Children are these sweet little angels who make us smile with delight. Their eager curiosity charms us with their innocence. I don’t know about you but I feel deep hurt when I see one child bully another child. I want to grab them and ask with anguish, “Where did you learn to be so mean so young?”
A bully is made, not born. Bullying is all about power, the desire to redistribute the wealth of power. If a child is bullying other children, it is most likely that that child is feeling powerless in another area of his life or that he has learned that certain behaviors will make him top dog.
By using the pronoun “he,” I don’t mean to insinuate that all bullies are boys. Bullying can come in the form of physical – pushing, hitting, fighting – or relational such as rumors, intimidation, verbal cut-downs. Boys are likely to be more physical while girls will often take the more indirect approach.
How do you know if you have a bully on your hands? A bully has often been bullied, shamed or humiliated himself or experienced violence, abuse or aggression from another source such as at home. The child may live in an environment where people solve problems by violence, intimidation or manipulation. Remember, bullying comes from a need to redistribute power, to feel on top. The final source of bullying tendencies is the media. Are you surprised?
Many public schools now have a no tolerance policy in regard to bullying. The state of Ohio requires all teachers to receive training in identifying bullies and victims. As Kay Pomeski, principal at the Sandy Valley Elementary School said, “Bullying is not a mediation issue. It needs to be confronted and stopped.” Pomeski explains that wagging a finger in the face of a bully, telling him to stop, is not enough. Then the teacher becomes the bully in the child’s eyes. The core issue needs to be discovered – why is the child bullying? It’s a two pronged approach. The bully needs help in learning why he is behaving in a certain way. He also needs to know in no uncertain terms that this behavior is unacceptable and he cannot hurt the victim any more. This is not easy, for every bullying situation is different.
I’m glad to see schools invoke actual policies about bullying. What about the church? Does your church have a policy regarding bullies? Does bullying happen in your church? How can we teach kids so we prevent bullying behavior? After the home, the church should be the place where we teach kids how to treat others. Unlike the school, we have the opportunity to put our character education against the backdrop of the Bible. Schools may be teaching kids the “how” of behavior; we can teach them the “why” of correct behavior. We can also help the victims know how to cope when they are picked on. I’ll discuss that in next week’s blog.