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Boundaries vs Bullying

August 4, 2017

The school year is fast upon us and as such, it’s time to talk about a common school problem: bullying.

I’ve been an educator for 20 years and have seen bullying, but more often, I see not bullying being classified as bullying by upset parents. Let’s talk about what bullying is before we go into what it is not. According to


Bullying Definition

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. 

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:


Bullying is intentional and often repeated harm to a weaker child.

What is not bullying:

  1. Your child being annoyed by another child.
  2. Your child being pushed down in a game of tag that got too rough.
  3. And most of all, other children choosing not to play with your child.

#3 hurts. I’ve dealt with that one: My younger child looking up to older kids and desperately wanting to play with them, but the older kids not wanting to play with him/her. Watching my babes have hurt feelings ignites some mama bear instinct that wants to lash out at the kids for being “mean” to my baby. I hold that in because my logic does overcome and let me know that a child choosing not to play with my child is not mean; it’s just a boundary. Kids are allowed to have boundaries.

I want to be clear here that I am not talking about intentional exclusion with the goal to hurt your child. What I am addressing is children choosing not to spend time with your child or your child choosing to not spend time with someone. Healthy boundaries are not intentionally cruel. Intention absolutely matters when we are discussing bullying.

Bullying is intentionally cruel. Boundaries are not.

I am a child of generations of people pleasers and as such, boundaries are really hard. Saying no often makes others unhappy and people pleasers do not want to do that. Being labelled as “mean” is our worst fear. We say yes when we want to say no and for that, we suffer. Saying no is a really good thing and you must give your child permission to say no  and also give other children a right to say no to your child.

For you and your child, time is the most precious of resources. You are allowed to spend those resources as you choose. I am working on saying no, firmly and kindly. I want my children to be able to to do the same.

Boundaries are not bullying. Allow your child boundaries and allow yourself, my fellow over worked, over stressed, over “nice” mommas, to say no also so you can have to energy to love your babes how the deserved to be loved.







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