Thursday, December 9, 2010

Have Kids Take the Test: "Are You Bullying?"

Sometimes kids don't even realize they're bullying. Teachers, school counselors, and administrators often share this concern with me. They say that kids often put down, make fun of, or exclude peers on a regular basis without even realizing that these acts constitute bullying. There's lots of confusion about what bullying actually is, including among adults.

A kid at school teases your child -- is that bullying? A group of girls decides to leave out your daughter on a regular basis -- is this bullying? Either of these can be, depending on the circumstances and intent. To make things easier, here's the definition of bullying that I use in No Kidding About Bullying, adapted from, a well-respected resource for teachers, kids, and parents.

Bullying - conscious, willful, deliberate, hostile behaviors repeated over time and intended to do harm to another person. Bullying can happen either face to face or through electronic media and may include any or all of the following:

- physical aggression
- verbal taunts and put-downs
- humiliation
- threats and intimidation
- extortion or stealing
- exclusion
- use of technology to do harm

Of course there are gray areas. In a workshop I lead recently, a school counselor said kids in her school often do really mean things to each other, and they have no clue that their actions are hurting another person. They're oblivious to the pain they're causing. So is this bullying in spite of lack of malicious intent? I would venture to say yes. It's bullying by default, or bullying due to complete lack of empathy.

So how do we help kids identify behaviors they're engaging in that qualify as bullying? You can start by giving them the definition of bullying, then have them take the test. Here it is, adapted from No Kidding About Bullying:

Are You Bullying Someone?

Take this self-test to find out if you‘re doing anything that’s considered to be bullying.  Do you do any of the following on a regular basis?

-       Purposely try to make another person feel bad.
-       Make fun of someone to hurt or embarrass them.
-       Call someone names all the time.
-       Purposely leave someone out all the time.
-       Cause physical harm to another person.
-       Threaten to hurt someone.
-       Try to make someone feel like they’re not as good as you.
-       Get others to make fun of or exclude another person.
-       Send out hurtful or humiliating texts, instant messages, or posts about someone.
-       Spread rumors or gossip about someone you either don’t like or are mad at.
-       Use websites to embarrass, exclude, gossip about or hurt another person.

Admitting any of the above to yourself is the first step in breaking the pattern of bullying.  Now talk to someone who can help you stop. Become part of the solution to bullying, instead of being part of the problem. 

 By the way, if you're wondering how to foster more empathy in kids, take a look at "The Key to Ending Bullying."  Also, my latest workshop, "Fostering Empathy and Tolerance," helps parents and teachers with this very important issue. To bring this workshop to your school or community, please contact me at And remember, each of us holds the key to ending bullying.

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1 comment:

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