What is Bullying? Meanie vs. Bully

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When someone calls your kid stupid, it IS NOT BULLYING says self-defense and safety expert for mothers and children, Jarrett Arthur, whom I recently interviewed. Everywhere you turn these days you hear about bullying. And it’s coming out of the mouths of kids and parents way more than it should. You and I and they are labeling all mean actions bullying. But is that really bullying?

And what is bullying?

Well, it’s not meanness.

Not unless it’s a repeated mean action every day for a period of time, it’s actually NOT BULLYING.

what is bullying“We’re watering down the word. Every little thing that is happening at schools is bullying now. It’s important we draw a distinction. The main reason we need to protect the victims of real bullying –because it has long lasting ramifications such as anxiety and depression,” explains Arthur.


Bullying is very different than when your child’s friend calls him a bad name. It’s a significant difference. Jarrett Arthur tells me, “We don’t want kids to feel bad but life is tough and we have a responsibility as parents and educators to support our kids and really allow them to experience what life is like. If we shield our kids from the kid that calls them stupid on the playground, how well are they going to handle life later on? We’re setting them up for failure.”

Arthur says we can support our kids, teach them how to deal with meanness, and find the life lessons tucked in the experience.

But she says we must stop using bullying as a catch phrase.


“Bullying is defined as repeated acts that negatively impact the person who is receiving it going forward,” defines Arthur.

According to www.stopbullying.gov, “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.”

It’s important to understand that kids typically don’t cry wolf when it comes to bullying because there is a huge amount of shame and guilt, and social ramifications – kids need to be believed, Arthur tells me.

The Bully

I asked Arthur about the child who is the bully — what about this child? Do the parents of this child ever see the truth? Can you talk to the parents of this child? What if the parent is you?

She says that yes, there is a small group of parents who ignore if their kid is bullying someone else. Their mentality is kids should toughen up and therefore it’s hard to reason with parents like that.

“It’s really important to realize that bullies are not born bullies.” Most of the time, bullying is home grown due to either because the child is not getting attention at home and then bullying becomes a way to seek validation in a social setting by putting other kids down or because the child sees bullying modeling (road rage, gossiping about people, etc.) form the parents.

If you find that you are a parent of a child who is bullying others, Arthur suggests getting kids volunteering in the community. It’s a wonderful way to teach empathy and a life skill to combat bullying tendencies to accept lots of people from lots of walks of life, explains Arthur.

What do DO If Your Child Is Being Bullied?

For the next part of this article, go to: What do DO If Your Child Is Being Bullied?

meanie or bully - what is bullying

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  1. I think the key word in the definition of bullying is “perceived” and if a child is perceiving an imbalance of power, then it is bullying. I would have 100% agreed with this article as an educator a few months ago, until my OWN daughter reported a “secret bully” in a good childhood friend and I feel differently about this now. Especially girl bullying

    1. People who say the the term “bullying” is being over used obviously has not had a child who has experienced this type of behavior towards them. It does not have to happen on a daily basis. It has to happen often enough that the child is now questioning his/her self-worth. That, to me, is bullying. In addition, the behavior is towards other people, across the board. It may start as meanness, but if not addressed properly, becomes bullying.

      1. Bullying may not happen on a daily basis however, it IS bullying if it’s a repeated offense. Which is also what the author stated in her article. I think she is referring to those one time offenses – like calling someone a name.
        Bullying is running rampant and not taken care of effectively in some schools – so I understand your concerns.

  2. Thank you for this article. I try to tell my parents this each year when they come to me with complaints about a student bothering their child. I think I will keep a few copies of your article at hand to share next school year.

    1. Maybe it will only be bullying when it’s your kid coming home questioning their worth.

  3. THANK YOU! Everyone needs to read this because the term “bully” is being used WAY too often these days!