I’ve written about how it is inappropriate to link suicide with bullying as if it is a normal response to bullying. I’ve also along with the previously mentioned post I have discussed why the politicization by the homosexual lobby of the problem isn’t helpful as it advances an agenda. It doesn’t solve the problem, and actually I think it’ll just make it worse. I’ve encountered some interesting responses after writing on this subject.
One person told me, “bullying is part of life.” Some suggest we’re not teaching kids to be self-sufficient if we intervene in bullying. One friend, who is also a contributor here said, “What we are doing a great job of doing is creating generations of Americans who cannot survive teasing, criticism, seeing someone else do better than they, or ever not getting their own way.”
Some valid points, and others not so valid. Let me be clear about what I’m not advocating.
- Government involvement. I think government involvement just perpetuates the victim status. That isn’t what kids who are being bullied need.
- Zero tolerance policies at schools. Frankly I think they are mostly worthless, especially when they are coupled with zero tolerance towards fighting policies.
- I’m not advocating that a kid’s only recourse is to tattle on bullies.
I also want to be clear that I’m not equating bullying with occasional teasing or the individual playground bully. I’m talking about relentless harassment, groups of kids picking on individuals and times in which youth can not defend themselves. That’s bullying. That shouldn’t be a part of life, and what do we expect kids to learn from it? Do we expect them to suddenly grow as a result without some intervention and guidance? That is naïve thinking, and frankly those who brush this type of bullying off have forgotten what it was like to be a kid or has never experienced it themselves.
It’s a problem, and it needs to be addressed in a way that is not politicized. We also have to remember that with the advent of social media bullying has left the school building so it can’t be dumped in the laps of school officials either.
Frank Barron, who is the founder of the Catholic apologetic ministry Word on Fire and the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary had a review of the documentary Bully (which I discussed on my blog and plan to go see tonight). You can watch his review below:
Barron touches on the solution. The need for “knights” in the upcoming generation. That doesn’t just happen, which is why we must get involved. When I say “we” I don’t mean government intervention or school officials. What I mean specifically is first and foremost, the Body of Christ (because if we don’t do this who are we going to leave it to?), and then secondly I mean men. Here are four action steps, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but hopefully will serve as a discussion starter.
1. Bullies and the bullied both need mentors for different reasons.
- Kids who bully need strong, godly men to give them a different role model. They need discipline. They need somebody who can guide them to be a modern day knight, somebody who will be a defender of the weak not prey upon the weak. Kids don’t intuitively know this and won’t learn it unless somebody teaches it to them. Ideally it should be their father, but if not their father somebody needs to fill the void.
- Kids who are bullied need somebody who will provide support. Somebody who can model courage – it’s hard to be courageous if it has never been modeled to you (again do we really think kids just learn this stuff on their own?). Mentors can also model appropriate social skills, because admittedly some kids awkwardness will open them up to bullying – it’s not right, but it’s reality. They need somebody who will teach them to be assertive and how to stand up for themselves.
2. Adults can’t look the other way when bullying takes place.
- Sometimes adults become enablers because they turn a blind eye when bullying takes place. Sometimes kids need intervention, it’s hard to ignore harassment when the group turns against one person or a stronger kid preying upon a weaker kid.
- We can’t stop every instance, but if we know about it we must.
3. Youth Pastors and youth leaders need to teach their kids to love the unlovable.
- Somewhere where bullying should never take place is within the church. Kids need to be taught to reach out to those who are different, socially awkward, and unpopular because they too have dignity and worth. They have been made in God’s image and Christ died for them too.
- Youth Pastors and youth leaders need to model this as well. A great resource on this topic is Risk In Our Midst: Empowering Teenagers to Love the Unlovable by my friend Scott Larson who is President of Straight Ahead Ministries.
- I’ve touched on this subject in a post I wrote a couple of months ago – “Fortress or a Hospital?” In it I wrote:
May I make a suggestion? Don’t abdicate leadership of this issue to your youth pastor. As parents it is our responsibility to train our children, and that includes ministry preparation. We need to model ministry to our kids. How are we reaching out? Wouldn’t it be better for your youth to be involved in ministry such as this in the context of your family?
Shouldn’t our homes be lighthouses as well? Because how can we expect our kids to do this if we don’t do it ourselves?
Which brings me to my last point.
4. It starts at home – we should be teaching kids, in particular our sons, to be modern-day knights.
- There’s no time like the present. If you haven’t been doing it you need to start.
- If your kid is a bully don’t make excuses for them, do something about it. Where we should have zero tolerance policies is in our homes. I homeschool, but if my kid was in public school and was in trouble for bullying, it won’t matter what their policy is because my kids know they’re going to get disciplined at home.
- A great starting place is teaching your son to treat his sisters and his mother with respect.
- I also teach my kids that they will never get in trouble for standing up for themselves. I think it is ridiculous when schools have zero tolerance policies that short circuit common sense. If a kid is an aggressor, then the young persons defending themselves shouldn’t get into trouble (within reason). I remember my dad teaching me that it was never ok for me to start a fight, but he was perfectly fine with me finishing one. I knew that I would never get in trouble at home for defending myself or my sister. My son knows the same thing, as well as my girls.
- Just think if every Christian parent teaches their children to stand up for those who are weak what kind of impact that would make in our culture.
Individual bullies don’t generally go after kids who will fight back and be assertive. They especially won’t do it if the kid being bullied has an ally or two. Group harassment ends as well when youth peel off from the pack to come to aid of the person being harassed. Teaching our kids to be courageous and to stand up for those who need help won’t end bullying, but it’ll put a dent in it.