Bullies aren’t what they used to be. When I was growing up in the seventies and eighties, I earned names like “freckle-face” and “meatball.” Those labels broke my seven-year old heart but they are nothing compared to the words kids hear regularly today.
According to a recent article by Focus on the Family, the old ideal of standing up to a bully for character-building can put your child in harm’s way. Vicious, violent scenes of children beating other children have become commonplace on Internet sites like YouTube.
So why do children bully? What can the Christian parent and teacher do about bullies?
Reasons Children Bully
Let’s examine some reasons why children act out this way. Knowing the possible reasons can keep your heart soft while you seek to help a bully in your church.
- Parents set a poor example. The old adage, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” proves true. Children learn their behaviors from role models.
- A need for control may cause some kids to bully. Kids who frequently experience abuse or neglect in their home are more likely to bully.
- Substance abuse can be a factor. Children who are bullies may drink alcohol, use tobacco, and take drugs. Being under the influence of these items can become a factor in child bullying. Even high caffeine energy drinks can alter a child’s personality and increase aggressiveness.
- An absence of spiritual leadership will lead a child to bullying. Jesus taught, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” 1 John 3:15
- There may be issues or alcoholism and addiction in their homes. It’s no secret that negative environment at home can lead to trouble outside the home.
There are endless reasons, really, why a child can become a bully. How should you deal with a bully in your class?
Ways to Cope With Bullying
At our church, and yours I am sure all children are welcome. However, there are certain expected parameters that children must remain in. Bullies won’t know, at first, how to behave. The child’s behavior will have to change. Here are some ways you can cope with bullying children while feeding them the things of God.
- Establish “No Bully” Zones: Really, the entire church is a no-bully zone but naming special areas “No-Bully” areas shows kids you are focused on their safety. Post signs and frequently refer to Kids Church as a “No-Bully” zone.
- Teach the Golden Rule: Do this frequently and have the Golden Rule in your class rules list. Talk to kids about what this means and how it applies to them. Practice role-playing the Golden Rule.
- Zero-Tolerance Policies: There must be a zero-tolerance for this kind of behavior, no matter who the child belongs to. Challenge the behavior by talking to parents about what you see. Be kind, patient and willing to explain.
- Confront the behavior in a non-bullying way. Get down to eye level with the child. Don’t stand over him or her while talking to him. Speak in low tones but be firm. Say, “David, taking that ball from Mike and hitting him is not acceptable. You are not following the Golden Rule? Do you remember what the Golden Rule is?”
- Follow up on punishments and don’t waffle. First strike, is a private warning. Second strike is a time-out away from the group. A third strike will mean the child must leave the class. Anytime physical violence is occurs, the child must leave the class.
As teachers and parents, we must embrace the bully but not at the cost of harming other children. Meet the child where he’s at, prepare to work to earn his trust but stick to the rules. Loving rules and a good role model, (that’s you) will help him become the person that God wants him to be.
Read more from Mimi by visiting her blog, Encouragement for Christians.