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Too often, we confuse peer conflict with bullying and vice versa.

It’s important to know what the difference is because this can lead to situations where we’re not letting kids be kids and work it out, or we’re not realizing the severity of the situation when we could step in and help out.

What is Peer Conflict?

  • Usually choose to play or hang out together;
  • Have equal power (similar age, size, social status, etc.);
  • Are equally upset;
  • Are both interested in the outcome; and
  • Will be able to work things out with adult help (after calming down).
What is Bullying?
  • Power imbalance – due to age, size, social status, etc.
  • Intent to harm – it’s intended to be mean and is not accidental.
  • Repeated over time – continues over time, and gets worse with repetition.
  • Real or implied threat that the behaviour will not stop, and in fact will become even more serious.

Some examples:

  • You and your friend tease each other for wearing some funny looking pants – peer conflict
  • Your teacher repeatedly makes fun of your clothes, usually in front of your classmates – bullying
  • You get a new haircut and your entire basketball team makes fun of you – peer conflict
  • The kids on the buy make fun of you everyday for your clothes, your haircut and your lunchbox and constantly push you around and call you names – bullying

In speaking with some of the leaders from Dare to Care, they told me if I only had a few minutes to speak about bullying, that I should make sure that I talk about what the definition of bullying is. I think kids don’t realize sometimes and instead of telling a teacher they’re being bullied, they keep quiet about it, telling themselves that it’s just teasing or their friends having fun with them, when in reality it’s much more than that.

I think it’s important for us as adults to understand the definition because it will help us assess a situation that we either see or hear about more effectively and help us make the right choice about what should be done.

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