What is bullying?
Bullying is intentional and aggressive behavior (verbal, emotional, physical, cyber) repeatedly shown to someone not able to defend themselves equally (imbalance of power). Bullying is not conflict which can be worked out between two people. Instead, it is a form of abuse that needs to be reported and dealt with accordingly.
Conflict is unintentional and occurs between two equal people and although the differences can be difficult to assess at times; healthy conflict is considered normal in which a resolution can be made.
As parents, we need to understand the difference between conflict and bullying so that we can educate our children on how to handle these very different issues when they encounter them at school or on the playground.
How can family life prepare children to respond to bullying?
Leadership in the Home.
Bullying and intimidation are learned behavior. A great way to ensure that our children do not become bullies themselves is to model servant leadership. Scripture references servant leadership throughout the Gospels as the foundation of the ministry of Christ – “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
A child’s unique temperament plays an important role in the bullying dynamic which is why it is crucial for parents to model leadership that motivates and influences rather than manipulates through an authoritative style. It is the gift of leadership that a child may innately possess that needs to be cultivated and fostered so that it can be used for the good of others. Our greatest strength can become our greatest weakness if not used properly.
Healthy conflict modeled between parents becomes the basis for which a child chooses to respond to another on the playground or in the classroom. It is important that children learn how to communicate with respect, share opinions that may be opposing to others, and accept differences. Scripture states in Colossians 3:12-13, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.” Forgiveness is the greatest divine act that God gives us to model in building healthy relationships. If children do not learn empathy and forgiveness in the home, how can they have empathy for others in life?
A Deeper Level of Communication.
Assuming most parents would like a great relationship with their children, the goal is not always easily achieved in the “fast-paced” life that we live today. Parents are often used to jumping from one activity to the next, if not with one child, two or three. It is in this shuffle that we lose quality time to communicate and read the nonverbal cues of our children which often convey so much more than the spoken word. Children are not good communicators, it is something learned over time. Parents need to be intentional with daily open-ended questions so that we help teach our children to release negative feelings and emotions that can build up over time.
The one way we can prepare our children to face the bullies of the world is to build them up with Christ confidence, so they do not doubt their identity nor their created purpose. As parents, we need to communicate love daily to each child in a way that they, as individuals, will understand and feel loved. How can this be accomplished, if we are too busy to talk to our children?
Six Discussion Starters that can help you begin to understand the heart of your child.
- What’s something that you remember about our family that sticks out the most in your mind?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- If you can change one thing about our family, what would it be?
- If you could change one thing about me, what would it be?
- What causes the most fear in your life?
- What’s the most fun thing that you’ve ever done?
(Thomas Nelson Publishing, “Tough Guys & Drama Queens”, How Not To Be Blindsided by Your Child’s Teen Years).
By: Jamie Schofield, M.A., CAMT, Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor and Executive Director of Faithfully Guided, Inc.