Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. And the act of bullying is as diverse as the bullies themselves. When you’re child is the object of ridicule for the bully, it’s heartbreaking. Lori Wildenberg and I share these strategies in our parenting classes or when mentoring moms and dads.
There are four basic types of bullying. Verbal bullying is the most common and includes taunting, name-calling, and teasing. Remember that old adage, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me”? It’s a big, fat lie. Proverbs 18:21 states, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Words can cut deep.
Social bullying includes the acts of spreading rumors, gossiping, leaving people out on purpose, and breaking up friendships. A good reminder from the Word of God is “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” Psalm 34:13
Physical bullying is hitting, punching, shoving, and other methods of harming someone physically. This form of bullying typically begins in elementary school, peaks in middle school, and declines in high school.
With easy access to the Internet, cyber bullying has become rampant. Bullies use the Internet, mobile phones, or other digital technologies to harm others. Sexual bullying can take pieces of all four, verbal, physical, social, or cyber, to harass.
Being aware of the various forms of bullying behaviors will help us equip kids with tactics to handle the bullies they will encounter in life. If you witness any of the following signs, talk with your child about a possible bullying situation.
• Child is alone a lot.
• Child refuses to attend school, school events.
• Child complains of excessive headaches, stomachaches, etc.
• Child withdraws from friends, family, even siblings.
• Child exhibits uncharacteristic outbursts.
• Child’s grades drop, interests change.
Lori and I recommend starting the conversation with general topics. Ask your child questions like, “Are there bullies in your school? Who do they usually pick on? Have you seen it happen? How do those kids treat you?” If the child confides in you that there is a problem, listen with empathy. Let your child know you are on his team and will never desert him. The bullied child may feel embarrassed and not be willing to tell parents or if the child does tell, the situation may be downplayed. It’s interesting to note almost 60% of kids never tell when bullied and 56% witness a bullying altercation and do nothing. So if your child talks, listen. Keep your emotions in check. (Tough to do when Mama Bear wants to right the wrong!) Continue the conversation and re-enforce that it’s not his fault and you’re glad he trusted you with the information. Sometimes it’s helpful to share a time you were picked on to take the loneliness factor out and normalizes the situation. But don’t make it all about you.
Make your home a haven. Remove social media for a while until things cool off. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and others where the child can be further bullied. Encourage a hobby or extra-curricular activity with new friends to help take the focus off the bully and move the child into new relationships. Pay close attention to your child. Counseling may be necessary.
Sometimes it’s good to get into the fray, sometimes it’s better to sit on the sidelines to encourage and coach. Ask your child if he wants your help to solve the problem. Younger kids often need more intervention. Call the school for bullying procedures and familiarize with school protocol.
Empower your child with these 6 strategies:
• Exit lines take bully’s control away. “Leave me alone.”
• Encourage assertiveness to curb power of the bully. Warn kids not to provoke bully. Tears or aggression can feed the bully’s hostility.
• Help plan an escape route. Where can the child go to get away from the bully?
• Consider the reasons why the bully acts that way. The child has probably been bullied too.
• Encourage or assist your child to be his own advocate and to go to an authority figure.
• Above all, pray with and for your child and for the bully too.
By Becky Danielson, Christian wife, mom, licensed parent and family educator, and the co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting.
You can find her at, FaithFirstParent.com. She writes for Hooray for Family, an online and print magazine and facilitates the Parent and Family Education program at a Christian preschool in the Twin Cities.
Becky is also the co-author with Lori Wildenberg of Raising Little Kids with Big Love and Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love, both with Study Guides. Contact Becky to schedule a workshop or retreat for your church or group.