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Talking About Bullying

In grades 1-5 we have been talking about bullying. (Kindergarten will start soon!) We are using the Second Step Bullying Prevention Unit by the Committee for Children (check them at out Bullying is defined as when someone keeps being mean to someone else on purpose. The person it's happening to hasn't been able to make it stop. It is unfair and one-sided. Examples of bullying might include:

  • Hurting someone's body or belongings.

  • Using words to hurt someone's feelings.

  • Leaving someone out on purpose.

  • Getting others to be mean to or exclude someone.

The students are learning to recognize bullying and also how to distinguish bullying behavior from rude/mean behavior. This can be tricky! We focus a lot on the terms "one-sided" and "two-sided" to help kids see the difference between bullying and conflict. A conflict is two-sided because both sides are participating in the problem. Each person or group is taking part in a back-and-forth argument. Bullying is one-sided because one side/person hasn't done anything wrong and hasn't been mean back.

We also understand that sometimes rude or mean behavior is one-sided, but then we need to remember that bullying is a repeated act, it keeps happening.

A couple weeks ago we discussed what it means to be assertive and how that looks and sounds. When we recognize bullying, we can refuse it by being assertive - stand up tall, look the person right in the eyes, and say "please stop that is not OK" in a strong, clear, firm voice. Students are also told that it is OK to skip this part and go straight to a grownup if they do not feel safe enough to approach the person who is bullying. We are also practicing how to report bullying to grownups - who to go to, what to say, and how to say it. I tell kids that when they report incidents of conflict or bullying to me, I will ask LOTS of questions so I can make sure I understand everything correctly.

The kids tend to have a lot of questions and stories for me when I teach these lessons about bullying. It is very important that we are clear on what is just rude or mean and what is bullying. Kids often struggle to see how their own actions can make a situation two-sided. This is something we are working on! My next post will be about the power of bystanders.