What guidance does the Bible provide?
Bullying is a form of intimidation on another; this type of harassment is difficult for any child to go through. Proverbs 6:16-19 tell us what God thinks of this behavior; "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community." The Lord despises when someone is mean to another person and wants the bullying to cease. These verses speak of the bully's heart; the bully is proud, will tell lies, hurt others with words or actions, and raises his self-confidence by lowering others'. The bully may not even realize that God hates their actions against others.
Even though there are bullies in our life, we are not to repay their actions. No matter how hateful and hurtful the bully is to your child, teach them the verse Matthew 5:44 that gives us a direction from the Lord, "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." God wants us to love everyone, even if they are not kind to us. We should treat others the way that we want to be treated.
Things to think about:
How do I know if my child is being bullied?There are several signs that your child might be a target for bullies. A child showing any of these symptoms needs immediate attention and help from an adult.Signs to look for if you suspect your child is being bullied:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or broken clothes, books, electronics or other important items
- Frequent illnesses or faking sickness to avoid going places
- An increase in nightmares or lack of restful sleeping
- Changes in eating habits
- A downturn of school enjoyment or a fall in grades
- Loss of friends or not participating in social circumstances
- Lowered self-esteem
- Hurting themselves or threatening to run away
Can my child's school help my bullied child?
Bullying has become a nationwide issue and is present in more than 25% of schools weekly, if not daily. (http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/bully-proof.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle) . That being said, there is much being done to put an end to bullying through your child's school or the organizations in which they participate. Most schools have an anti-bully program or policy that they uphold. Keep in mind that bullying can take place in other social settings outside of school.
What do I do now?
Talk with your child about bullying. Start with more generalized questions such as, "I have heard about bullying on the news, is it happening at your school?", "Are there kids at school that you do not like for some reason, and why?", and "Are there people at school that exclude you or are mean to you on purpose?". This allows your child to discuss what is happening in their terms. If your child opens up and tells you that they are being bullied, give them unconditional support and listen closely to what they have to say. Being bullied makes a child feel helpless and humiliated. Often children feel that no one cares or even understands. Reassure your son or daughter that you love and care for them and want to help through this upsetting time. Once you better understand what your child is going through, you can better help them. In this conversation, remind your child not to fight back or provoke the bully. This could lead to more trouble down the road. Teach them some strategies that will help them get out of a situation with a bully:
- Do not respond to the bully
- Take pictures or evidence if any (bruises, scratches, marks, broken or damaged items)
- Tell someone they trust immediately
- Keep calm and walk away
Set up a meeting with your child's school principal if bullying is occurring on school property. Before sitting down to discuss the issue at hand, it might be helpful to write down some points that you wish to bring up or topics of discussion. This ensures that you will not forget anything that you wish to talk about in your meeting. During this time with the principal or teacher, explain what has been going on in a calm manner, leaving your emotions out; say what you need to say using the facts. Write down suggestions from the principal as well as things that they inform you that they will do to help protect your son or daughter. Ask questions like, "Who can my child report the bullying to?" and "How can we assure my child that school is a safe place now?". After this meeting, continue to follow up with your child and ensure the bullying has stopped. Keep in contact with the school principal. If the bullying continues, you might need to speak to the superintendent, school board or in worst case scenarios, the city or state authorities.
It is helpful for your son or daughter to talk about issues with a safe person where the bullying is taking place. Contact the school counselor and set up a time for your son or daughter to meet with them. This can be their protected zone if they feel threatened or need to talk about what they are feeling. The counselor might have some great tips for your child in dealing with the bully. Building your child's self-esteem is the most important goal in this situation; helping your son or daughter to learn not to ‘buy into' the words and thoughts of the bully will assist them to overcome these difficulties.
Want to go deeper?
This website is a great resource for determining if your child is being bullied and how to formulate a plan of defense. There are different links within the website that talk about different ways to deal with bullying from a parent and child aspect.
This resource has several ways to look at bullying in hopes of stopping it. There are many embedded links to other sites that are helpful.
For a great Christian perspective on bullying and being bullied, this is a very helpful resource.