How to Live Out Your Faith While Protecting Your Children from Bullies
By Trish Berg
I remember it like it was yesterday, even though thirty years have passed. She waited for me to walk past her on the school bus only to trip me. She called me Monkey Face, and even slashed my bike tires one day, forcing me to walk home. As a child, I was the victim of bullying, and let it go on far too long before asking for help. I didn’t know how to make it S.T.O.P.
Your kids don’t have to wait. There is a way to S.T.O.P. bullying, and yet remain a strong witness for Christ. The first step is recognizing that bullying is a big deal, and is not a natural part of growing up. Bullying should not be tolerated by children, parents or teachers. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly one third of our kids are victims of bullying at school.1 We teach our kids to stop, drop, and roll if their clothes catch on fire, and we need to teach them what to do if they are ever bullied, or witness bullying. With one-third of our children being bullied, they are more likely to face bullying than burning clothing, and they need to be prepared. But where do we begin? Well, it’s as simple as 1-2-3.
#1 Teach your child this simple acronym:
If you are ever bullied, remember S.T.O.P.:
Stand up to the bully, and use your words to tell him to STOP hurting you.
Say it loudly and clearly for others to hear. Other suggestions include: 1) Turn the bully’s insults into compliments by pretending that the bully said something nice; 2) Agree with the bully, it takes away their momentum and when they can’t get the reaction they want, the bullying may stop.2
Take appropriate action to get away from the bully, walk or run if need be, or get an adult.
Jesus did not physically fight back against those who were cruel to him. In Luke 4, we learn about Jesus being disrespected in the synagogue, and He didn't argue further or strike out; he simply "went his way.” 3 However, if you are being hit or kicked, you may need to take physical action to defend yourself, but should only take enough action to get away and get help.
Open up to a trusted adult in your life, like your parents, a teacher or pastor.
Tell an adult that you are being bullied, where and when it happened, and who is bullying you. Bullying is serious, and it is not tattling to ask for help from a trusted adult.
Protect yourself from bullies.
You can protect yourself from bullying by staying in groups of kids, not walking home alone, and playing in playground areas near teachers. But remember that if you are bullied, it is not your fault, and you need to get away and get help.
#2 Take preventative measures to STOP bullying:
Open the lines of communication by talking to your kids about bullying. Define bullying so your children know what it is. Bullies are children who intentionally and repeatedly tease, exclude, or physically hurt other children. “Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do. Whatever else you get, get insight” (Proverbs 4:7). Our children must have a clear understanding of what bullying is in order to recognize it and protect themselves and others.
Teach your children not to be a bully. “Kind words are like honey-sweet to the taste and good for your health” (Proverbs 16:24). Your children must understand that bullying is not only hitting, but hurtful words as well. Children do not have to like or include everyone, but they should never be cruel to anyone!
Discuss what to do if they witness another child being bullied. “What a joy it is to find the right word for the right occasion” (Proverbs 15:23). Prepare your children with words like, “STOP hurting my friend,” or, “STOP being mean!” Encourage them to get help from a nearby adult if needed.
#3 Once bullying has occurred, protect your child:
- Stop and listen. Take complaints of bullying seriously, and pray with your child. “When you pray, I will answer you. When you call to me, I will respond” (Isaiah 58:9). Our children learn about God’s love through us; we reflect His love in our actions. If we don’t listen to our children, why would they believe God listens to them?
- Be responsive. Take immediate, appropriate action to protect your child. “You are my hiding place; you will save me from trouble. I sing aloud of your salvation, because you protect me” (Psalm 32:7). God is our ultimate protection, and we can teach our children to find peace in His loving protection. But as parents, it is our job to protect our children here on earth as well, and we must protect our children from bullies.
Pray for the bully with your child, reminding them that the Lord loves him, too. Explain that you do not need the perfect words, that God understands our hearts. Read Romans 8:26b: “For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit Himself pleads with God for us in groans that words can not express.”
Teach your child to forgive the bully for hurting him. Read Matthew 6:14: “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you.”
Thirty years ago, I stayed silent far too long as a victim of bullying. Your kids should not! “Bully stories don't always have neat endings. Yet with Christ's help, no matter what other people's children do, our children can grow in character and in strength. And we can grow with them.”4
www.safechild.org The Safe Child Program: a comprehensive curriculum on preventing bullying.
www.bullying.org An award winning, non-profit, Internet resource created to help prevent bullying. It is the number one bullying-referenced website in the world.
1. Victoria Clayton, “Battling bullies - Turn to school counselors and other professionals for help,” MSNBC, April 22, 2004, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4556184/.
2. Kate Cohen-Posey, “How to Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies,” http://www.new-life.net/bigbully.htm.
3. Caryl W. Krueger, “The Bible and Bullies,” Biblewise.com, http://biblewise.com/parenting/parenting.htm.
4. Dandi Daley Mackall, “Big Bad Bullies,” “Christianity Today,” September/October 1996, Vol. 18, No. 5, Page 64
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