A question for your website 🙂 Thanks in advance! Our 6 yr old son has been having issues with bullies. Sometimes it is physical pushing, and other times it is emotional manipulation. He is a very social boy who wants to be everyone’s friend, and finds it difficult to say NO to friends because he doesn’t want to make them mad at him. We have talked about this over and over but although he knows what he should do, he often doesn’t follow through in the midst of the situation. What can we do to help communicate the importance of his safety, and help him understand that some of his friends do not have his best interest in mind? And how can we best communicate that fine line between showing God’s love to your friend and still standing up for yourself?
Although much has been said about the topic of bullying, some still do not know how to identify it, deal with, or realize just how big the situation of bullying has become today. It is a lot bigger than some imagine. According to bullyingstatisics.org a recent study conducted by ABC news, finds 30% of students are either bullied or bully others. If this is not frightening enough, listen to this. Every day in the United States, 164,000 students stay home from school because of fear of being bullied.
Sadly, some think this whole subject is just “kids being kids.” Men remember being pushed or shoved in school. Taking matters in their own hands with a swift upper cut to the nose of the perpetrator, according to them, took care of the situation. But friends, we live in a very different culture and society today. Bullying is not “kids being kids.” School shootings and suicides cry out to us to take bullying seriously.
What is bullying? Bullying.gov defines bullying as “unwanted aggressive behavior.” This “unwanted aggressive behavior” comes in a wide range of varieties and flavors, none of which are pleasant.
- It can be physical. This would include slapping, pinching, punching, kicking, shoving, pushing, knocking books out of the hands of the victim, stealing lunches, destroying personal property, and a host of other unwanted physical contacts.
- It can be emotional. This would include verbal threats, teasing, laughing at, making fun of, pointing out a physical defect and making it the source of the joke, taunting, humiliating, and excluding the bullied kid from a group causing that child to feel isolated and unwanted. These threats can extend to those who may try to protect the bullied victim as well.
Who is involved?
- Kids who bully. There seems to be a rather common thread that runs through the situation of those who bully.
- Their home life.
- Often they have issues at home. Many come from a home life of domestic violence, substance abuse, or other situations that are significant.
- Their parents are often not involved in their lives. There is not a close, structured family life.
- Their friends are apt to be bullies as well. They have watched and learned from them, and unfortunately, they are acting out what they have seen.
- Their view of self.
- Often they crave a circle of social power. By this I mean they have friends whom they seek to have power over or influence. They are domineering. Bullies are very concerned about their own popularity and will do almost anything to demonstrate their power.
- Sometimes they bully and belittle others, seeking to deflect attention from their own inadequacies or deficiency.
- Kids who are bullied. While it is possible that any child can become the target of unwanted aggression, there seems to be several common characteristics of those who are bullied.
- Any child who is perceived to be different from the rest of the group is one of the most significant characteristics of those who are bullied. This could be someone who is either overweight or underweight. It could be someone who is perceived to be too tall or too short. Anything that seems to make the child stand out as being different from the “in-crowd” makes him or her a target for bullying.
- Any child who is new to a particular school system, neighborhood, or sad to say, even new in the youth group or children’s ministry may be the target of unwanted aggression. Foster children sometimes find it very difficult to feel at home in a youth group because they don’t fit into the culture of that group. The children of missionaries are most certainly targets of bullying because they are different from the culture of the other kids. Missionary children also move frequently which makes them the constant “new kid in school.”
- Any child who stands out as being too smart or not smart enough is a target for bullying. Pity the child who breaks his or her glasses and whose parents cannot afford a new pair. What to do? A temporary repair holds them together with tape. That child is most certainly a target for bullying. A child who is viewed as being too poor to afford “the cool clothes like the rest of us” many times feels the harsh treatment of bullying.
- Any child who seems unable to defend self occasionally becomes the target of bullying.
- Kids who encourage the bullies. Many times bullies do not act alone. Bullies may be fueled by the encouragement, cheering, and even the “I dare you” to bully. While these kids may not be directly involved in the hands-on act of bullying, they are just as guilty. They are the audience. They watch, cheer, and laugh at the unfolding act of aggression. Their acts of encouragement and enjoyment are despicable and deplorable.
- Kids who see nothing, know nothing, and do nothing. Though they may be concerned for the kid being bullied, they do not get involved. Sometimes this is because of not wanting to become a target of bullying. Other times it may be that they do not know what to do.
- Kids who get involved.
- Sometimes there are brave young people who step in and defend the child being bullied.
- Other times they report what they have witnessed. They tell their parents, school officials, or some adult they trust.
- Not often enough, but sometimes a children will actually befriend the youngster who feels all alone and different from the rest of the group. Their friendship means so much to those who are bullied.
What can be done?
If you are the parent or are involved with children, and you suspect either your child or another child is being bullied, there are several important things that you must do.
- Know the symptoms and signs of the bullied child.
- Has your child suddenly become fearful to go to school?
- Is your child making up an illness to avoid having to go to school?
- Is your child taking more and more money to school? This could be “paying for protection” from unwanted aggression.
- Has your child become withdrawn and isolated? Are there signs of fearfulness and depression?
- Has your child become more and more negative in speaking about himself or herself?
- Talk with your child about bullying.
- Assure your child of how much he or she means to you (Proverbs 3:11-12 “delight”).
- Assure your child that he or she can talk to you about anything. Ask what’s happening at school. Talk with your child about your concerns about bullying. Take the initiative to speak very directly to your child about this subject (Ephesians 4:15). Ask probing questions. Don’t settle for “Everything’s fine.” Talk to them about respect. This includes what respect looks like and how it is shown (Romans 13:7 “fear” and “honor” KJV).
- Take the initiative to communicate your love to your child. Share with your child the desire you have for him or her to do the right thing always because we ??together want to please the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
- Tell your child that it is never all right for him or her to be bullied or to bully others. Reinforce how important your child is to you (Proverbs 3:12 “delight” KJV.) Share with your child how destructive bullying is, how it wounds sometimes in ways that will never heal.
- Teach your child what to do if he or she is being bullied.
- Pray for wisdom (James 1:5). Ask the Lord to help you to know what to do.
- Set up meetings with your school administration and faculty. Tell them your concerns and share with them any evidence or specifics of the situation. Work with your school officials and make sure they take this situation seriously.
- Possible options in bullying situations. Here are several suggestions that you can give to your child to remember if he or she is being bullied.
- Learn to discern if the situation poses immediate harm or danger. If it is dangerous, get away as quickly as possible to a safe place. Find an adult immediately.
- If the situation does not pose immediate danger, look the bully in the eyes and calmly and clearly say something like, “Stop. Please do not treat me like this. I don’t think it is funny.” There have been times that this has disarmed the bully.
- Walk away from the bully and get to the nearest place of safety.
- Report the situation immediately to the nearest adult or person of authority.
- Don’t keep this a secret from your parents. They really want to know and want to help.
- Know what places tend to foster bullying. Figure out ahead of time where bullying is apt to take place. Plan ways to avoid this.
- Stay as near to adults as possible.
- Be very careful what you post of Facebook and Twitter. Do not share your password with friends. Be extremely careful of the pictures you share and details you list. Be careful what you say to someone about others. It can come back to you in a very hurtful way.
- Do not ignore bullying that is directed toward others.
Children must be taught to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3). We must consistently seek to please the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:1) and live in a worthy manner (Ephesians 4:1). At school, at home, in the neighborhood, and even at church, we must “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God…Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, will all malice; And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted” (Ephesians 4:30-32). Christian kids must be reminded over and over again to stop and ask themselves, “What would the Lord Jesus want me to do?” Our children, as well as us adults, must remember that He wants us to do the right thing (1 John 2:29).
Above all, please always take bullying seriously. Encourage your child that it is always okay to come to you and talk with you about anything.