Sonora, my four year old daughter, came home from school awhile ago saying a boy in her class had hit her. Obviously, this bothered her some. I don’t know the severity of that exchange, but it’s worth considering. It could have been a hard hit out of the blue or a tap with noticeable anger. Bullying is a reality worse for some than others, but every kid will encounter it in their school experience. I don’t really consider this bullying, but it would be if it were pervasive.
On her next day of school she mentioned him again. Now, before we send her off to school we usually say a prayer. She mentioned that we should pray for this boy. She asked that God would help him not to hit her. I coached her along a little and suggested that she ask God to help her to be kind to him and she did. Simple and short, but yet a powerful refocus for the day. I didn’t think much of it until the end of the day.
While picking Sonora up from school, my wife Daphne noticed that Sonora, on her own initiative, offered this particular boy a drink of water. She did this by holding the handle while he got a drink. After he was done, he walked away and she reminded him to say thank you. He turned to her and said thank you with a playful and growly voice. She laughed and told me the story herself later.
While I am not seeking to address the serious issues that can come from bullying, it is clear that prayer, kindness and a sense of humour can disarm those who would normally escalate their aggression.
Two powerful principles for children to grasp when handling conflicts from enemies or perceived enemies are prayer and kindness. Even if the enemy persists as was certainly the case with Jesus, these two principles will have eternal rewards far greater than simply getting the bully to stop. I believe that, even in the worst of situations, doing the right thing is far more important than not getting bullied. Having said that, these two principles will do much with regard to dousing battles or potential battles. These also work great for sibling rivalry.
- Pray for yourself first asking God for help. You can’t control the bully’s actions, but you can control yours.
- Pray for self-control so that anger doesn’t take over.
- Pray for a tender heart because the bully is often someone who has deep pain.
- Pray for creative ways to show love and kindness to the bully. Often offering friendship will bring about peace.
- Pray for a heart of forgiveness.
- Pray for the bully to receive God’s healing.
- Pray for the bully’s family. Oftentimes, bully’s act out because their parents also act out on them.
- Pray for teachers to advocate in serious situations.
- Offer a cup of cold water, or snack, or help with something.
- Brainstorm gift ideas. Seriously. Give the bully a gift. Perhaps a candy or a fun little toy.
- Write a thoughtful note about the good traits the bully has.
- Have a sense of humour. Often times the bully is just playing a game to see if he can get a reaction. Don’t be too easily offended.
- Typically, don’t say anything. Just show kindness. The adage works, “Actions speak louder than words.”
The principles of prayer and kindness are not easy to master, especially when the pain is very strong and real. That’s why we need a power source. Here are some Scriptures to hold on to:
Matthew 10:42. The smallest act of kindness is recognized by God.
And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
Matthew 5:43-44. Show Jesus-style love even to those who hate you. Pray for them because even they have deep hurt inside their soul and God has compassion for them.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…
Proverbs 15:1. Choose your words in conflict VERY carefully. Show humility and even insert some humour.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Matthew 10:28. In the most extreme situation, even the worst bully can only damage the body. The soul is of far greater worth.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
What do you think about the problem of bullying and dealing with conflicts?
Link: www.bullies2buddies.com. While I don’t think this link comes from a purely Biblical standpoint, it uses some common sense wisdom that I found mostly helpful. It is also very practical with very specific scenarios and what to say or how to respond.