Are the students at your school confused about what bullying really means? Do they refer to any mean act as bullying? Maybe they keep serious bullying under wraps because they don’t think it’s a big deal? Teaching kids the definition of bullying will help you cut down on the confusion. It will also help students to become better at identifying and responding to bullying.
Why is teaching kids the definition of bullying important?
When kids don’t know what something is, they won’t be able to identify it when they see or experience it. For example, I have struggled with anxiety for my whole life but didn’t realize it until I was in college. No one had ever told me what anxiety was or what it looked like.
The same can be true for bullying. Kids can see bullying happening or experience it themselves and not know that it’s bullying. If we want students to report it and stand up to it, they need to know what it is.
While some students may not realize that something is bullying, other students might think that any unkind action is bullying. This can lead to students telling an adult right away about a minor incident instead of using their own conflict resolution strategies. This can also lead to students referring to someone as a “bully,” even though what they did was not actually bullying.
When thinking about bullying, many students may think solely of physical bullying that they have seen on TV or in movies. While this is definitely one way that bullying occurs, it’s important that kids know that it can happen in other ways too.
Having a clear definition of bullying will help your students learn to identify it and respond to it appropriately.
What definition should I use?
According to Stopbullying.gov, “bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. It also is repeated or has the potential to be repeated”
I love how clear that is, but it also is a LOT for kids to remember and understand. So, I like to break it down into four things.
1.) Bullying happens several times. It is behavior that is repeated, not just a one-time incident.
2.) Bullying is one-sided. It involves one person hurting another person. The person doing the bullying behavior has some sort of power over the other. For example, they are bigger, more popular, smarter, etc.
3.) Bullying is mean – it is harmful. The target of the bullying is hurt in some way – whether it is physical, emotional, etc.
4.) Bullying is purposeful. For something to be bullying, it must be intentional, not an accident.
I combine these 4 criteria into an easy to remember acronym- STOMP. Bullying is behavior that happens several times, is one-sided, mean, and purposeful
How should I teach about the definition of bullying?
Now that we know WHY we would teach the definition of bullying, and what the definition of bullying is, let’s talk about HOW to teach it.
As I already mentioned, using an acronym is a great way to help students remember what bullying is. Hanging a poster in your office, or even making a bulletin board about it is a great way to remind students of the definition of bullying.
Teach about it explicitly.
Although having the definition visible is definitely a great idea, don’t forget to explicitly teach about it. Include the information in a bullying prevention lesson, or even do a whole lesson about what bullying is. This can reduce any confusion students might have about what bullying is. It also gives you the chance to answer any questions they might have.
In these lessons, it can be helpful to talk through scenarios they might experience. Giving students practical examples will help them to tell the difference between bullying, conflict, or a mean moment. Students can come up with their own examples, or you can give them scenarios. Then they can vote on whether or not they think it is bullying.
Allow students to practice identifying bullying.
If you are looking for an activity to help with this, check out this Google slides game. It includes 30 editable scenarios that students can look at. They will then decide whether or not they think it is bullying, conflict, or a mean moment. After they click on their answer, they will learn whether or not their answer was correct. This is a great activity to use if you are doing distance learning or social distancing.
Putting up visual reminders, and teaching explicitly about the types of bullying is a great way to make sure your students know what bullying is and what it’s not.
By teaching kids the definition of bullying, we are empowering them to identify bullying when they see it so that they can effectively stand up to it. Don’t miss this important step in your bullying prevention lessons! I would love to hear about the strategies you use to help students learn the definition of bullying, so drop your ideas in the comment box below!
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