Take even a few minutes to be around a group of kids and you will inevitably hear something being said that will be taken as mean.
?Ew, you stink!?
?You?re stupid.?
?You?re not my friend anymore.?

While a child saying mean things can feel hurtful, it is important for children to be able to recognize the difference between someone being mean and them being bullied. With all the activity surrounding October as National Bully Prevention Month, it is important that we, as parents, teachers and self-defense instructors, know and communicate that difference and help kids understand it as well.

Bullying can be a major problem for kids. In a recent study, over 75% of students said that they had been bullied mentally, verbally, or physically at school. Over 280,000 students in America are physically attacked each month. Many students fear for their safety at school and over 30% of parents fear for their children?s safety. Bullying can cause chronic absenteeism and poor school performance. It is an issue that needs to be addressed.
But just because a kid says something mean or hurtful does not necessarily make them a bully. Bullying is typically characterized as a pattern of cruel or abusive speech or behavior directed toward the victim. The reasons kids bully are varied and not the intended topic of this blog post, but fundamentally, it is a behavior that is learned in their struggle to find their place in the world.

You?re not being bullied just because a kid said that you stink or that they?re not your friend anymore. Some kids are just mean. Some kid?s speech ?filter? may not work as well as yours. Some kids may not have learned how to communicate their ideas clearly and get frustrated and lash out. That doesn?t make them a bully?unless it becomes a pattern of behavior.
So how can a child know the difference between bullying and a kid just being mean?
One of the most important ways for children to discover that difference is to help them learn empathy. Empathy, or the ability to put yourself ?in another?s shoes? so to speak, is a powerful strategy for kids to learn so that they can get outside themselves and see things fr