I am re-posting this blog entry from earlier this year because I’m hosting a discussion about the topic of “bullying” at Moms Together today. Oh, it sends shivers down my spine to remember the difficult and painful journey my family has had to walk. Do you have something to share about your bully experience? Why not join the discussion… here.
“Mom, I can’t keep it together any longer.”
These words from my 9-year-old son were his way of telling me he could no longer handle the bullying situation at school.
Now, we were aware that Sam had been dealing with “mean boys” and we’d had several meetings discussing this with his teacher and the principal. We just didn’t know how bad it had gotten.
Sam didn’t share with us the reality of what was happening, even though…
- We are very intentional parents.
- We invest a tremendous amount of time and energy in our kids.
- We love Sam and Sara fiercely… and they know it.
Later, he admitted that he didn’t share because he didn’t want to worry us. And because of the bully’s threat of retribution… he kept the pain and fear to himself even when we continued to ask key questions.
But slowly, however, we noticed changes that let us know something was definitely wrong.
His sleeping and eating patterns were different. He broke out in an itchy rash. His grades began to drop. Sam’s handwriting got sloppy. And my 9-year-old son even told a few trusted adults that he wanted to commit suicide.
I can barely type those words.
We jumped into action. We changed schools, got him into counseling, and had difficult conversations with the bully’s mom, the school and the district’s administration.
The more we learn about what our son endured… the physical taunting and verbal threats… the more our hearts break for our son. To say it was cruel would be an understatement. We’ve been on a roller coast of emotions and as a family, we’re all working through the damaging effects of the bullying.
We take comfort in knowing we serve a big God who loves our son more than we could ever imagine… and He specializes in restoration.
Sisters, I know this is a heavy issue. This may not be a particularly fun read, but I bet there are many of you facing this same issue with your kids. And since our goal is to raise Godly kids, we need to be aware of the Enemy’s plans to come against our children through bullying. We need to know what to look for and what to do if we see it.
Bullying is defined as: “A person being exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and having difficulty defending himself or herself.” And the category of “negative actions” covers a lot, like:
- Verbal bullying including derogatory comments and bad names
- Bullying through social exclusion or isolation
- Physical bullying such as hitting, kicking, shoving, and spitting
- Bullying through lies and false rumors
- Having money or other things taken or damaged by students who bully
- Being threatened or being forced to do things by students who bully
- Racial, sexual or cyber (cell phone or Internet) bullying
This is a far cry from how God wants us to treat one another. Ephesians 4:29 says “Don’t say anything that would hurt [another person]. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you.”
What Sam heard did not help him. Instead, he was deeply wounded as this bully spoke nothing but evil over him.
So what do we do as Christ-following parents?
Here are some things to establish now, before your children experience a bully.
- Encourage your children. Hug them. Spend time with them.
- Pray with them, asking God to protect them from bullying and for courage to tell if they experience it themselves or see it happening to others.
- Share with them what the Bible says about how to treat others (Google “scripture on encouraging others”).
- Role play strategies with your children so they know how to respond if a situation arises.
Here are some things to do if you believe your child is being bullied already.
- Watch for warning signs such as depression, low self-esteem, health problems, poor grades and suicidal thoughts.
- Be a relentless advocate for your child by intervening if you notice a change. Ask their teachers and principal for intervention and be persistent. Talk to the bully’s parents.
- Ask your child about it. Find creative ways to engage them in talking about bullying in general and their thoughts on it. Ask if they know anyone who is being bullied in their class or school.
- Change schools or environments, if necessary.
- Enlist a Christian counselor to help work through the experiences.
Well, my courageous, compassionate, loving, sweet Sam is on the mend. While the healing process will take some time, he is so resilient. And we see God all over this…
As a family working through the painful effects of bullying, I wanted to have an honest, candid discussion about it. Sisters, we can’t afford to sweep this issue under the table.
My hope is that by me sharing our story and by bringing a deeper awareness to this problem, you’ll better understand bullying and be prepared to intervene at a moment’s notice.
Stand up for your kids. Be intentional parents. Be available. Build a strong relationship with your kids. Develop trust and open communication.
And don’t tolerate bullying on any level, at any time, no matter what.