Understanding Conflict vs. BullyingConflicts can be Resolved, Bullying has to be Reported!
Conflict is different than bullying. Not all disagreements and fights are bullying. Conflict is a normal part of human interaction and arises frequently in our day to day lives. Part of learning to be independent and grown up is learning how to deal with and respond appropriately to conflict at home, at school, and in your community. Recognizing the difference between conflict and bullying will help students, parents and teachers know how to respond.Conflict is:
- All parties have equal power to solve the problem
- All parties have an equal interest in the outcome
- All parties are of relatively equal size, age or status
- A conflict can be resolved by talking or working things out together or with help from an adult.
- A repeated form of mistreatment where the victim cannot defend him/herself
- An imbalance of power – usually one person is either bigger or older than the other or has a higher social standing (is more popular) and uses this against the other person
- Usually involves repeated acts of harassment, harm or humiliation
Differences in Addressing Conflict and Bullying
Conflict is an important part of growing up but bullying is not. Conflict teaches kids how to give and take, how to come to an agreement and how to solve problems. But bullying only wounds kids.
When it comes to conflict, it’s good for kids to learn conflict resolution and resiliency skills. These skills promote listening and working together to come to an agreement or plan to move forward.
Conflict resolution works based on the assumption that both people are in part responsible for the current problem and need to work it out. In this situation, both kids make compromises and the conflict is resolved.
When bullying occurs, the bully is fully responsible for the situation. And the bully bears all the responsibility for change. For instance, bullies need to be told that their behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. They also need to experience consequences for their behavior. Likewise, targets of bullying need to be reassured that they didn’t cause the bullying, they did the right thing by reporting and that they are not to blame. They also should receive interventions that will help them overcome the negative impact of bullying so they can build self-confidence and resiliecy.
Is it Conflict or Bullying?
1) Becky and Jill want to play with Katie. Katie wants to play with both girls. Becky and Jill can't agree on what to play together with Katie. They do not want to share her with each other.
Conflict - Both girls have equal power and they are not attempting to harm each other.
2) Johnny says mean things to the younger students on the bus and he won't let them sit where they want to sit.
Bullying - Johnny is asserting his power over younger students. He is intending to cause harm to them to gain attention and control over them.
3) Steve and Billy argue over rules and teams while playing soccer at recess.
Conflict - Both boys have equal power without the intention to harm. They need assistance to establish clear rules and boundaries.
4) Tina tells Sarah, Jenny and Sue that she will tell their secrets and not be their friend if they don't do what she wants them to do.
Bullying - Tina is asserting her power over the girls to get her own way and control their friendship.
5) Amit asked Deepak to play at recess. Deepak did not want to play with him because he is playing with other friends. Since then, Amit asked Deepak everyday for 2 weeks. Deepak is beginning to feel bothered that Amit continues to ask him to play.
Conflict - While there is an imbalance of power, there is no intent to harm. Deepak has not refused Amit's friendship to hurt him (he has not told others not to be his friend, he has been polite and not tried to humiliate him). He is asserting his right to choose his friends.