I recently read Barbara Coloroso's book, "The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander" and I've been wanting to blog about it ever since. It is a great resource for parents and teachers to educate themselves on the best ways to both prevent and respond to bullying. The biggest thing I took from the book was how to clarify our language in regards to bullying, and how to differentiate bullying behaviour from normal childhood conflicts.

Coloroso, a parenting guru who has been giving advice for almost 40 years, clearly defines the differences between bullying and other conflicts between kids. She also clearly lays out ways to change our dialogue so that we make this difference clear to our kids and students. The basic trait that turns any behaviour into bullying is contempt. Bullies treat their victim with contempt, regardless of whether their weapon of choice is physical (hitting), verbal (taunting, gossip), or relational (exclusion) bullying. Friends who care about each other, or even aquaintances who respect each other can tease, flirt, and even argue or fight without it being considered bullying. The following are Coloroso's "Four Markers of Bullying:"

Four Markers of Bullying

Imbalance of Power
The bully has, in some way, power over their victim. This could include size, age, social status, or other factors.
Intent to Harm
The bully means to hurt their victim in some way, and takes pleasure in their pain. Their actions are not accidental.
Threat of Further Agression
The bullying will continue, it is not a single occurance.
The repeated nature of the bullying results in a terrified victim and is used by the bully to maintain dominance. Again, bullying is not an impulsive action or a reaction to a specific situation.
Coloroso also helps clarify the difference between teasing and taunting. For example, she cites taunting as bullying behaviour, while teasing is playful banter between friends. Using teasing for both muddies the waters and provides an out for the bully: "I was just teasing." She clearly lays out the differences in a list, which can be found on this simplified handout that summarizes the key points in the book. She does the same to differentiate between flirting and sexual harrassment, which might come in handy for any intermediate or secondary teachers and parents who may be reading this. She also makes it clear what bullying is not. It is normal for kids to have conflicts, to fight, get mad at one another, and hurt each other's feelings. Often, kids don't realize how their actions are perceived by others. Just because one child hurts another's feelings, doesn't mean they are a bully.

Finally, Coloroso illuminates the warning signs and red flags we need to look for to identify both the bully and the bullied, and how to teach our kids to become witnesses instead of bystanders.

For more information about this particular book, and other resources by Barbara Coloroso, check out her website at: www.kidsareworthit.com

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