Bullying is a big subject these days. Schools have a yearly theme of “Resilience”, intertwining all subjects around this topic which is their answer to this problem. The thing that makes me sad with this solution is that it helps the victims to be strong, and that is a good thing, but it doesn’t deal with the heart of the bully.
As homeschoolers we can take a comfortable approach to this societal problem and say we don’t have to deal with this type of harrassment, and give a sigh of relief. But I urge you to think again. Bullying can happen in your family.
We don’t think of sibling niggles as bullying but it is. A bully takes advantage of their power over another person, to gain control over that person.
This power can be size, strength, ability or position. Bullies feel more powerful, more significant and act out these feelings. Bullying can look like teasing, pushing, tripping, manipulating, name calling, and they don’t give up, it is repetitive actions.
A bully takes advantage of their strengths over another person, to gain control over that person or situation.
Who is the Bully?
The experts can give us a profile of a bully but the truth is that each one of us can feel a power over another person, and can fall into the trap of being a bully. Which is why it can happen in your family!
When an older sibling is constantly teasing their younger sibling this is bullying – or if you find that too harsh, it is the heart of a bully. They have a power of size and position and they are teasing, be it verbal or physical, over and over and over again. Just to get you really thinking, can a younger sibling bully an older one – yes he can. A younger sibling can know that if they just push this button the older one isn’t allowed to do anything about it (and that is power).
Consequences for the Bully
As I have said, it is sad that the majority of solutions to this problem is helping the victim stand up and be strong, or escape, or avoid the tormentor. Though no doubt, this needs to be taught, the real heart issue is the heart of the bully. It is this issue that can be dealt with in your home.
When I have called a spade a spade, when I have labelled teasing behaviour as bullying my children have been shocked at their hearts. This of course, is an encouraging response and opens the doors to correction.
The bully needs think through their actions – they need to see that they have been plying their strength over another person and that this is bullying. I always start any form of correction with the child fully understanding what they have done and what it is called. I can then focus on what is missing in their hearts. And in this case, the preciousness of others is missing. They need to see that they are no more significant than their sibling, they maybe bigger, stronger, clever-er (yes you can have intellectual bullying too), but in the eyes of God they are a sinner but also in the eyes of God they are loved, just the same as everyone else in the family.
Every action has a corresponding reaction – bullying has consequences. This type of behaviour mostly happens when the parent isn’t in the room. Most children will know that they are not in power when the parent is there. Therefore the first consequence is to lose the freedom of being with siblings by themselves. They must learn to show love and kindness and consideration to their siblings before they earn this freedom back. This is not a humiliation thing but rather a time of training. Due to the power issues of bullying, another consequence will be to remove all responsibilities where there is a sense of authority. Is your child “in charge” of an activity? Do they babysit? A boss who does not consider the person-ness of his subordinates, is not a good boss. This is a good thing for kids to learn. Being in charge is a privilege.
Help for the Victims of Bullying
Yes, as parents we do need to help the “victim” as well.
We have a family rule “Let our No be No”. This means when we say “No” firstly, we mean it, and secondly it needs to be heeded. Obviously in a case of a bully, the “no” hasn’t been heeded. But this rule is a foundation for the expectation of respecting each other.
Secondly, we teach our children a way of escape. Not necessarily to escape the bullying (though of course we want that too) but to escape the temptation to sin themselves. In the situation of bullying in our homes the victim is often tempted to hit back – be it verbal, or physical. This then makes them a bully too – at least in desire even if they can’t pull it off!
We have taught our children to come to a person of authority – not to “dob” or “tell tales” but rather to ask for help to do the right thing. For example, “Mum, my big brother keeps pushing me, and I don’t know what to do.” It is here that we can help them see that walking away; “turn the other cheek” would be the right thing to do. It is here that we can teach them to say, “I don’t like it when you laugh at me.” This is resilience – to know what is right and to do it, even in tough situations. Once we talk through what he can do in this situation, we take him back and he is then able to do the right thing in the face of the bully. Sometimes we may need to give extra ‘oomph’ by standing by. (And – after the victim has learnt to stand strong, we must then deal with the heart of the bully – even if it seems like the child dobbed!)
Remember the importance of Relationships
Of course, it makes a parents heart very sad to see their children not get along. Sometimes I’ve wondered what is going on with the niggles and little bits of friction that happen and often someone is plying their power. It is easy to see this as just teasing but if it is upsetting the harmony in relationships then it is unacceptable. Let’s call it for what it is – bullying – and let’s help our children readjust their hearts and their actions and choose to love each other instead.
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