By: Krystle Crossman
Kids often have no filter when it comes to some of the things that they say. They are young and naïve and often don’t realize that what they are saying could be considered rude. Then there are kids that like to tease each other and are doing so to be mean, but they don’t take it any farther than that. Then there are bullies. They are ruthless and cruel. Where is the line however between all of these? Is there a difference between being mean and bullying someone? Child and adolescent therapist Signe Wilson describes the differences between the three.
When a child is rude they may not realize it. This would be when you are in a store with them and they ask you something out loud about a person’s physical appearance while they are within earshot or they say something that is not appropriate when others are around. They do not think that they are being rude, they think they are just asking a simple question or making an observation. If you tell them that they are being rude they will more often than not stop asking things like that.
Kids who are mean are doing it deliberately. They want to hurt someone, they want them to know that they dislike them. They only do this once or twice though, it is not a constant issue. They may call someone fat or ugly. They may make a comment about the clothes that someone is wearing that day or make fun of the way they have their hair done. After they have insulted the person and have seen that they have hurt their feelings, they usually move on. The damage is still done and this can hurt people deeply, but there is a big difference between being mean and being a bully.
Bullies are relentless. They are aggressive. They do not stop. There are a few key attributes that make someone a bully:
– Being verbally abusive: Telling someone every single day that they are ugly or publicly humiliating them over and over about something like the clothes they wear.
– Being physically aggressive: Bullies tend to shove, push, and sometimes even go as far as to punch or kick another person. They want them to be living in fear of the pain that they can inflict.
– Cyberbullying: This is one of the worst forms of bullying because kids feel like they can do it with no consequences so it is even worse than in-person bullying.
– Relational aggression: This is when a child uses their relationship with someone to bully. If they are “friends” with someone they may threaten that they will no longer be friends. They will make sure that certain groups of people ostracize them and make them feel like loners.
All of these forms of bullying can have deadly consequences as we have seen in the last few years. It can lead to suicides and school shootings. It can lead to self-esteem issues, mental health issues, and physical health issues. If you notice that someone is being bullied, say something. If you yourself are being bullied, say something. It will not stop if you don’t let someone know what is going on as they may not be able to tell from looking at you.