I participate in online anti-bullying groups. The normal post is from someone looking for advice on how to help their child who is being bullied. What is shocking to me is just what parents will call bullying, that isn’t bullying. It’s criminal assault.
What we call the behavior we want to stop matters. I write about this in my book, The Bully Vaccine. Bullying is a meaningless term. We all think we know what it means, but we don’t really. For the record, the web dictionary defines bullying as: “seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable).”
Be specific about the exact behavior that is wrong
Here is a recent post.
My kid is being bullied and I need help. Ok – what is happening. They were tailed after school and hit in the head and had to go to the hospital! Then they doxxed my daughter and we are getting calls from people wanting to have sex with her because the people who are bullying her put her profile up somewhere.
I would not describe ANY of that – as bullying. I would describe it as stalking, and then violent assault and battery, and then, harassment and solicitation and trafficking a minor. All of which are crimes.
Someone verbally harassing you is VERY different than someone stalking you and physically attacking you!!!!
Do not call it bullying
Even though this site is called “The Bully Vaccine Project” and even though my book is called “The Bully Vaccine,” I don’t want you to describe what is happening to your child as bullying. Even if what is happening is verbal harassment.
If you go to a school and tell them – my child is being bullied when what is really happening is your child is being stalked, attacked and sold as a prostitute online, then you are VASTLY understating what is going on and you should not be surprised that the school doesn’t take much action to help you.
If you instead, go to the school and say – my child was stalked by a fellow student and was attacked and ended up in the hospital, and now the offenders are advertising my child as a prostitute online – I assure you, they will be shocked and moved to take action.
Telling a teacher a student is being bullied doesn’t tell them anything useful. Being specific about what exactly happened, is very helpful and conveys the urgency. In the above example, which is a REAL example, the urgency is that there is something SERIOUSLY going wrong with the child who is doing all of these things. This is not normal interpersonal conflict. This goes WELL beyond that. The offending child is in desperate need of an intervention.
And yet, the parent whose child is being targeted, described all of that – initially – as bullying. It’s not bullying. It’s criminal behavior that requires immediate intervention.
Now, even if your child is just experiencing interpersonal problems or even, verbal harassment, still, don’t call it bullying. If they are called names, say – the other child called my child a name. Be specific. Only if you are specific can the staff at a school help you.
I have a free online course on how to talk to your child’s school about bullying if you are looking for help. https://bullyvaccineproject.com/how-to-talk-to-your-childs-school-so-they-will-actually-listen-and-help/
And if your child has become the target of a coordinated campaign of violence, as the child in the above example has, I urge you to read my book. Why? Because I explain something super important in it. And that is, what happens when you try to make it stop. What happens, is almost always an escalation. And if it is already dangerously violent, you better plan in advance for how to keep your child safe through the backlash, because … there WILL be a backlash.