Pick up any newspaper, watch a national news station, or search the blogosphere to gain information about current news stories, and you will find the word “bullying” in the headlines.  Educators across the country are taking a hard look at the issue of bullying in schools, and here at Ravenscroft, our faculty and staff have put these conversations at the top of our priority list.  Although neither bullying nor bulldozing feel respectful, and sometimes have similar impact, if we understand the difference, we may be more effective in educating our children to stand up for themselves and others.

In order to be more intentional about our efforts in Lower School, Dr. Chris Harper, Lower School Guidance Counselor, has focused guidance classes on the topic of relationships and has added a new “B”—bulldozing — to the language used with students to help them understand why relationships sometimes break down.  She recently shared this information with the Lower School faculty at a Division Meeting, and we thought it would be helpful to share the information with parents, too, so we all can be using a common language when having conversations with our children.


Dan Olweus, a respected researcher and teacher on this topic and creator of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, provides us with this commonly accepted definition for bullying in his book, Bullying at School:  What We Know and What We Can Do:

“A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.”

This definition includes three important components:

  1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
  2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
  3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.

In our LOWER SCHOOL, we define

Bullying as

1. Being unkind  …  2. Over and over …  3. On purpose

We also talk about:

  • Bulldozing (also bossing) – mowing others down in an effort to get your way; “bulldozers” don’t intend to be unkind, but don’t have the skills or patience to ask, negotiate, etc….so just plows ahead
  • Bystanding – watching trouble happen; doing nothing to stop it or to get help
  • Blocking– moving (physically or verbally) to help or get help
  • Being a victim or target – being targeted for intentional, repeated unkindness
  • Tattle – just want to get someone in trouble
  • Tell– want to get help, or get someone OUT of trouble

Reporting bullying is ALWAYS a “tell”

The question that teachers and students are encouraged to ask each other is:

Is the behavior bulldozing* (unskilled) or bullying** (intentionally and persistently unkind)?

*If bulldozing or bossing … or a relatively “small problem,”

What have you tried already?

  • Ignore it;
  • tell them to stop;
  • walk away;
  • talk it out;
  • make a deal;
  • go to another game;
  • wait and cool off;
  • share and take turns;
  • apologize.

Dr. Harper uses the metaphor of a staircase and discusses actions that escalate the problem up the stairs; she encourages teachers and students to find ways to de-escalate the problem down the staircase.

  • Teachers may report to parents, administration, or help child brainstorm solutions
  • Talk with children involved and document, if needed
  • Consider calling parents to inform and to enlist their help and support

In helping children brainstorm, there are additional questions we can ask:

  • Do you feel bulldozed?
  • What can we do to solve this?
  • Is that going to make it better or worse?
  • How would you like this to turn out?
  • Could Dr. Harper help sort this?

**If bullying or another “large problem,”

  • Teachers must report the incident(s) to administration
  • Teachers talk with children involved
  • Head of Lower School and/or Guidance Counselor talk with children involved
  • Disciplinary action taken, if necessary
  • Conversation about strategies and remedies occurs
  • Parents of all children involved are informed of incident(s)
  • Written documentation is provided for the files of all children involved

Here’s how parents can help support our efforts here at school:

  • “Borrow” some of our language for use in conversations at home
  • Teach your child conflict management skills
  • Work on helping them understand other’s perspectives, taking turns, treating others with respect and dignity
  • Thoroughly listen to what your child perceives; try not to put your words into their observations until you are sure you have understood their feelings; ask them to listen thoroughly to you
  • Brainstorm some concrete things to do or say that can help your child if he/she feels uneasy, bulldozed, or bullied
  • Let us know if your child feels uncomfortable at school; talk with us about remedies
  • Emphasize with your child that it is NEVER okay for anyone to make them feel unsafe at school
  • Express your confidence that, together, we can solve the problem
  • Thank your child for trusting you to help


What questions do you have about bullying and bulldozing?

Are there other topics you would like Dr. Harper to address in a guest blog post?

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