Bullying is a huge hot topic right now. It's both new and old. Although it's been around forever, it's become fashionable lately to accuse anyone whom we don't like of bullying. It's natural (even the fish in my pond do it), but it's also sinful.
Bullying is defined as a stronger person using his power to intimidate or harass another. As parents we have three ways in which this behavior can affect our kids -- being the bully, being bullied by another, or accusing someone of bullying to manipulate the situation.
The first, my kid is bullying others, is hard for us as parents to admit. We never want to think our kids are capable of such things. We didn't raise them to be that way, right? But denial is the worst strategy. We must always be open to the possibility that our child might not be perfect. I know it's hard to be objective, but it's in the best interest of our child to consider this as a possibility. And bullying can take many forms, not just physical. Gossip is just as much a bullying behavior as yelling or fighting. Fortunately, just admitting it is half the battle. If my child actually is bullying another child, then my child is powerful. I can appreciate that and go about teaching him it's wrong to take advantage of others. Usually, that's not a difficult lesson.
The second scenario is my child is being bullied by another child. Again, it's best to pause and reflect on whether this is really true. That reflection should include an honest assessment of why he is chosen as the target. Some children are more naturally targeted than others for a variety of reasons beyond the scope of this brief writing. If he is truly being bullied and wants it to stop, then I must advise him to "give notice". As difficult as it is, he needs to say "stop" in no uncertain terms. This requires courage, so it may be hard to convince him to take this step. If he can do it alone, it will be a huge growing experience. If he can't do it alone, his teacher will be happy to be present for support. In that case talking to the teacher is the next step. Either way, he tells the offending bully to stop. If the bully continues, he should certainly report it to his teacher. And if it still continues, I want to hear about it immediately, preferably from the child. We always want to teach him to handle his own situations as much as possible.
The third situation is one that's on the increase. Children have learned that bullying is bad and will not be tolerated. Therefore it only makes sense that they can accuse others of bullying and manipulate them. In a sense this is somewhat a "reverse bullying". If I can use my persuasive powers to overcome your physical size, I've just become more powerful than the other person. As parents we need again to be very sensitive to whether our child is really being bullied or just using the expression to get our attention. Fortunately most parents are very aware of their children's tendencies and know whether these accusations are real.
As with all parenting, listening, knowing my child's personality, and being objective are keys to success. I'm happy to say that we usually don't have much of an issue with this at Epiphany, but we are human. It can and will be a problem. We just have to communicate, confront, and forgive.
In His Service,
Tim Miesner, Principal