Raising an Anti-Bully

Raising an Anti-Bully - Parenting Like Hannah

Photo by Greg Westfall

It seems like every where I turn these days, I hear about bullying. Back in the Leave It To Beaver days, a bully appears to have been the largest child in the class. Evidently, his mother never sent enough lunch, as his bullying efforts were always about getting more food. There appears to have been an average of one bully per class. You would think someone would have thought to just ask his mom to send more food, but evidently the idea never crossed their minds.

Fast forward to today and it seems like the halls of our schools are full of bullies. Now, instead of using their tactics as a way to score more food, it appears many of these children are terrorizing their peers just for the “sport” of it or to get their way. Honestly. it is not just children who are experiencing this rude verbal and physical behavior from their peers. I have noticed a steady rise in the same behavior amongst adults.

The sad part is that both the bullies and their victims are suffering a miserable life. I cannot believe the bullies are really living a happy, fulfilled, meaningful life. Their victims are often suffering from daily verbal if not physical abuse that will leave emotional scars which will be difficult to heal. Neither is able to focus on being the Christian God would want them to be as they are distracted by the bullying “game.”

As with many problems in our children’s lives, bullying is the result of parents not following and teaching their children the guidelines in the Bible. A quick review of the principles taught by Jesus would reveal a number of ways to teach our children how to become an “anti-bully” in their school.

Unfortunately, bullying has become so common that we cannot just focus our attention on teaching our children not to be a bully or to protect themselves from bullies. We must also train them how to protect others who are being bullied and how to be a positive, active influence against bullying behavior amongst their peers. It is going to take Christians calling everyone back to living the teachings of Jesus to change this unnecessarily mean behavior that is becoming the norm in our world.

I will come back to the “Golden Rule” later, but I want to start with what Jesus called the “Greatest Commands.” Did you realize the second one was “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Jesus said this and the command before about loving God with everything you have are basically the cornerstone of everything in God’s Laws and of what the prophets preached.

So how do we teach our children to love others as they love themselves? I have heard a lot of sermons in my time excusing people with low self-esteem as having to learn to love themselves first. The reality is that the vast majority of us have absolutely no problem articulating quite well what we want or think we need. You might say, we even tend to be a bit selfish at times.

Teach your child to turn that idea around. How can they be selfish for others? How can they always want the best for others? Does that mean sharing their things? Maybe it means taking extra good care of their things so they can give them in great condition to someone who needs them. Perhaps it means actually giving something they want up so that the money can be spent to help someone else. Encourage your children to think this way on a regular basis. Praise them when they come up with an idea that helps meet someone else’s needs.

I am not advocating we raise doormats, but thinking of others as much as we think of ourselves does not make you a doormat. Allowing others to abuse you or being afraid to express your opinion, makes you a doormat. There is a huge difference and we need to be brave enough to train our children to obey God and love other people as much as they love themselves.

Did you realize many of the world’s religions have a “negative” Golden Rule? Those negative rules focus on merely not doing to someone something we would not want done to ourselves. From what I have seen, much of the current “bullying” curriculum follows a similar pattern. While it is noble to not harm someone else with our words or actions, Jesus actually calls us to a much higher standard. He wants us “to do” to others what we want done to ourselves. Not just avoid doing evil to others, but actively do good for them.

Wow! That is huge! Jesus didn’t stop there though. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus says if someone sues us for our tunic, we should give him our cloak too. Jesus says if someone makes us walk a mile, then we should walk two and if someone wants to borrow something or for us to give them something, we are to do it. Ouch!

I am often willing to go the first proverbial mile, but how many times have I offered to go the second? Often someone probably has to ask me to go the second. If they should ask to go the third, well then they are too high maintenance and may need to seek help somewhere else next time. How would it change the view of other people towards God if we could consistently follow these commands?

Recently, my daughter was in a situation where an instructor told the girls to fix a prop. My daughter got there first and after fixing hers was able to fix the props of several others before they arrived. From the shocked reactions, you would have thought she had given each of them money! They questioned her numerous times about why she had done that for them. She was able to share with them as she convinced them she had no ulterior motives. And these were “good girls”.

What if she had been able to do this for a bully? I am not naive enough to believe a bully will change overnight, but perhaps your child can plant a seed. What if your child went through life at school not only avoiding hurting other children’s feelings, but actively seeking to do good things for them? I am not talking about insincere, “I want to win the election” type favors and compliments, but honest good works only meant to help others.

Raising an anti-bully is actually kind of fun for you and your child.  You can make it your mission to do things secretly or obviously to build people up or help them. Help your child plant seeds of God’s love around him as he actively seeks to do good for those he knows. Help her to develop a kind, loving and encouraging tongue as she interacts with people. Follow the teachings of Jesus and train your child to be the anti-bully in his school. That may be the thing that eventually makes the difference. God’s love shown to others through our actions.

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Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NIV)