Did you know that October has been designated as Bullying Prevention Month? As school starts up again, it’s good for both kids and adults to recognize the various forms of bullying and how to prevent it. By understanding how to recognize bullying when it happens, kids can more quickly call out or report bullying, as well as have more of an awareness about whether they’re actually condoning or participating in it themselves.
That fight against bullying takes all of us. But none more so than Christian children, called to a higher standard of leadership and morals by God. Here’s everything you need to know about bullying, and the 3 ways Christian kids can take a stand against it.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is when someone with more power of any kind intimidates or mistreats a weaker person. When it comes to bullying at school, kids can have more power over other children by being physically stronger, wealthy, popular, attractive, or especially witty. While these traits aren’t inherently wrong themselves, kids can use these perceived social advantages to cut down others with scornful looks and laughing, gossip, cutting remarks, mean-spirited pranks, or physical intimidation and harm. This can be done both in-person or through social media, known as cyberbullying.
In both forms of bullying, the perpetrator is so focused on establishing and holding superiority over another person, they lack empathy for how their actions devastate another—often dismissing it as a “joke” if confronted. Meanwhile, the victim can experience lifelong, debilitating mental and emotional scars—such as social anxiety, depression, low feelings of self-worth, and more—from the trauma they endured that they then carry with them throughout their life.
Cyberbullying: A New Kind of Bullying
A common misconception most adults have is that bullying is something that only happens in-person and is usually physical or verbal. However, in today’s digital age, most bullying takes place behind the safety of a screen over social media or the internet. To help protect kids from cyberbullying, take an active role in their online life—setting up parental controls while encouraging kids to simply block and delete hurtful comments or online contacts. Have frequent conversations about online usage, do your best to stay up to date on developments in internet safety, and be a safe place for kids to come talk to you if they ever are harassed online.
How to Combat Bullying as a Christian
As school starts, students and children will probably hear a lot about what bullying is, how to stop it, and how to get help as they go back to class. But God calls Christian kids to an even higher level of responsibility. Rather than just being on the defensive against bullies or knowing how to report or stop them, God calls our kids to proactive leadership and we should too.
Here are 3 ways Christian kids can make a stand against bullying in a godly way.
1) Be a Leader, Using God-Given Power for Good
As bullies often use some sort of power or social advantage for their own agenda, the opposite of that is for kids to be aware of the advantages God has blessed them with and how to use it for the good of others. If any Christian kids are older, well-liked, or more popular with other students, challenge them on how they can serve younger students and be a good influence.
For instance, in one school a CEF member substitute taught in, they were stunned to see how the senior students treated their underclassmen. In your typical school, seniors don’t even notice underclassmen. And yet, there would be senior students talking to one another and when underclassmen, even freshmen, passed them in the hall, they stopped talking to greet the underclassmen by name, friendly back pounding, high fives, and encouragement. The positive impact this had was evident. Bullying was low, underclassmen felt valued and supported by their senior classmates, and you could see at events and graduation that those seniors were loved and respected in return. This is an example of using the power of seniority for good. The top class in any high school, middle school, or elementary school could also be challenged this way.
As parents and teachers, convincing children that they have the position and ability to be a positive influence on others is both a privilege and a necessary duty. Take an active role in their futures by investing in leadership training for your students and children.
2) Create Fellowship and Camaraderie
Second, be intentional about helping Christian students band together to make the commitment to love others and be a positive influence. Bullying can be a very isolating experience—especially if there’s more than one. By banding together, fostering fellowship and camaraderie amongst other students, children stand more of a chance to stand up to bullies through support in numbers.
Here’s an important verse to share:
“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him
and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” —Ecclesiastes 4:12
In other words, standing alone, your student might prevail against a bully, but they also might not. If they have a loyal friend, the two of them can stand together and have a better chance. But greater yet, three together is like a rope made out of three twisted strands—strong, mutually supportive, and really hard to break.
If your student can find two other believers who will commit to supporting each other no matter what, they will have great influence. Greater still, Christian kids can further commit to serving God and others by inviting those who might also be having a hard time fitting in to join their friend group—reaching out to support any weaker or isolated students.
3) God Loves the Unlovable; We Should Too
The word “bully” means “a swaggering coward.” It indicates that a person who intimidates others often has some deep fears or insecurities of their own which motivates them to protect themselves with backstabbing, attention-seeking, or aggressive behavior. Because they, themselves feel worthless and unloved deep down, they then seek to make others feel the same way. Which means that if a bully suddenly feels unconditional acceptance from their peers, it might lessen their need to strive aggressively for attention and affirmation from others.
Our last radical challenge: teach Christian kids to befriend and reach out to bullies too! Why should we seek to love unlovable people? Because Jesus loved us first when we were unlovable, and continues to love us no matter what we do or how much we mess up. We enjoy the unconditional love and acceptance God offers, so we should want others to experience it as well. The impact of that love might just transform the hardest of hearts and minds.
Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. Let’s fill them with the courage God’s promises give us on a regular basis, encouraging them to take an active role in the fight against bullying.