Is it Bullying or Not?

Posted on Jun 7, 2016 3:00:00 PM by Kim Schlauch

Is it bullying?

Bullying is a hurtful behavior and a serious issue that should not be taken lightly.  However, as a result of the increased focus these days on this topic, lines are becoming blurred and some are quick to instantly label any type of hurtful behavior as bullying when that may not, in fact, be the case.  This mislabeling can be detrimental when it comes to properly addressing and correcting the misbehavior.

Since overcoming bullying requires different methods than overcoming other hurtful acts, those in a position to intervene need to be able to clearly identify the differences between bullying and other hurtful behaviors in order to determine the best course of action.

According to Licensed Social Worker, national educator and author, Signe Whitson, it is important to understand the difference between three types of behavior: rude, mean, and bullying.  Knowing these differences will provide insights to determine what to pay attention to and when to intervene.  Here are her definitions of each behavior and ways to address them:


Inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else.  This behavior is occasional and unintentional.  Offering constructive feedback and coaching on social skills is an effective way to address rude behavior.


Purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once or twice.  This type of behavior is typically an impulsive cruelty based in anger.  Most often, this behavior is regretted by the perpetrator.  This behavior needs to be addressed and should not be ignored.


Intentionally agressive, usually premeditated behavior that is repeated over time and involves an imbalance of power.  These are considered behaviors of bullying and should be treated as such.

hands workingh together.jpg

Knowing the difference between these behaviors and being able to identify them can better position you to properly address and overcome them.

Resources for more information on this topic:

New Call-to-action
Topics: Bullying