As the first month comes to an end and students are back into the school routine, settling into their classrooms and reconnecting with peers, it is also time for conflicts to arise due to a variety of reasons such as a difference of opinion, feeling left out, losing prior friendships or feelings being hurt. As a result, students are commonly heard saying that he/she was/is being bullied by another student.
In an era where bullying is an important issue and one that continues to be addressed, it is also important to differentiate between bullying and mean behaviour. Having our students understand the difference between these two descriptors of behavior will help them use tools and strategies to address each behaviour in an appropriate manner.
According to Barbara Coloroso, there are four key markers of bullying. These are: imbalance of power, intent to harm, threat, or further aggression and terror. In an elementary school environment, this may take the form of physical, verbal and relational aggression (Whitson, S., 2019). Bullying behaviour is usually in response to low self-esteem and/or a perceived lack of empowerment. Thus, bullying is an intentional aggressive behaviour towards another over time which involves the threat of continued harassment.
Mean behaviour can be described as purposely saying or doing something to hurt someone once or twice. This may take the form of verbal or physical aggression but it’s usually in response to hurt feelings or a way to build one’s own self-esteem (Whitson, S., 2019). Although mean behaviour can be hurtful the distinction between bullying and mean behaviour is the power imbalance and the longevity of the aggression.
It is important to understand that mean behaviour is not necessarily bullying behaviour.
|Bullying Behaviour||Mean Behaviour|
Aim to hurt or harm
Imbalance of power
Aim to hurt
No imbalance of power
How can we support our students?
- Help the child figure out if the behaviour is bullying or mean.
- Ask questions to get the full picture as possible of the interaction.
- Look for observable changes in the child’s behaviour.
Click here for an additional resource.
Bullying Canada: https://www.bullyingcanada.ca
Canada Red Cross- Bullying and Harassment: https://www.redcross.ca
Bullying. Health Link BC: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca
Anti-bullying- Healthy Schools BC: https://healthyschools.bc