PHOENIX -- Bullying. It's an ongoing problem that's been making news throughout the country.
Parents and educators are working together to try and come up with creative ways of solving the problem, but at the same time they might be fueling a fire that's frightening kids, leading them to confuse bullying with plain old bad behavior.
Sue Levine, author of the "Susie's Shoesies" children's books, has been working with children, families and schools for more than 40 years, and she says there's a big difference between true bullying and behavior in which kids are simply acting out.
"It's important to remember that in the definition of 'bullying,' we're talking about a repetitive, persistent harassment of hurtful behaviors, whether it's verbal, physical, emotional …, with the intent to be intimidating the target of that behavior," Levine explained.
According to Levine not knowing what bullying actually is can contribute to hysteria among children and parents.
While bullying is bad behavior, not all bad behavior is bullying.
The author used the example of a child shoving another child on a one-time basis.
"That's inappropriate behavior, to be sure, and should be dealt with, but unless it's happening in a repetitive manner meant to intimidate, as opposed to just being a little bit of a jerk -- that's the big difference," she explained.
When bullying is going on, Levine said it's essential to get the child to talk to you about it.
"In addition to that, you also want to make sure the child doesn't blame themselves," she continued. "Sometimes they feel it's their fault, that they even deserve this."
Finally, you have to give your child hope for the future.
"One way to do this is to give them an immediate course of action that they can take if they feel they are being bullied," Levine said.
She suggested teaching them the "Stop. Walk. Talk." system to try and defuse the situation.
The three-stop action is a fairly simple concept. When a child feels he or she is being bullied, he or she says, "Stop," while making a stop or time-out gesture, walks away from the bully, and then finds an adult to talk to.
Levine says her books, which are available Barnes and Noble, as well as on Amazon.com, are designed to teach kids valuable life lessons, including dealing today's social issues, in a fun and entertaining way.