How to battle bullies
Many of us have faced bullying as a child or through the experience of our children. We hear about it on the playground and in the national news.
Bullying involves one person, who thinks they are better than or more powerful than someone else, acting out aggressively against the other verbally, socially, physically, or through technology.
In movies, the bully is the tough guy stealing lunch money, tripping other students, or knocking their books to the floor. In real life, bullying can include all of these behaviors and more — making threats, spreading rumors, calling others names.
Battle bullying by protecting, guiding, and loving the way Jesus does.
Bullies do more than hurt someone one time out of vengeance or anger. Bullying behaviors are usually repeated behaviors and can have tragic results.
Bullying is a sin, and through the Bible, God has given us instructions on how to respond.
What if My Child Is Being Bullied?
Psalm 127:3 reminds us, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” As parents, it is our job to protect and defend our children. If you believe your child is being bullied, try the following:
1. Talk to your child.
A bully wants your child to feel alone and afraid. You can fight these lies with communication. Ask questions and share your experiences with bullying. God brings us through difficulty so we share the comfort we’ve received with others (2 Corinthians 1:4).
2. Talk with other adults.
Work together with your child and other adults in authority to make a plan. The Bible says, “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). Seek advice from another Christ follower who will give you a biblical perspective.
3. Follow up with your child.
Keep talking to your child. Monitor whether things are getting better or worse. When God describes what it’s like to teach children about our faith, it’s not a class or a family meeting but a continual conversation between parents and their children (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Guiding our children through difficulty is a similar process; it takes many conversations over a long period of time.
4. Focus on the positive.
Talk about the good things happening in your child’s life, too. Involve your child with positive people and activities. Learning to focus on what’s good is a spiritual discipline that will serve us and our children well into the future (Philippians 4:8).
5. Point your child to Jesus.
Encourage your child by reminding him what the Bible says about God’s purpose, presence, protection, and love. These verses are great ones to share with your child: Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 43:1- 3, 2 Samuel 22:3-4, and Matthew 5:44.
How do I respond if my child is the bully?
Bullying is sin, which means the most loving thing we can do for our children is to help them break the hold bullying has on them.
If you believe your child is bullying others, try the following:
1. Talk to your child.
Try to uncover insecurities and fears that could be causing this behavior. Like us, our children are born with deep feelings and a tendency to sin. If we can understand the emotions behind the behavior, we can begin to explain how to process those feelings in healthier, God-honoring ways.
2. Discipline your child.
Take a firm but loving stance as you direct your child away from unacceptable behavior. Allow these verses to encourage you: Proverbs 22:6, Hebrews 12:6, Hebrews 12:11, and Ephesians 6:4.
3. Talk with other adults.
Throughout the Bible, we’re encouraged to seek wisdom. Proverbs 8:11 says, “Wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” So don’t be afraid to ask other parents for help. Find people who love Jesus, love your family, and have experience raising children, then learn as much from them as you can.
4. Follow up with your child.
If your child’s behavior isn’t changing, it might be necessary to re- move your child from the activity or situation. This isn’t mean or an overreaction — it’s love. In the Bible, we’re told to flee from all kinds of temptation and to help others do the same (2 Timothy 2:22, James 5:20).
5. Focus on the positive.
Reading stories about Jesus’ followers is a great reminder that change happens over time. So often, the disciples first response to a situation or question was the wrong one. But Jesus never gave up. He corrected them when they were wrong and celebrated with them when they finally got it right.
The way Jesus trained His disciples is the same way we’re called to train our children — firmly but lovingly, helping them see what they’re doing right, not just what they are doing wrong (Ephesians 6:4).
6. Point your child to Jesus and how he loves.
True change only occurs through a relationship with Jesus. That’s why the best thing we can do for our children is to continually remind them of who Jesus is (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Is It Wrong for Your Child to Fight Back?
Ignoring bullying will not make it go away, but taking revenge is not an option either. Hebrews 12:14 encourages us to “make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.” When others harm us (or our children), God teaches us not to repay evil with evil, but instead to forgive and to trust Him bring justice (Romans 12:17, Exodus 14:14).
Whether your child is the bully or is being bullied, how you respond to the situation can leave him or her with a lasting impression of who Jesus is and what matters to Him. So consider: How am I show- ing love in this situation? How am I seeking peace and justice in this situation? How am I teaching repentance and forgiveness in this situation?
This might mean having difficult conversations with your child and with other parents. It might mean changing schools, quitting teams, or breaking with family traditions to protect your child from harm or to get your child the help he or she needs.