unkind, is not bullying.

My kids are 9, 11 and 14. They all know the difference either through experience or talking about it. I think role-playing with your child is the best way to teach them how to handle unkind behavior. Practice.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Bullying is thinking it makes you funny or powerful to hurt others.

I agree 100% that bullying is overused... ESP amongst the toddler crowd. You have to learn how to be a good friend before you can be one. There ARE toddler-bullies... Who are raised to hurt others instead of respect others... But it's the tiny minority of toddlers causing other toddlers pain who are raised like this. ALSO waaaaaaaaay to overused in the crowd of people who don't believe in boundaries. NO is always, always, always an appropriate answer. Can I play with you? Does not obligate a 'yes' response (neither does can I have sex with you, can I borrow $, can I can I can I can I? Yes or No are BOTH appropriate responses).

That said... Participating in bullying can be a one time act.

If you're mocking, deriding, hurting in any way someone to make other people laugh / to get 'power' -even if its just the 'safety' of being allowed into the group that is bullying... Then, yep. It's bullying.

So is witnessing and doing nothing.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing."

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answers from Sioux City on

I don't define bullying. I define right and wrong. I tell my kids that they are to be charitable to everyone even those that aren't charitable back. I tell them they are to be an example to others in how they should act. I tell them they are aiming for the best and the very best is heaven. When you get to the gates of heaven you are there alone and held accountable for the things you have done. At no time can you say I would have done the right thing if this other person weren't so mean. If my kids are treated poorly they are to keep in mind that Christ was treated more poorly and he left a wonderful example of how to respond to those that hate you. They are to remember that they are in good company, the best company. The world today has told children there is no right or wrong and that all things are relative. That simply is not true, but to get to the bottom of this mess that we have God has to be put back in the picture. In fact he needs to take center stage.

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answers from St. Louis on

I think the biggest problem with bullying and defining it is that people need there to be a bully and in most cases that isn't the case. I define bullying as ongoing, pervasive teasing of one person. That is the bullying that people try to put their finger on but if you are always looking for a bully then it is never seen as bullying.

Let me explain, I was bullied as a child but looking back as an adult there were no bullies. It was normal kids doing normal teasing, normal laughing at their peers. What made it bullying was it was always(ongoing) directed at me, by everyone (pervasive). It is not like what parents cry about now, oh Jimmy is picking on Billy, Jimmy is a bully. No, Jimmy doesn't like Billy, Billy can play with other kids, problem solved.

Ongoing, pervasive, there are no kids for Billy to play with, no one will play with him because Billy is the target. Billy is being bullied.

The problem I see with not properly identifying bullying is that it won't be stopped. If the teacher is looking for the bully they will never find them. They will look at each case as kids being kids because that is what it is. The teacher must identify if the same kid is always targeted and get that child help to build their self esteem, to find their words.

The teacher needs to address the class, I have noticed that Billy is always the one being picked on. No one in my class realized that they were always picking on me. Had they been made aware it may have stopped. Kids aren't evil creatures, they are just learning their social skills. If they realize the effect they are having on another student they will stop.

I don't know, I guess I feel like the only way to help these kids is to identify what bullying really is, what I see now is just making it worse.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I hate the word "bully" because I think it's way overused, so I don't use it with my boys. Also, my boys are both natural leaders, so I feel they are less likely to be bullied (ugh, that word), but I want to be sure they treat others well. My oldest is 14, and he is kind and has been known to stand up for others who have been treated cruelly by others. My youngest is 8, and idolizes his brother. So far, he seems to be treating others quite well, too. They are both extremely sensitive, and they think of others' feelings. We talk openly about situations in the news, and in my classroom (I teach high school), so we have all kinds of examples to learn from, in addition to the examples they share from their own experiences.

As for a definition, I agree with you. It's an ongoing, intentional attack on an individual.

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answers from Dallas on

I don't get caught up in the semantics of things. Bullying, terrorizing, name calling, being mean...they are just terms for unkind treatment. They are all unjust in their own way. And I think at some point most people encounter these unpleasant incidents at some level, some worse than others. We have tried hard to teach our kids to ignore unkind words. To realize that not everyone will like you. To treat other how they want to be treated. Use words. To try and fight their own battles first. Ask for help when you need it. And yes, at times, you may need to be prepared to physically protect yourself. I think a lot of it boils down to teaching respect and self worth. If someone is not treating you right, you need to know how to act and react. I don't worry about defining the mistreatment.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I was actually just talking about this last night. Paents of boys are in a particularly bad situation when it comes to bullying from girls. And this goes on quite frequently-at least around here. Many of the girls are just plain mean---doing things like 'flicking' boys or pulling at their clothes and making up mean names and spreading them so the rest of the class joins in. It puts our boys at a major disadvantage because the second BOY does that to a girl it is harrasment and can be blown up into a federal case. Also the boy will be marked a sissy if he 'tells'. And so the bullying continues making the poor boy miserable. So what is a boy to do? I personally tell my boys to give back as bad as you get. IF you are called a name make up an equally bad thing to say to the girl and circulate it. SOunds pretty bad but you know what? I don't care because there is really no other way to go about this and I will NOT have my son defenseless. Sorry moms of girls-but the more I learn of these little 'princesses' the more I am happy to have boys.

I also wonder if people who feel as you do and some of these posters are the parents of the bullies-the people validating and or overlooking poor behavior as a part of being a kid and harmless because "hey-we all did it as kids". In my opinion bullying can absolutely be a one time act...sometimes that is all it takes. I can think of several examples where one time was enough to wreck a child's confidence and began a snowball of bad behavior from OTHER childern.

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answers from Houston on

I believe we as a society have gone overboard on the word useage or I should say, the over use of certain words. Bully is one of them. I actually like your definition. Not everyone is nice but that does not make them a bully. Not everyone will get alone but that doesn't make you a bully.

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answers from Dallas on

Not sure what I would say to my kid, but this made me think of Little House on the Prairie. Nellie was a b!tch and mean, but she wasn't a bully. They had an episode where a family of bullies made trouble for the town - they used physical and verbal intimidation. So you could actually see the difference.

I'm seriously thinking of buying the DVD's and watching them as my kid grows up. They covered a LOT of issues really well.

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answers from Charleston on

Bullying is an unrelenting emotional, physical or mental attack on a person. It happens repeatedly and consistently and does not stop. Being "mean" is just an occasional situation where one kids says/does something that is not so nice, but it clears itself up.

We just had a conversation with my 9 year old daughter last night about girls who didn't want to play with her at recess. She said they were bullying her. We told her they were just being mean, but if it continued to the point they were making fun of her or completely ostracizing her from any play, then that would be bullying.

With kids just being "mean", we advised her to tell them that they are mean and she doesn't want to play with them anyway. (basically don't let them see you hurt, because that's the reaction they want) Hopefully she gets it, and can stand up to them and call them out on their ugliness. I chalk this up to "bitchy" girl drama because most likely by tomorrow she will be "best friends" with them again...

With bullying, you have to teach your child to defend herself and defend others who she may witness being bullied. It doesn't have to be confrontational, just a quick remark that they won't tolerate it, and will report it.

It stinks having to deal with this at such young ages. Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

Some good responses here. For me, it's one of those things where if I put a definition on it I am sure to have to tweak it. But we all know it when we see it because at some point in our lives we have seen or experienced it.

I think when we decide to try to change something about our society, we tend to swing the pendulum in an extreme direction for a period of time. We are reactionary as human beings, some more than others. There are always people who will take advantage of it while others are still trying to define the behavior before they react. Still, it empowers others who have had an experience with the thing we want to change, like bullying. It gives them a name to call it and makes others sit up and take notice and put an end to it. We just have to put up with extremes before the pindulum stops in the middle. Give us time to make mistakes and settle on a definition.



answers from Honolulu on

In my State, the Department of Education (for public schools), has a BOOKLET, that is sent home to the parents, that defines and talks about Bullying/misconduct/safety/Discipline/Seizures/Reporting of Offenses/Police Interventions & Arrests and per Vandalism.
ALSO, in school, all of the kids in each grade level, are given a workshop on it, explaining... it and the policies and defining to them what these things are. It INCLUDES, misconduct/bullying etc., per the Adults and staff, as well. AND the packet even includes a "civil rights complaint form" for the parents.

Now, even my 6 year old son, in 1st grade, can tell me what "bullying" is as defined by the schools. AND they know it.
So, it is very clear.
It is an entire BOOKLET of information that is 39 pages long.
THIS... is what parents and the children, can refer to and know, per any situations they may encounter.

It is legal definitions, not capricious thoughts.
It is defined.
This is what my kids' school does.

THEN along with that, the hope is that, the parents ALSO teach their children morals/rules/discipline and how to stand up for themselves etc. and to report anything to them AND the school/Teachers.



answers from New York on

Bullying is meanness that doesn't stop. I one-time instances isn't bullying. A five-time instance, maybe so.

Bullying is also a one-sided relationship. The bully (or, usually, bullies) consistently pick on one kid. The bullied kid doesn't/can't/won't fight back.

In other words, it has to be evaluated over time. And, you're doing a fantastic job of giving your daughter nonviolent fight-back tools now. It's great to be vigilant going forward, but if she takes your advice to heart, she may never be targeted for bullying.


answers from Hartford on

bul·ly    [bool-ee] noun, plural bul·lies, verb, bul·lied, bul·ly·ing, adjective, interjection
noun: a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people; the act of intimidating a weaker person to make them do something

verb (used without object) : to be loudly arrogant and overbearing.

Synonyms: to cow, to browbeat, to coerce; to terrorize, to tyrannize.


Simply being mean or saying something you dislike or disagree with or "think" is mean isn't bullying. I don't think it has to be habitual toward the same person, but the same person can be a bully in general. A single incident alone without any other incidents at all isn't bullying. That doesn't mean an issue during a single incident or two shouldn't be addressed, but it can't be called bullying.

I do think that the terms bully and bullying used when describing undesirable behavior or aggressive behavior or unlikeable behavior are used way to liberally. Schools are, and should be, very aggressive in dealing with bullying behaviors and nip them in the bud. Schools shouldn't tolerate any violent behaviors or mean kid behaviors either. But schools do have to be very careful when it comes to labeling a child a bully because if something like that goes into their permanent file, it follows them. It's all right if their file shows there was disciplinary action and what the behaviors they did to warrant it were, but if it wasn't literal bullying then that's not fair to have it follow the child.

My eldest daughter had a tendency to cry BULLY! when someone says or does something she dislikes or disagrees with. She thought it was bullying to hear a friend tell her that she had agreed to play with another friend at recess that day but would definitely play with her the next day. Even though the friend reassured her, "I still like you, I just promised M I'd play with her for once" I had my daughter in tears that E was bullying and so was M! Seriously? Suck it up! Exclusion for one or two days isn't bullying. Give it a week plus mean words and consistent exclusion from other things too and I'll agree.

It's been a long road, but at 12 she does understand now. It hit her last year when she was physically assaulted by a boy who had been consistently bullying her daily and his bullying kept escalating. He was verbally abusive and threatening and finally tried to hurt her. The teacher refused to step in, so I did and reported it. My girl stood up for herself as always, even when that by lied directly to the Vice Principal in spite of witnesses backing up my daughter.

Anyway, with that situation and another girl who was emotionally and physically intimidating to every child she encountered, especially my daughter, to teach her what real bullying is... let's just say I hear far less often about the endless, "But she's a bully! And so is he!" She's very mindful of making the accusation now.

Sometimes being mean is just plain old grumpiness or meanness or social ineptness. It's not always bullying.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I think that a constant attack where the person uses their body, their size, their threats to try and make someone do something they don't want to do is bullying. It can be a once or twice thing too though. If a kid in school has a reputation for carrying out their threats all they have to do is find a kid in the bathroom or in an empty hallway and make one threat and get their way. They don't have to be doing it all the time. Their reputation makes it more of a serious consequence.



answers from Redding on

I think that the term "bullying" is far over used.
Bullying is real, for sure, but for heaven's sake, a kid racing to get to the slide first at the playground is not a bully. A child you don't know who doesn't want to share their toys at the park is not a bully.

I think it's possible to set our kids up to think that every time someone doesn't behave the way we expect them to, they are being a bully.

Let's face it. Not all people are nice. Not all people are friendly. Not all people will cater to us and act the way we want them to. This goes for school, at the grocery store, neighbors, at work....

We don't have to consider ourselves a victim because someone else is having a bad day, acts rudely, or doesn't have any manners. That type of mindset diminishes true circumstances of bullying.

There are plenty of rude idiots in this world and we may come in contact with them every single day. I deal with people at work who are rude and think the entire world revolves around them. They can be very nasty and downright mean. They are also elderly and have dementia as well as other health and personal issues. Are they bullying me? No. Does it upset me? Yes....because I don't want them to be upset. I care about them. I can't take it personally.

If someone flips me off in traffic, are they a bully? Who knows and who cares? I will probably never see their middle finger again.

The relentless, deliberate, and true targeting of someone in order to make their lives miserable is a different story. If someone is specifically focused on causing direct emotional and/or physical harm and damage, relentlessly, it's a different story.

Sadly, that does occur and it's horrible. It's not right and it needs to be stopped. However, like I said, little single instances that get labelled as such diminish the true situations in which bullying happens.

Just my opinion.



answers from Richmond on

bullying against young girls i am noticing is starting very young, just a few weeks ago, i took my two year old daughter to the park, there was a little boy there, looked about six, there with a toy sword, he "offered" it to my daughter, only to pull it away from her at the last moment saying"thats mine" i told her, in a loud voice, "thats ok, let him keep his sword, you have one you just like it at home, you dont need his" the boy responded" swords are for boys",his mother was nodding and smiling at this point, i told the little boy, "DID I ASK YOU FOR YOUR &***** OPINION!!", the boys mother told me, "i dont appreciate you talking to my son like that, to which i responded,"DID I ASK YOU FOR YOUR &**** OPINION??", at this point, sword boy and his mother decided to leave, because there were several mothers with little girls that were glaring at her, and i was not backing down, and then we went home and played "swords".
K. h. and no, this is not the first time some little boy has tried to play..bait, switch and SHOVE on my daughter

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