Unfortunately, bullies are not just common in childhood. It seems that some people never grow up. Some adults think they can get their way by raising their voice, towering over you, staring you eye-to-eye, or threatening you with consequences that aren’t normally associated with the behavior.
The news has been filled with men who are losing their jobs and positions after reports of their behavior have been made public. Some are surprising and others appeared to be the worst kept Hollywood secret. But, the one that strikes me as the most preposterous is the man who lost his job after listening to another man talk about assaulting women, while the guy who did the talking was elected president.
But, I digress.
Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. All ages. Both genders. All colors. Some hide under a threat of retaliation while others don’t care who knows about their behavior. Your child likely knows a bully at school. They may have daily contact with that bully.
The school your child attends does not preclude this behavior. Christian schools, public, private and even homeschool programs are not immune from children whose behavior is likely the result of how they have been treated.
My children had a cousin who enjoyed pushing them around, bullying them and pulling out his father’s soft porn magazines. It was a fine line we walked between offending the family and keeping my children in public areas with him. Turns out his father treated him in the same way he treated those younger and smaller than he was.
My youngest daughter attends a Christian homeschool program where she’s been bullied by a young man who has threatened her over the phone. The threat was to spread vicious rumors about her.
My oldest daughter experienced interactions with young ladies at her first Christian college who were bullies.
It’s important to talk with your children about bullies, whether they have interactions with one or not. Sooner or later, at some point in their life, they will have a relationship with someone who threatens them with physical or emotional repercussions if the bully’s demands are not met. If your child knows how to react first, they’ll experience less emotional turmoil and may get out of the situation unscathed.
Give your children the tools they need to navigate this minefield.
They will feel afraid
Tell your children they will feel afraid. If they know upfront they’ll feel afraid and that fear is exactly what the bully wants, it may help them to deal with the situation. Teach them how to deal with their fear in the moment, so they can follow the plan and deal with the feelings after the situation has expired.
Showing fear increases a bully’s power
Most, if not all, bullies will recognize fear and continue their behavior when they recognize their actions are achieving results. If your child can learn to hide their fear or pretend they aren’t afraid, many bullies will back down with other strategies listed here. One way to hide your fear is to keep your mind occupied with another task. Count backwards from 100, spell a word backward or recite the periodic table or the U.S. states. It doesn’t matter what you do, keep your eyes on the environment and your mind on something else – no one will know how scared you are.
Try to prevent running into a bully
Teach your children not to give bullies a chance to interact with them. Your child can’t hide or skip class, but they can take different routes and pair up to walk with someone else. Make a plan to walk to school, take recess or walk to class with friends. Bullies are interested in dealing with one person at a time, so two or more children together may be just the deterrent that’s needed.
Stand up for yourself
When you’re scared of another person, you’re likely not feeling your bravest. BUT, sometimes just ACTing brave is enough to make a bully back down. Most bullies are not interested in engaging in a physical confrontation. You want to stand tall, but you don’t want to provoke a bully or try to bully them back by hitting, pushing or kicking.
Talk about it
Speech is one of the most powerful things we have. It’s why God taught the tongue is more powerful than anything man has at his disposal. The tongue can start a war, forgive a wrong and communicate ideas. And your child’s tongue can stop a bully.
Most bullies prefer their actions to remain private, in the dark and far from the light of day. When your child talks to an adult about their problem it helps them to process through what’s happening and reduces the risk of depression. And, between you, you’ll find a solution. So encourage your child to share with you.