What is bullying?

In recent days, the word “bullying” is used by many different people to mean many different things.  From politicians, to principals and teachers, to parents, the word is thrown around every time any unacceptable or inappropriate behavior happens.  When students come home from school and say someone treated them in a way they didn’t like, we tend to say they have been bullied.  This may or may not be true.  Bullying is something that happens repeatedly; it is a pattern of behavior intended to intimidate or manipulate the victim.  A bully acts in such a way, through physical, verbal, or emotional means, that creates compliance on the part of the victim through fear.  Bullies can successfully bully another student even if they never touch them.

Every mean action, however, on the part of one student to another, is not actually bullying.  One-time arguments, fights or other “bad behavior” aren’t necessarily bullying.  Bullying is intentional and systematic.

Look how bullying has been defined in different ways:

  • “A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other students.”  Olweus
  • “a conscious, willful, and deliberate hostile activity intended to harm, and induce fear through the threat of further aggression . . .” Colorosa
  • “behavior that is committed intentionally to inflict harm, that exhibits an imbalance of power  . . . and is inflicted repeatedly.”      Newman-Carlson
  • “bullying causes trauma to others; it is peer abuse.” Bennett
  • “kids will be kids or boys will be boys” Old adage

Bullying can be the “old-fashioned” physical bullying where a big boy intimidates other students into giving him their lunch money, doing his homework, giving him their possessions and the like by physically harming/fighting with the victims.

Other types of bullies never touch their victims.  They bully by words, gestures, exclusion, gossip, rumors and similar behaviors.  Cliques or groups of girls tend to use this type of bullying to achieve social status and stay on top (maintain their place at the peak of the social hierarchy).  Their targets are cast out of the group and can easily become social pariahs.

The technological age has brought us the latest type of bullying—cyberbullying.  The ease of communication allows bullying by word, gossip, rumors and photos to harm larger groups of victims in a shorter amount of time.  Now bullied students can have rumors or inappropriate remarks about them spread to their entire school in a matter of moments.

What can you do about bullying?

Take Ten is a violence and bullying prevention, conflict resolution program with a school-based curriculum focused on teaching students the necessary skills to be able to handle conflicts appropriately and make peaceful choices.  It is a key component of the Robinson Community Learning Center, an outreach initiative of the University of Notre Dame.  Take Ten provides youth with the ability to “Talk it Out, Walk it Out or Wait it Out” as alternatives to physical and non-physical violence.   The Take Ten program builds students’ capacity to choose better, more positive pathways.  And, according to research analysis, Take Ten’s flexible curriculum is making steady gains in influencing the reactions of young people who are faced with physical and emotional violence on a daily basis.

Every chapter of the Take Ten curriculum addresses bullying.  The approach we take is one that helps students understand the implications of their own actions, the role they can play in making situations better and reducing violence and bullying.  The tools that Take Ten teaches to students stay with them so that if they are facing a bully they can use these skills to improve the situation, stay strong,  and get help from peers or adults if necessary.  Take Ten uses a comprehensive approach that teaches a lesson to students every week.  Research shows that the one-time approach simply does not work.

In the local community, Take Ten is implemented by teams of college student volunteers who are primarily from the University of Notre Dame, but also include others from Holy Cross College, Saint Mary’s College, Bethel College and Indiana University South Bend.  The volunteers are trained in all central concepts in the curriculum such as defining conflict and violence, anger management, handling bullying, trading perspectives, behavior types and the related appropriate responses in real-life situations.

In areas beyond Michiana, Take Ten is implemented by trained teachers at all grade levels.  In Indiana as well as Illinois and Iowa, Take Ten is now reaching students from kindergarten through high school.  Schools can choose to use the program through an entire district, at a particular grade or school level, or in individual school buildings. 

Take Ten Testimonials

From Darryl Boykins, Chief, South Bend Police Department:

Take Ten has the capacity to teach young people in the South Bend area the necessary skills to resolve conflict peacefully, to make non-violent choices in their lives and to handle bullying well.   Thousands of local youth have participated in the program and have gained skills to be better able to handle conflict and bullying.  I am very supportive of Take Ten’s work. 

From Byron Sanders, Principal, Jefferson Intermediate Traditional School:

The curriculum of Take Ten teaches our young people the necessary skills to resolve conflict peacefully, to make non-violent choices in their lives and to handle bullying.  Take Ten’s impact in this area has been significant . . . and it has been utilized at Jefferson Intermediate Traditional School in several capacities.  Initially the program was implemented as an after school program and saw great success  . . .  Take Ten naturally aligned with our anti-bullying campaign and we believe strongly reinforced our behavioral expectations and necessary life skills to be successful outside school.

From Jill Hassell, Former Principal, Battell Elementary School:

Take Ten helps children with anger management and conflict resolution.  It gives our students strategies to use in their everyday life when they are having difficulty with friends or family or just within themselves.  We see children try to talk with each other in more productive ways and breathing before they respond.

From Jillian Hirsch, Notre Dame Student, Class of 2012, Take Ten volunteer:

I consider Take Ten one of my key experiences at Notre Dame.  I have continued to be a part of this program because I truly believe it makes a difference in the students.  I have witnessed great changes in the way students treat each other.  I know that continued use of Take Ten will allow students to benefit from its lessons. 

From Monica Aguirre, School-aged Children’s Services Coach, Center for the Homeless:

Take Ten offers children something different, something more, something better than they thought they could have.  Take Ten is currently the only mandatory programming for children; staff feels that the program offers essential tools to help children cope with homelessness, living in a community setting, and helps develop self-awareness.”

Students who have participated in Take Ten: 

  • I like it because it teaches us about respect, the activities are fun and I learn about how to not fight with my friends and my brothers and sisters.
  • I like that you get together in a group and you can discuss your feelings and no one judges you.
  • Take Ten helps me get a handle on myself.
  • It makes me not so mad.
  • It helps me a lot when I am really mad at someone and want to go off on them.
  • It gives me a reason to calm down.
  • I talk it out a lot now.

What Kids Should Know

Bullying happens when someone hurts or scares another person on purpose and the person being bullied has a hard time defending himself or herself. Usually, bullying happens repeatedly; it forms a pattern of behavior on the part of the bully.

Bullying includes:

  • Punching, shoving, and other ways of physically hurting people
  • Spreading bad rumors about people
  • Keeping certain people out of a “group”
  • Teasing people in a mean way
  • Sending insulting e-mails to people or about people

When you are bullied:

  • Try to avoid, ignore, or walk away from a bully.
  • Stay calm and do not fight back.
  • Forcefully say to the bully, “Leave me alone.”
  • Use humor, if possible, to react to a bully.
  • DON’T go places alone;always stay with a group.
  • Don’t blame yourself. YOU DO NOT DESERVE THIS!

When you see someone bullied:

Report bullying to a trusted adult.
Calmly tell the bully to stop.
Support the person being bullied.

When you are the bully:

  1. Think about how you why you bully.
  2. Identify your feelings when you bully.
  3. Find other ways to make yourself feel good.
  4. Realize bullying leads to more serious problems.
  5. Ask an adult you trust or a friend for help.

Stop Bullying Now! U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Slavens, Elaine: Bullying: Deal with it before push comes to shove