Bullying or Disagreement?

According to the Free Dictionary, the definition of bullying is to treat in an overbearing or aggressive manner or to force one’s way aggressively or by intimidation. Bullying has been around forever, seems wherever humans exist, tensions will always occur and yes even bullying. In recent years it seems bullying is getting the attention it deserves, the older I get it seems everyone has some story about a childhood bully. For me it was Consuela in the second grade who threatened to beat me up unless I gave her my lunch. As you can guess I didn’t eat lunch often in the second grade, that was until my mother found out. My Mom being ole skool told me I needed to stand up for myself or else…hey; it was like 1980 and parents were still rough around the edges. In the end, hunger won out and I stopped giving up my lunch and miraculously didn’t get beat up but I do remember that year crystal clear.
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Sadly today’s bullying thanks to technology is no longer limited to a specific time and place. Back when I was in school, if a child was being bullied they could go home and escape, now bullies can use the interweb and cell phones as torture devices. I suspect this is why we are seeing so many kids taking their own lives as today’s bullies have the ability to truly make life hell for the victim.
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Bullying is never acceptable; I think we can all agree on that. What I do want to discuss though are we as parents raising kids who are in fact not bullies but simply imitating what we do. In the past year both offline as well as online, I have noticed more and more people using language that they feel bullied. Yet when you get to the bottom of the situation, it’s less bullying and more a simple disagreement. In a world that puts a premium of being respectful and politically correct at all times, are we stifling any and all dissent and slapping the bullying label on it?
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If someone is boisterous in expressing their views, are they being aggressive? It seems more and more we are living in a time when the desire to get along actually gets in the way of true dialogue. Instead if someone says something that hits us deeply rather than reflect and determine there is truth in their words we determine that person is attempting to bully us. Rather than to work towards a resolution which might involve getting raggedy.
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A few days ago, my six year old came home from school upset because she had had a tiff with two of her friends. It was a misunderstanding between 6-7 year olds but for the girl child in that moment she felt the world had ended. That the two other girls would never speak to her again, for well over an hour the Spousal Unit and I discussed the matter with her. At one point my daughter asked my husband if he would apologize to the other girls…he said no and explained that if he did it, it would not be the same. In the end, the girl made up with her friends the next day and all was well. So well that one of the girls came to my girl’s winter concert this past weekend.
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While I was glad she resolved the issue on her own, it did make me stop and think how a simple situation could turn wrong and be perceived as bullying. My daughter did a thoughtless thing as kids do and both her friends expressed they were mad at her, they were hurt. As a parent it would have been easy to say they had “ganged” up on her, yet I know the girls involved and I know my kid. In the end it was important to me that she learn how to navigate the uncomfortable moments and know that not everyone is going to be happy with you at every minute. Life is not like that.
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Please understand I am not in any way minimizing bullying and it’s disastrous effects, they are very real but it’s also important that all of us be open to difference and sometimes different views and ways of being from ours. When we throw around terms like bullying, it can easily become watered down and that’s when real damage happens. Sometimes hearing uncomfortable words about ourselves is a call to go deeper not scream fire!

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