“Bullying” is a term we hear frequently these days. We, as educators and parents, are glad bullying has been brought to the forefront. We want our school to be an environment in which every child can thrive and be encouraged. However, often, the term “bullying” is thrown around carelessly. Let’s take a close look at what bullying is, what it is not, and how to deal with bullying when it occurs.
Bullying is a form of social competition wherein the bully seeks to exert power and domination over another. According to a bullying prevention website:
“A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself."
This definition includes three important components:
1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions. It is one sided.
2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time. It is intentional and repetitive.
3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength. The victim is typically outnumbered or over powered. It is done to harm or control the victim. (http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/recognizing_bullying.page Italics are added.)
Bullying can involve physical harm, verbal assaults such as insults, threats, name calling, gossiping, or emotional damage through isolation, exclusion, and intimidation. Most incidents, however, are done in isolation or not to the same person or they are not one sided. Confrontations are, unfortunately, a part of relationships. If someone gets angry, mad, or jealous, he may respond in these inappropriate and hurtful ways. However, only when it meets the above criteria, is it identified as bullying.
Why do some people bully? People may bully because they themselves have been hurt or bullied in the past. Some people get a sense of power and control through putting others down. These people tend to have low self- esteem although they may appear to be overly confident or arrogant, Perhaps this why the Bible teaches us to “ Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44
Some bully for entertainment or to get attention. Some are jealous or just don’t understand differences. Whatever the underlying reason, bullying is unkind and hurtful. Our goal at FPD is to teach all the children to treat others as they would like to be treated…To love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
In addition to praying for their hearts, we want our children to be equipped to handle from a position of strength when they or others are being mistreated. Some skills which help are:
1. Teach your child what is important is God loves them and just because someone says something mean, does not make it true. Teach the children not to wear the labels others may put on them.
2. Remind your child to pray for others even if they are unkind.
3. Teach your child to “speak the truth in love,” to firmly, but gently tell the person to stop the misbehavior and tell them how it makes them feel.
4. Teach your child to act and hold himself confidently, to stand up straight, look people in the eye, and speak distinctly.
5. Ignoring the bully may be best if the bully is a stranger or if it is happening for the first time.
6. Using a sense of humor is a great way to diffuse a bully.
7. Bullies want to get a reaction. So, teach your child not to react, but to instead compliment the bully or be kind to him. This will throw him off his goal. The Bible teaches saying kind words to your enemy is like “pouring hot coals of fire on their head.” Proverbs 25:22
8. Teach your child the difference between being assertive and being aggressive or passive.
9. Encourage your child to build friendships through extracurricular activities such as church programs, sports, lessons, or plays. A child with lots of friends is not an easy target.
10. Keep the communication open in your relationship with your child and let an authority figure at school know about the bullying as soon as an incident occurs. Teach your child that telling when someone is being intentionally unkind repeatedly and hurting another is not the same as tattling. Tattling is done to get another person in trouble. Telling is done to keep someone from getting hurt.
Dealing with an unkind person can be the perfect opportunity to teach your child to love the unlovely, to get his self-esteem from his relationship with the Lord, and to put another’s needs above his own. In the end, our goal is to help our children grow into the person God desires him to be.