Every day I see articles and television shows telling us how to stop bullying. Object lessons and advice abound. But here’s a word of truth. No amount of training or classes will rid the world of bullies. Since Cain bullied Able to the point of death, big, weak people have tormented and tortured anything or anyone smaller or weaker.
Since bullies are obviously here to stay, the best we can do is raise children to be less susceptible to them.
I and my family have never been exempt from bullies. In the ’70’s my siblings and I suffered all kinds of things thrown at us on the bus. Kids called us names and worse. One of my children received a pig’s heart in her locker courtesy of an anonymous donor, and my grandchildren experienced scissor stabbings and eyeglasses stolen and defaced. As I’ve watched and read all the bullying propaganda, I wondered how we survived, mentally and physically.
I discovered most of the advice I could give to parents of kids affected by bullying also applies to kids who are bullies. Whether kids bully or empower bullies, they usually need help in these areas.
1 Help your child know he or she is loved and supported.
Most bullying begins with intimidation. Words hurt. However, kids who feel love and support from home don’t let it bother them as badly. I think love and support helped I, my siblings, my children and my grandchildren survived bullying.
If your child bullies, love and support can save him, too. While we can’t stop all bullying, parents do have the power to change their own child. If you feel as though you already show you child a lot of love and support, I recommend Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages of Children.” Dr. Chapman does a great job of helping parents understand how to love kids who don’t feel loved.
2 Help your child develop a healthy self-esteem.
When a child thinks well of him or herself, they more easily ignore the insults of bullying, and often when a bully doesn’t get the reaction she’s hoping for, she moves on to a more rewarding target.
A healthy self-esteem means your child doesn’t think too highly of themselves either. Arrogance creates as many bullies as subjugation.
3 Give your child chores and other responsibility.
Responsibility feeds self-confidence. A child who completes a job on her own feels empowered. Parents who do everything for their children set them up for failure. By age ten your child should be able to get completely ready on his own. Simple chores can begin as early as age two. Young children can dust and dry dishes as well as fold socks. Kids with a sense of accomplishment care less about what others think. They also carry themselves with more authority, deterring bullies.
This same self-confidence keeps kids from becoming bullies. A child who feels a sense off responsibility seldom needs to attack others to bolster their esteem.
4 Teach your child the difference between teasing and bullying.
Don’t allow children to make themselves into victims. Humans joke around and tease one another, and kids need to shake off hurtful teasing. Teach your child to go to their friends and tell them when their words hurt. Help them speak the truth without whining or sounding defensive.
To keep your child from becoming a bully, don’t give her permission to keep up with teasing when someone has asked them to stop. It’s difficult to find the line between repeated teasing and bullying, but it’s easy to set a line so your child knows one tease past someone asking them to stop is too many.
5 Don’t Bully.
When you use threats to get your own way with your children or other adults, you demonstrate bullying is to be tolerated. You send a message to your child that they should give in to the bullies, inviting continued torment. When tickling your child or wrestling with them, stop when they say stop. Even when you think they don’t really mean it. Show them the way it’s supposed to work, so they’ll set high standards.
When you bully, you teach your child to bully. Some people don’t even know they’re bullying, but if you continually intimidate or pressure people into giving you your way, there’s a good chance you’re a bully.
6 Teach your child to take responsibility for their mistakes.
Much like #3, kids who learn to take responsibility become stronger people. Taking responsibility builds character. When your child gets bad grades, don’t let them blame the teacher. If they break the rules, make sure they experience consequences. Build people of integrity by setting boundaries for the youngest of children and enforcing them whenever needed.
Bullies have been let off the hook for too long. They keep upping the game because no one holds them accountable.
7 Vet your kid’s friends.
Do you know who your kids run around with? Too often people who call themselves friends are the bullies. Teach your children to be picky about who they let into their inner circle.
8 Don’t give them access to Social Media.
This should be a no-brainer, but still I see kids as young as six with unlimited internet access. Not all Youtube videos are fit for children’s consumption, even those rated for kids. I won’t even begin to name all the apps that can undermine everything you’ve worked hard to instill in your child. Until your child starts to drive, they don’t really need a cell phone. Even if they need to contact you, other kids and the adults around them will have a means. You put locks on your doors and vet their friends to keep them safe, then you allow anyone to access your kids through the internet.
9 Take your kids to church.
I saved this for last because I was afraid you’d quit reading if you saw this earlier. First, you need to understand not all churches are created equal. Some churches are full of Spiritual bullies. You may have to go to a few before you find the right one. However, a church with an emphasis on a relationship with Jesus will love your child and help you with those steps above. Plus, once a child realizes he’s created in the image of God, His self-confidence gets an immediate boost. And when she understands the depth of love and the magnitude of God’s mercy, she’ll begin to see she should love herself.
Folks who believe others are created in God’s image seldom bully others because they have a healthy respect for all people. People who experience the full measure of the love of God learn to see people through God’s eyes find it difficult to treat them badly.
BONUS: Help you kids understand what it means when we say:
Hurt People, Hurt People
No one comes into this world a bully. They learn it from someone. When we see the bully as a person whose been hurt, abused or abandoned, we’ll treat them better. I’ve seen bullies turned into friends when the one bullied offered kindness instead of retaliation.
When we respect other regardless of our differences, we create an environment to eliminate bullying. Even though we can be sure bullying in one form or another will be around until Jesus returns, we have the power to make a difference in our children.
Even when we can’t keep them from being bullied, our actions and lessons can help them avoid the emotional scars by giving them self-confidence and making sure they know they are loved and supported.