"Off with her head" – Bullying

Charles Robinson – 1907

Yesterday, I witnessed three 10 year old boys hanging out at the pool. One squirted another with a water blaster, the third boy cried out to his friend who was being sprayed, “He’s just a bully, let’s not play with him anymore.” 
Is the boy who squirt the water blaster any more of a bully than the one who labeled him as such?
Are we teaching prejudice when we label children as bullies?
As Christians, how do we handle the issue of bullying with our own kids?
I know I am tackling an issue with lots of emotions tied to it. I myself have many emotions attached to the word. I’m not an expert in “bullying” – I am just a mother who has lived through and is living through a generation obsessed with the concept of bullying. 
I know what it feels like to be the mother of a bullied child. Remember “My Space”- the social networking site prior to facebook? My junior high daughter had a “My Space” page entitled “I hate Emily.” The cowardly, unidentified author of the site proceeded to rip apart my daughter and write everything negative that he thought about her on the open internet forum.  She cried. I cried. I was angry. The only redeeming thing about the experience was that she had so many friends defend her and write sweet things about her on the site. Her friends stood up for her, and eventually the angry cyber bullying stopped because his comments fell on deaf ears.  I wanted desperately to protect my daughter – but there was little I could do. 
Charles Folkard – 1921

I know what it feels like to be the mother of a “bully.” I say this very loosely – because I really don’t believe my child is a bully, in fact I think it is impossible for a three-year old to be a bully- but she has been labeled as one. You see, my daughter has disabilities which include “behavioral issues.” I hate the term because it always makes me think that normal discipline could fix these issues – I also think people have much great sympathy for those with physical disabilities than with kids who have “behavioral issues.” But, back to the bullying situation. My daughter can be overly aggressive without knowing it. She also deals with melt-downs in which she hurts herself, things, and others in her uncontrollable anger.  The hurting others has cost me relationships – there are friends I have who will not bring their children around mine because they are afraid my child with hurt theirs. I rarely leave my daughter – there are only a handful of places or adults I trust with her. But everywhereI have ever dropped her off – at church, or nursery situation – I have seen a toddler run and hide and say, “don’t let her hurt me.” I have witnessed child care workers talking with each other, and parents talking to each other and I have heard them say my daughter is a “bully.” I am sad for these other kids –I don’t want them to be hurt, and I want them to be hurt at the hands of my child even less. I want desperately to protect my daughter from being labeled a “bully” – but I don’t always know what to do. 

I can tell you from experience that parenting a child labeled a bully is just as painful and heart-wrenching as parenting a child who is bullied.

John Tenniel – 1865
Researching this topic has been eye-opening. Statistics show that 1 in 4 children claim to have been bullied, and 1 in 5 admits to having bullied.  Sometimes the same child experiences both sides.
So how should we as Christian parents address the issue?
1) Teach Children to be self-confident.
“Students who have been bullied exhibit depression, low self-esteem, health problems, poor grades, and suicidal ideation.” BullyingEducation.org
All children will be called names on the playground or be roughed up a little. If a child is self-confident, he can deal with the everyday stuff.  You, or another adult, won’t need to step in unless the situation is ongoing or excessive.
How do you teach self-confidence?
                Teach them who they are in Christ. Have them memorize Psalms 139:13-14
“For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you(T) because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
                Tell them how much you love them, how they are special, and how blessed you are to have       them.
                Encourage them to try new things, and get them involved in things they love and things they are             good at – but don’t pressure them to be the best or perfect.
Surprisingly, I have seen my 16 year old son “bullied.” But when asked, he states he has never been bullied. I believe it is because he feels good about himself, believes the best in others, and forgives easily, so he is able to let hurtful words slide off of him easily.
2) Teach children to be kind.
                Memorize Eph 4:29
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
                Have your home be a positive place where children can be themselves and kind words are          spoken.
I attended my dad’s 30th high school class reunion. My dad was a sports star, so when one of his classmates ask me, “Do you know what I remember most about your dad?” I assumed he’d tell me the story of an amazing touch down. Instead he said, “I can’t remember your dad ever saying anything negative about anyone.” Wow. 30 years after graduation –that is what is remembered! I want my kids to learn this lesson and be remembered for the same.
3) Teach your children to love people.
                Teach your kids to encourage the kids who are being bullied

Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

                Teach kids to stand up for those being bullied
“Bystanders too suffer from bullying which goes on around them. They suffer from feelings of guilt, fear, powerlessness and, if the adults fail to react and to put an end to it, they often find themselves joining in. They become frustrated by the lack of action on the part of the adults and the inability of the victim to stand up for themselves. Later in life these same students suffer from feelings of guilt and depression for not having done more to help a classmate.” BullyingEducation.org
                Teach your kids to love those who are bullies – kids bully for many different reasons – but most               have deep hurts, dysfunctional families, suffer from low self-esteem or simply do not have               social skills.
Matthew 5: 44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”
When Emylee was in swimming, a boy came into her club. No one liked him, but Emylee was kind. One day the boy lost it – he matched into the pool area – said hello to Emylee and went into the locker rooms where he took out a BB gun and shot some of the boys.  He was sent to a detention center and when asked, he said he did not shoot Emylee because she is the only one at swim who had ever been nice to him.
4) Have open communication with your kids and step in when needed
                Listen to kids when they talk about the stuff you don’t care about, so they will come to you        when they are being bullied – many times listening is all a child needs to recover from the hurt
                Take kids seriously – kids handle bullying differently, and you will know when your child has had               enough and can’t deal with it themselves – this is when you must step in and protect him
5) Model godly love and social skills
                Learn who you are in Christ and live in it
                Be kind with your words – it’s easy to be kind those you love , but are you kind to the lady in the              checkout line who is price checking every item, while you wait with your 3 toddler screaming in    the cart?
                Love others – how do your kids see you reacting to those who are unkind to you?
                Remember – Your children will act like you do when placed in a social situation
Gwynedd M. Hudson -1922
Bullying is a tough issue.  It is not a new one, but has become a social buzz word. Let’s not buzz ourselves and label children as bullies. Bad behavior must be dealt with – but labels can harm someone for a lifetime.  Let’s raise confident Christian kids who can positively impact both the bullies and those being bullied.                 

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