Tag Archives: misbehavior

Understanding the difference between bullying and normal misbehavior

Boys fightingThe two boys who come to blows after disagreeing about whether the ball landed on the line or out of bounds.

The only girl in the class not invited to the birthday party.

The outstretched foot in the aisle of the schoolbus that trips the new kid.

Bullying or not?

It can be a tough call. And teachers and school personnel are already so busy doing their jobs that it’s a lot to ask them to also play judge and jury with every incident that comes to pass.

There’s so much attention given to bullying these days that we run the risk of lumping all forms of misbehavior under the same category. Parents and kids know the power of the “b-word,” understanding that any hurt or misdeed may be taken much more seriously if we call it bullying.

But this rhetorical backsliding can have a serious practical impact. Labelling any school-related incident as bullying tends to set off a process involving paperwork, meetings with parents, recording of details in files and issuing consequences. This is certainly true in Quebec schools given the passage of Bill 56 (the anti-violence and anti-bullying legislation).

It’s critical to understand the differences. Kids can misbehave for a whole variety of reasons, including testing limits, being hungry, tired, frustrated or overwhelmed. And while there need to be consequences for those misdeeds so they learn from their behaviours, there are critical differences between these and the social manipulation implicit in bullying.

Some of the key things to look for include a lack of remorse, blaming the victim, unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s actions, and lack of emotional reaction.

You can read more about these and other differentiating features in this Montreal Families Magazine article.