To answer my own question, I definitely think the term “bullying” is thrown around indiscriminately these days. Examples? A child crying bully when their 4th grade classmate decides to not be their friend anymore. Bullying? I think typical behavior for ten year olds. I tell my kids if someone doesn’t want to be their friend, it’s the other kid’s loss – find someone nice to hang out with. Bullying is so overused as a term that when I reprimanded my daughter the other day, she accused me of “bullying” her. The term has become a catchall for any unwelcome behavior or conflict.
By no means am I downplaying the existence of bullying – it has been happening for years, but didn’t have a specific term, or a term popularized like it is today. It was just mean kids intimidating other kids. Typical social jockeying that goes on while growing up, often in school, wasn’t labeled “bullying.” Kids are a mean bunch, and school can be rough. I try and teach my kids how to deal with unpleasant, and sometimes downright ugly, social situations without crying “bully” – unless or until absolutely necessary. It’s definitely part of life. I try and direct them to pick good friends, avoid trouble, and stand up for kids who are picked on if necessary. It has worked for our kids so far.
When I look back on my Catholic grade school experience in the 80′s, it definitely had its ups and downs, and bullying, by today’s definition. I was both bullied (in 5th grade when all the boys in the class called me “SUB” for “stuck-up brat” for the entire year – kids are so mean) and the bully (6th and 7th grade when I was absolutely abominable, “turning” girls against other girls and other mean girl behavior). My parents were not aware of any of this until my 7th grade teacher called them in and we had a come to Jesus meeting. I think this changed the course of my life, as after this revelation, I lost most of my friends, went from popular to unpopular, became friends with really nice girls I had never taken the time to get to know, and from that time on stayed away from cliques and focused on individual friendships.
One of the most important gifts parents can give their kids is to teach and guide them to deal with tough situations, and to let them feel some disappointment. It’s part of life, and makes you stronger, even if one of the hardest things in the world is to see your kids suffer. Social media makes it even easier for kids to hurt each other now, but it’s another part of navigating relationships.
What do you think parents? Is the term bullying overused or is it more prevalent now? What advice do you give your kids?