Talk to your kids about bullying
By Jill Koop, guest columnist
Recently, one of our kids said this to me in the car after school: "Mommy, student 'a' and student 'b' are my friends. They don't like student 'c'. I like c, but I just pretend that I don't when I'm around a and b, because they won't be my friends anymore if I don't."
Needless to say, we had a good talk about this predicament. Initially, I wanted to jump all over my kid for even acting for a second like they 'didn't like' someone. But instead, I tried to lovingly explain why that was wrong.
I'm a parent, and I'm also an educator. Bullying is a huge problem in school – it always has been, and probably always will be. We have all kinds of anti-bullying lessons, protocol, and awareness programs in public schools today. I think those are great things to have! But. Our kids have got to be taught this at home too, from an early age. That is where their foundation has to be laid.
I am no parenting expert. I am, indeed, very far from it. However, I can read. We read the Bible a lot in our home, and our children are aware that we try to live our lives according to it's teachings. Here are a few fundamental truths we find in Scripture that help us, and we have recently revisited.
1. Love God, and love your neighbor (Mark 12:30-31)
In other words, truly, sincerely love God and try to keep the commands He's given us and treat others how you want to be treated. Period. If you don't want it done to you, don't do it to someone else.
2. Don't show favoritism (James 2:1-4)
Yes, you will 'like' some people and enjoy their company more than others, but that does not mean you treat anyone differently. What we frequently say in our home is, "you won't be friends with everyone, but you do need to be friendly to everyone."
3. Be humble and value all others (Philippians 2:3-4)
Paraphrased, don't hold your nose up, thinking you are better than anyone, because you aren't.
4. Judge others to the extent that you want to be judged (which is probably not that closely). (Matthew 7:2)
None of us are perfect. Nobody. If you are constantly noticing and pointing out what is wrong with, or even different about someone else, the same will be done to you. If you continue reading after verse 2, it says something along the lines of, "why do you point out the speck of sawdust in someone's eye, while you have a plank stuck in your's?" Ouch.
5. Don't be friends with bad people (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Now. Here is what is hard to teach a young child. Yes, you be friendly to everyone. But, do not be friends with the ones that will drag you down. Different than you is ok. It doesn't matter what color their skin is, their gender, the kind of clothes they wear, the way their hair looks, or even the way they smell. But, when you notice that they are a 'bad' person, (meaning they treat people meanly [you or anyone else], disrespect their elders, cheat, lie, steal, manipulate, or anything else that you notice goes against what the Bible says), you do not want to be friends with this person because they will rub off on you. Yes, we still be friendly to them, but don't choose them as our “friends.”
There are many, many more scriptures and teachings that go along with these lessons, but these five are a great foundation. Although this conversation with our young child sparked this post, I see things like this many, many times in jr. high and high school. Another educator and I were just talking this week about bullying. We guessed that teachers observe about 5% of the 'bullying' that takes place on campus – meaning that 95% goes unobserved by an adult. Of the 5% that we witness, it's usually not the kind that we see in the movies (punching, tripping, throwing in trash cans, swirly in the toilet, etc.), but rather, it's being exclusive, giving the silent treatment, refusing to sit by, or even often just negative body language. (Social media is on an entirely different level, but I honestly believe that if the proper foundation is laid early, when they are at the age of having a phone/social media account, their values will carry over to that as well).
If you are a parent, please consider reading these verses with your child. At the very least, please open dialogue with them about these kinds of behaviors. We try our best as educators, but once they come to us (especially in upper levels), the foundation has already been poured, and like concrete, it's probably already hardened.
I am so thankful our child said these words to me, because it reminded me that although it has been addressed in our home, it is vital that we revisit these truths frequently.