You’ve been raising your child to follow God’s word and to love others as Jesus first loved them. So, it is quite a shock to see one of them bully a friend or a younger sibling in a decidedly not Christ like manner. Now what do you do to stop your child from behaving in such an unkind way? What if a time out just sends your child’s bullying behavior underground and he or she just bullies when you aren’t around to stop it? Those are good questions. Often, the answer is to deal with bullying behaviors in your children immediately and then to follow up on a regular basis. Here is what I would do if my child was a bully.
Correct the Bullying Behavior Immediately
Mild bullying often quickly escalates to more serious bullying attempts. When you see your child acting like a bully to another child, put an immediate stop to it. There is no excuse for bullying, but don’t be surprised if you hear quite a few of them anyway. I know that in my years of teaching, doing storytimes and hanging out at playgrounds, I sure have! A few of my favorites from over the years are:
- He started it.
- I don’t want her to look at me.
- He won’t play with me.
- I wanted to win/wanted to eat that/wanted to do a special activity.
- He’s my brother and I can hit him with the toy if I want to.
These are obviously not valid reasons for bullying. There are no valid reasons. However, they don’t upset me on a personal level as much as excuses that it is okay to bully because someone is poor, of another race, or not one of the cool kids.
Talk About Why Bullying Is Wrong
Sometimes, children simply don’t understand that bullying is wrong. They’re going after what they want or think they are just being funny. Talking with your child about why bullying is wrong can help him or her realize that someone else is being hurt by the words or behavior. There are many Bible stories that you can use to explain bullying. One of my favorites is the story of Joseph, whose brothers were so jealous that they bullied and mistreated him. It shows how bullying can really hurt someone and also shows that the bullies weren’t the ones that God blessed.
Pray Together About Not Bullying
When your child understands that bullying is wrong, the next step is to ask God to help him or her change. Just be careful not to “pray at” your child. Instead, pray with your child and encourage him or her to tell God about the situation and ask for God’s help in treating others the way he or she would like to be treated.
Ask for Forgiveness
The next day, encourage your child to ask the child he or she was bullying for forgiveness. It takes a lot of courage, but learning at an early age that we need to own up to mistakes and to apologize for hurting others is a valuable lesson.
Follow Up With Teachers, Church Leaders and Other Family Members
Many times, talking and praying together about acting in a way that makes Jesus happy instead of bullying is enough to help your child realize that being a bully isn’t right and will be enough. However, if you notice your child still bullying or if the bullying incident was more serious than a little squabble, you may want to take a final step. Explain to other adults who will be caring for your child that you are working together on being nice to other kids, even if they don’t do what he or she wants. You may even want to have a notebook that the teacher or other adult can send home each day with a note about whether your child remembered to keep from bullying others and give your child a small reward for a week of good reports.
Have you had to deal with bullying in your children? If so, what worked for you?