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We often are confused between the definitions of rude, mean or if it’s bullying behavior.


Signe Whitson, an internationally recognized speaker and educator, provides insights on the distinctions of these types of behaviors in her latest activity books.


She challenges kids to move to a designated section in the room if the behavior represents bullying, to a different section if the behavior demonstrates meanness, and to a third section if the behavior is considered rude. Allow kids time to discuss why they chose to stand in a particular section, encouraging personal examples and reflection, as appropriate.


Order 8 Keys to End Bullying on Amazon.


Let’s review the definitions:


Children’s author, Trudy Ludwig, uses these definitions:


Rude = Accidentally saying or doing something hurtful. 


Rude behaviors include:


  • Burping in someone’s face
  • Butting in line
  • Bragging about making a team


Rude behaviors are usually thoughtless and ill mannered, but not meant to actually hurt someone else. 


Mean = Saying or doing something to hurt a person on purpose, once or maybe twice.



The main difference between “rude” and “mean” behavior is that rudeness is usually unplanned.  Mean behavior, on the other hand, is done on purpose.


Mean behaviors include:


  • Making fun of what someone looks like or what they are wearing
    • I don’t like your short hair.  You look like a boy.
    • Why did you wear that dress?
  • Insulting someone’s intelligence or ability
    • You’re so stupid.
    • You stink at soccer.
  • Saying or doing something unkind after a fight with a friend.
    • Saying, “I hate you.”
    • Taking something that doesn’t belong to you.


Make no mistake; mean behaviors are very hurtful and should be avoided at all times! Still, meanness is different from bullying in important ways that we’ll talk about next.


Bullying = Cruel behavior, done on purpose and repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.  




To best understand bullying, remember the 3 P’s:


  1. It is done on Purpose; there is nothing “accidental” or unplanned about bullying
  2. It is a Pattern; the cruelty happens over and over again
  3. It is all about Power; the cruel person has more control and influence than his/her target


Kids who bully say or do something purposefully hurtful to others and they keep doing it again and again, with no sense of guilt or shame.  Kids who bully have more power than the kids they pick on.  This power may come from being older, stronger, or bigger in size or it may come from getting several kids to gang up on one target, to make that target feel hurt and alone.


 Order The 8 Keys to End Bullying Activity Book for Kids and Tweens on Amazon.