Bullying, Mean and Rude: What’s the Difference?




It’s Back to School time! A new year means new classes and new friendships. With all this newness comes change. Change often breeds insecurity and these insecurities can manifest into forms of bullying.

Not all forms of unkindness are bullying. It’s important for educators, parents and students to know the difference.

RUDE: If someone is being rude, they are likely being inappropriate, but there is no evidence of intentional meanness, repetitive behavior or a power struggle. Rudeness is usually done without much thought. For example: Kara turning in line and burping in Sarah’s face is not appropriate but it’s not being a bully, it’s being rude.

Mean: Is motivated with the intent to be hurtful but it’s not a struggle for power. Sarah and her friend Gabi get in a fight because Sarah is talking to Joe even though she knows Gabi liked him first. Now Joe like’s Sarah too. When Gabi is with Sarah alone, she calls her a flirt and the worst friend ever.  Gabi is being mean; she is motivated with the intent to be hurtful but it’s probably not a power struggle because the girls are usually friends. It looks to be more of a reciprocated argument.

Bullying: Is intentional. The purpose is to hurt. It’s usually repetitive and the goal is to manipulate relationships. If Sarah and Gabi spend all weekend together doing sleepovers and their friend Kara becomes so jealous she calls Sarah a friend sucker to her face on Monday, that is Kara being mean. But then the next day, she starts a rumor about Sarah and convinces Gabi and other girls in the class to ignore Sarah when she tries to sit in her usual spot at the lunch tables. Kara’s meanness has turned to bullying. She is purposely trying to hurt Sarah’s reputation and gain peer power over Sarah, Gabi and the other girls in her class.  She is excluding Sarah and manipulating peer friendships. Her one remark to hurt Gabi out of jealousy has turned to purposefully and repetitively target Sarah.

Girl bullying (Relational Aggression) is covert and not easy to recognize. If you’re still not sure what you or your child might be seeing or experiencing, check out the list below for some of the ways girls use their relationships to hurt each other:

                                   Exclusion                                     Intimidation

                                   Insults                                          Gossip 

                                   Rumors                                        Cyberbullying

                                   Social Manipulation                 Alliance building

For more information on Relational Aggression, you can check out the resource page on our website The Mean Girl Extinction Project