What Is Bullying (And What Isn’t Bullying)?

At COMPASSION IT, we encourage schools and parents to introduce compassion to prevent and curb bullying. Our reversible wristbands are an easy and tangible tool that make compassion accessible for all ages.

If you’re a parent or an educator, you might share my fears. My 9-year-old daughter, Hannah, hasn’t been bullied yet, but I know it could start happening any day. How will I be able to recognize if a bully is targeting Hannah? How will I handle that? Or worse, what will I do if SHE is the bully?

In order for children to thrive and learn, they need to feel safe. If you are an educator or a parent, it’s important to understand bullying and how compassion can be its antidote. That’s why I’ve created a five-part series to help understand how to spot bullying, how to combat bullying, and why it’s important to bring compassion into the mix.

According to StopBullying.gov, the definition of 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.”

The key point is that bullying is targeted, intentional, and repetitive. It is a pattern of behaviors that harms a child.

Bullying can take many forms, and there are four categories of bullying:

1 – Verbal Bullying

This includes teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, and taunting.


2 – Social Bullying

Often referred to as relational bullying, social bullying happens when someone is trying to deliberately hurt another’s reputation. This includes

spreading rumors, repeatedly excluding someone, and telling other children not to be friends with someone.


3 – Physical Bullying

This includes hitting, pushing, tripping, stealing possessions, and sexual assault. Boys are more likely to participate in physical bullying than girls.


4 – Cyber-Bullying

Cyber bullies use the internet (social media, mostly) to target their victims. Rumors and insults can quickly spread through social media, and it’s nearly impossible to eradicate them.


Sometimes, we may categorize certain behaviors as bullying, but they’re not deliberate or repetitive. Conflict and drama are not always bullying.


Bullying is NOT:

1 – Excluding someone

It is not considered bullying if children exclude someone on the playground now and then or don’t invite someone to a party. Repeated and deliberate exclusion, however, can be bullying.


2 – Disliking someone

Children may verbally or nonverbally communicate their dislike of another child. This is okay, as long as they don’t start rumors or verbally abuse the other child.


3 – Accidental physical harm

A child might unintentionally bump into or trip another child. This it is not bullying if it is not deliberate.


4 – Being “bossy”

It is natural to want friends to play a certain way, and some children take the role of being the director. Learning to lead skillfully is a lifelong process, and most kids haven’t mastered it.


5 – Telling a joke about someone (once)

While this is not great behavior, it is not considered bullying unless there are repeated instances. Of course we should teach our children that one single joke about someone may hurt that child’s feelings, and it’s not okay.


6 – Arguments

We all argue, and arguments will inevitably happen at school.


While the above six behaviors are not ideal, they are not bullying. As parents and educators, we should teach children to refrain from acting in ways that may hurt another, whether it’s a one-time thing or not. Nonetheless, it’s important to understand the difference between bullying and general conflict or unskilled behavior.

At COMPASSION IT, we encourage schools and parents to introduce compassion to prevent and curb bullying. Our reversible wristbands are an easy and tangible tool that make compassion accessible for all ages.

Sources include: Family Matters Practical Parenting Blog, StopBullying.gov, http://www.pacerkidsagainstbullying.org


More on creating a compassionate campus:

Nearly one out of three students reports being bullied, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics 2013. Because of this, most schools have implemented anti-bullying programs, and children learn about bullying starting the day they enter kindergarten.

Schools are teaching kids how NOT to treat each other, but why can’t we also focus on teaching them how TO treat each other? In other words, what if we make pro-compassion programs as prevalent as anti-bullying programs?

Oglethorpe Point Elementary School in St. Simons Island, Ga., flipped the conversation on bullying. After losing a kindergartner to cancer in the spring of 2015, the school realized the power of compassion and decided to make compassion a priority. A motivated school counselor secured grant funding to bring COMPASSION IT wristbands to her elementary school (750 students), and she rolled out the wristbands and compassion training to the entire school. Not only was the impact positive, but the school district’s 10 other elementary schools are planning to introduce COMPASSION IT.

See below for testimonials, ideas to cultivate compassion, and also a guide for implementing COMPASSION IT in your school.

Testimonials from Oglethorpe Point Elementary Educators and Families:

Students are becoming so invested in the idea of compassion. They cannot wait to brag – mostly on a friend! – when they see someone doing something that they consider “compassionate” and give it the title!

Students want to share how they have shown compassion – this has heightened their awareness! They tell me to flip my bracelet when they feel I have shown compassion.

Two fifth grade girls shared that during this past weekend, they had a lemonade stand and bake sale to raise money for one of their cheerleading friends whose dad died and mom just went to prison for four years. The cheerleader is a senior at a local high school, and he is the top level cheerleader on their team. They raised $400.00 that will allow him to continue to cheer for two months.

I hear about compassion many times at home from my granddaughters. It’s working! Thanks for all you do!

Compassion-provoking projects:

  1. Invite students to write stories and poems about compassion to be published in the local newspaper.
  2. Encourage each grade level to adopt a different compassion service project every month.
  3. Create a COMPASSION tree. On paper leaves, students can write statements about ways they have witnessed compassion at school.
  4. Ask a parent or grandparent to make a compassion bench for the playground. When a child doesn’t have anyone to play with, he sits on the bench. Students are instructed to be aware of the bench and invite the left-out child to play.

How to implement COMPASSION IT:

  1. Purchase COMPASSION IT wristbands for the school. Wristbands can be customized to reflect your school colors (contact COMPASSION IT for details). Oglethorpe Elementary received local grant funding to purchase wristbands.
  2. Upon receiving wristbands, generate excitement with your fellow educators and community members. Schedule a meeting to educate staff, parents, and community members about COMPASSION IT. Engage these individuals in brainstorming about various service projects for each grade level. Examples include: providing coloring kits to children’s hospitals, gathering canned goods for local food banks, and providing necessities to local shelters
  3. Hold a school-wide spirit rally to introduce the COMPASSION IT theme to the students. This video is helpful in introducing the concept:https://youtu.be/uaWA2GbcnJU. Once students see the video, the school counselor can explain what compassion is, and why it is important to make it a verb.
  4. Encourage the school counselor to meet with each class to show the above video and engage the students in a discussion about compassion. Ask students to identify ways the video reflects compassion to the environment, animals, and people. Hand out wristbands to students, and explain each student’s goal is to show at least one act of compassion each day. When a compassionate act is completed, the wristband can be flipped (and celebrated)!
  5. Include monthly guidance lessons which highlight compassion-related topics such as inclusion.

You can also use this free lesson plan to help you introduce COMPASSION IT to your students.

Order COMPASSION IT wristbands as a simple tool for introducing compassion to children.


  1. Raina on October 5, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    When people are getting bullied they dont like it because the person said something that isnt wright for an example. They said to the other kid that they are not cool and if someone sticks up for that kid they will just get bullied and if it gets far they go and tell a teacher that is a wright thing to do people should stop bullying.

  2. edward keeling at honley high school year 11 on December 4, 2017 at 11:43 am

    this is a brilliant website

    • Compassion It Team on December 5, 2017 at 10:57 pm

      Thanks so much, Edward!

  3. Harlow on December 13, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    when I was in high school I got bullied from y8-y10 and Ik how people feel its horrible its mean and you are thinking why are they doing this to me?why me?what have I done? so many questions going around your head, but still you don’t know the answers to any of them. when I was getting bullied the bully(s)never listened to the teachers they just ignored everything they said to them.and it got to a point where I didn’t go to school

    • Compassion It Team on December 15, 2017 at 8:28 pm

      Than you for sharing this, Harlow. I’m so sorry to hear you were bullied. It’s awful to hear that your teachers didn’t have the proper tools to handle the situation. Sending compassion your way…

    • Elsa Collins on January 24, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      Teachers should monitor students, put cameras(evidence), teach and encourage pupils to respect and be caring towards each-other, anti- bullying ambassadors, zero tolerance on bullying.

  4. Turks on December 15, 2017 at 10:23 am

    This website was very helpful… Turks 2017

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.