Bullying or Meanness?


Reposted from Psychology Today:

Anyone who has spent substantial time with children knows that they are often mean to each other. Debra Pepler at York University and her colleagues, video recorded the playground behavior of children in 1st through 6th grade whose teachers had identified them as either especially aggressive or especially nonaggressive. On average, the aggressive children did some form of mean behavior about every two minutes. But those carefully selected nonaggressive children averaged a mean behavior every three minutes!

We adults haven’t managed world peace or even perfect marriages, so it’s unrealistic to think that our children will always be perfectly kind to each other. And yet, kindness is a worthy goal. As parents, we can help our children cope with the meanness that they will inevitably encounter. And, even more important, we can try to guide them toward more caring responses to their peers.  Even kids who consider themselves best friends sometimes reject each other cruelly. Impulsivity, immature problem-solving skills, difficulty managing feelings, limited perspective-taking ability, following the crowd, or just experimenting with social power are all factors that could lead kids to do mean things.

Researchers have a very specific definition of bullying: Bullying involves deliberate, aggressive acts targeting a particular individual repeatedly, over time, (although some researchers also count a single severe aggressive act), AND it involves a power difference between the bully and the target. In other words the bully is bigger, stronger, tougher, or more socially powerful than the person being bullied, which makes it difficult or impossible for targets of bullying to defend or protect themselves.

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