Monday, April 20, 2009

Childhood Bullies: Part One

What will get me steamed more than anything else Inside the Classroom? When I see a bully in action. When I hear kids tease each other. When I hear kids ridicule another’s opinion, abilities, decisions or interests. When kids in my high school class recently made fun of a boy for dropping out of college on his first day, I felt sick to my stomach. He was humiliated enough – why did they have to rub it in? How awful to be branded as a loser! If a kid dares to say something derogatory about another kid in my class, very quickly, he is very sorry he bothered to open his mouth. I’m so glad to see school instilling zero tolerance policies for bullying. Gone are the days, I hope, that most teachers scold the victim for being a tattletale, tell them to settle it themselves, then turn their backs. A zero tolerance policy has been needed for a long time.

I know how it feels. I was the kid who got picked last for class ball teams. I was called “ugly” and “four eyes.” Because of my Coke-bottle bottom glasses, I was given the distinct impression that no boy would ever want to go out with me.

Kids can be cruel. And, in spite of how much we say kids are resilient, those kind of wounds last a lifetime – unless God heals them. I’ll talk about how God healed me in another post. Have you noticed that we don’t hear the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” anymore? It was a nice cover up to smart back to the bullies because under no circumstances did we want to appear weak and let the bully know how much it really did hurt.

Yet, with experience, I’ve also realized that being a bully doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Bullies aren’t bullies just because they are made to be mean. A kid has the drive to bully others because he or she needs to feel superior – perhaps because he or she feels inferior in another venue of life. The slogan I’ve come to appreciate is this: “hurting people hurt others.”

I want to look at this topic from several different perspectives over the next few posts. I want to suggest classroom management for handling the bully in your class. I want to suggest ways to help the victim cope. And I want to discuss how children’s ministry workers can teach respect and kindness as a way of preventing the careless insensitive comments kids make to each other. While we’re in the middle of this series, I would appreciate your comments and feedback. How do you discipline a bully? How do you help the victim? How do you keep a victim from becoming a bully himself? What curriculum have you used to teach respect for others? How have you dug to the root issue in a bully’s life? Email me your input at

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