At one time or another in our lives many of us have been teased, made fun of, laughed at, or verbally or emotionally tormented by someone else with whom we were associated. If you have ever experienced any or all of these things I am sure, like me, you have never forgotten how it feels. Bullying occurs when one person or group of persons treats you as less than the amazing individual God created you to be.
Sadly, this form of abusive behavior occurs each and every day in our schools. Bullying is about someone recognizing you are vulnerable and using their power and influence to take advantage of your weakness.
I once heard someone say, “Hurting people hurt people.” If we want to stop the behavior of the bully we have to first address the heart of the problem behind the action taking place. It often comes down to two common denominators, insecurity in oneself or jealousy toward another. By making another person feel small the bully feels bigger. Sometimes because the bully feels inwardly small they act outwardly big and attack the person who they feel most presents a threat to them.
Bullying crosses all demographic, socioeconomic, spiritual, racial, and cultural lines. As school kicks off for another year, bullies will enter the halls, and other students will become their prey. So, what can we do about this problem and how do we help our kids survive it and deal with it when they become the victim of the abuse?
“Preventing and stopping bullying involves a commitment to creating a safe environment where students can thrive socially, emotionally, academically, and spiritually, without being afraid,” shares Brenda Huckins, Director of Community Care at Covenant Christian Academy in Colleyville, Texas.
Bullying must be taken seriously by teachers, administrators, parents, and students It is important for students to be aware of what is taking place around them and to understand telling is not tattling. It is just as important for parents, teachers, and administrators to intervene quickly. The longer the abuser is allowed to abuse the deeper the wounds that are inflicted and the longer it takes for healing to take place.
Students and parents both need to be a part of the solution and involved in safety teams and anti-bullying efforts. Parents, teachers, and school administrators can help students engage in positive behavior by giving students strong relational skills and intervening when bullying occurs.
Ms. Hackins says implementing Advising Groups within a school is very helpful in being proactive in addressing the problem of bullying rather than just being reactive. “At Covenant Christian Academy, we create Advising Groups, which are safe places for students to dialogue with an adult advisor about what the characteristics of Christ-like behavior look like and how to walk them out in their daily lives,” she adds.
It is important for schools and classrooms to offer students a “safe” learning environment. Students need to be reminded by their teachers and coaches, bullying is not acceptable and such behaviors do and will have consequences.
Unfortunately, students may not always speak up when they are bullied. Parents should look for signs that suggest a situation may exist. Some signs to be aware of include: fear about going to school, a sudden change in appetite, recurrent nightmares, lower grades, crying easily, or any sudden change in behavior including increased anxiety.
If you discover your child is being bullied, don’t tell them to “let it go” or to “ignore it.” Most bullies are encouraged by this type of response. Instead, have open-ended conversations with your child, where you can learn what is really going on at school. Most importantly, assure your child you are in their corner of the world and you will do everything possible to help them. Keep in mind you represent their safest place on earth.
The fastest growing form of bullying is Cyberbullying or online bullying. It often goes undetected and unreported. To help identify if your child is a victim of an online abuser, “Friend” your child on Facebook, Follow them on Twitter, and join them on Instagram. It is okay for you, as the parent, to monitor your child’s online interactions.
You, not your child, set the boundaries for cell phone, internet, and computer use. If you find your child is the victim of Cyberbullying report this activity to the school immediately as well as to the appropriate authorities. Help your child understand the actions they are experiencing are not their fault. It is of most importance kids understand bullying is wrong and is best handled by an adult.
Students who experience bullying may feel overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious. If your child or student is having trouble at school or with friends as a result of bullying, a pastor, counselor, or psychologist can help your child develop resilience and confidence. This will enable your child to find success socially, emotionally, academically, and spiritually.
“It is possible to modify a student’s behavior through lots of rules and regulations but it is also important to transform their hearts through teaching and modeling for them the behavior of Christ,” Ms. Huckins explains. “In today’s world it’s hard, but as Believers and in Schools we need to partner together as we train our kids to emulate God’s character in everything they do and say,” she adds.
We are called to be Jesus to the world. Hurting people, hurt people. When we start addressing the hurts we will begin to heal the hearts and decrease the number of wounded spirits one day, one person at a time.
Raschelle Loudenslager is a freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas.