No Bullies Allowed

July 13th, 2012

“Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32

By now most of us have seen the viral video of 68-year-old school bus monitor Karen Klein being harassed by middle school students. It is a sad reflection on our youth, a sadder reflection on our society. Youth have always been great tormentors. That’s nothing new. The difference is that in today’s society, children are no longer just tormenting other children. Their bullying now extends to adults as well. What’s happened, and how can we change it? How can we ensure that our own children are not acting like a bunch of vultures, swooping in for the kill whenever they see someone weaker than themselves? It all begins with a little RESPECT.

Remember God

Remind children that God created mankind in God’s image. Life is precious because it is God-given. God loved each of us enough that God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross to give us eternal life. If God values life that much, so should we—every life.

Expect good behavior

Brandy Yaden, a mother of two, said, “I don’t tell my children to not pick on others or to not be mean to others. I tell my children they are to always help others, be nice to others and always stick up for those who cannot stick up from themselves. I remind them that everyone is different and everyone needs help sometimes, and that they should always treat other people the way they want to be treated. Always try to be the bigger person.”

By setting positive expectations for our children, we can make doing the right thing the norm. While everyone needs a little correction at times, it’s better to teach right behaviors than to constantly be pointing out the wrong ones.

Start early

Don’t wait until your children are teens before trying to address issues such as these. Start early by helping toddlers learn to share and encouraging elementary schoolers to use kind words. Make kindness a lifelong habit.

Pay attention to the signs 

It’s true. Bullies often become bullies because they think so little of themselves. Look for signs of low self-esteem in your children and youth. Encourage them to discover their own God-given talents and abilities. Help them to feel good about the way God created them, and help them to see the good in others.

Empathize with others

Show children what it means to be empathetic, to put themselves in other people’s shoes. Help children think about what other people are going through. Instead of pointing out the differences of others, point out the similarities.

Create consequences

While we hope to never catch our children bullying someone else, make sure that your children know the consequences none-the-less. Schools and ball teams usually have strict policies regarding such issues. Let your children know what they are. Also,define your own personal discipline procedures. How will you handle it if your son calls his brother an ugly name? What will you do if your daughter starts picking on the neighbor’s child? In addition to disciplinary consequences, make sure to discuss how bullying affects individuals. When I was young, my father told me the story of a young man who was constantly harassed at school. He was depressed and struggling, and his parents, though aware of the situation, didn’t seem to know how to help. Everyday his mother would encourage him to think positively and to go to school with a good attitude. One day she found him in the yard with his hands clasped crying as he rhythmically repeated, “It’s going to be a good day. It’s going to be a good day.” He had to go to a mental facility to be treated for depression and anxiety. That story made an impression on me. Don’t be afraid to tell your children about how bullying can lead to depression, anxiety and even worse. Let them know there are consequences to their behavior—both for them and for the ones who have been hurt.

Teach them to Stand Alone 

Ms. Klein’s case is a clear example of the pack mentality. There wasn’t one young boy harassing her, there were several. Young people often do and say things in groups they would never do or say alone. Teach your children not to be afraid to stand up to peer pressure. Help them to be brave, to stand against evil, and to stand up for what is right. Role play various scenarios and ask your children how they would respond.

Children aren’t born knowing how to respect. It has to be taught. No one is perfect, and we can’t expect that our children won’t make mistakes. But we can help ensure that our children won’t turn into bullies by helping them learn to value themselves and others and most of all God.

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