Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Road Sign: Bullies Everywhere

"Kids will be kids."  "Girls are just like that."  "He's all talk and no action."  "Just ignore it. Walk away."  "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you."

In my day these were common directives given by parents and teachers when someone in the class or in the neighborhood was bullying kids.  Today, a lot of attention is being given to the issue of bullying.  Bullies are everywhere throughout our lives and they dominate through a force of will.  After the school yard, we find them in the workplace.  They sit on committees.  They attend community meetings.  And sadly, victims of bullies, young and old, often remain silent due to embarrassment and intimidation.  This is a problem in our society that we cannot ignore.  Our generation has suffered at the hands these arrogant characters and it is time for a change.

God in no way desires for His people to be victimized or dishonored.  We must teach our children to be assertive (not aggressive) and confident (not boastful) standing firm against unrighteousness and injustice in their lives, all the while praying for their enemy and seeking God's wisdom.

Our little one's are never too young to learn about God's love and protection.

"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
Psalm 27:1

They are never too young to pray for wisdom.

"Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men..."
Proverbs 2:12

True Princess G.A., popular second grader and star student, began to hate school.  She began to argue with her siblings and disobey her parents.  She silently cried herself to sleep every night.  Her homework wasn't getting completed.  She wasn't talking about her day.  Her belly hurt all the time.  She had headaches.  Then one night, we read from her Veggie Tales devotion book and recited the above verse from Psalms.  She squeezed her eyes shut tight and wept from the very depths of her being.  She could hardly get a breath and then in between emotional heaves, she said, "Mommy, I am afraid of someone."

That was the beginning of knowledge for me about the torment my daughter was enduring at school.  The guidance counselor gave us a book to read called My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig.  As the story unfolded and the pages turned, True Princess G.A. wept.  She saw herself in the main character and she wept.  She saw her friends in the supporting characters and she wept.  The words on the pages were validation that she had endured something she didn't have to endure and now she could to ask for help.

I was shocked to learn that my daughter did indeed have a bully.  She wasn't being tormented by a big, bad, boy on the playground or in the lunchroom.  She was being tormented by one of her friends...a smart, pretty, little girl she had known for years.

Following is the note to parents and teachers included in the above referenced book that we read together.  Pay attention moms and dads because this is really important.  We must begin to recognize the situations our kids may be in.  It's crucial for a community of caring individuals (parents, teachers, school counselors, and peers) to come together to address these problems sooner than later for the sake our next generation:

"Relational aggression refers to acts of emotional bullying hidden among tightly knit networks of friends.  Instead of using knives and fists as physical displays of aggression, emotional bullies employ relationships, words, and gestures as their preferred weapons of attack.

A bully's reasons for tormenting are as diverse as they are plenty.  A child's desire for social connection, recognition, and power are key elements used to the aggressor's advantage.

Common examples of emotional bullying include, but are NOT limited to, silent treatment, rumors, intimidation, humiliation, exclusion, teasing, and manipulation.  These types of behavior can be devastating, resulting in serious injury to the target's self esteem and feelings of social unacceptability.  Stomachaches, headaches, depression, anxiety, and school avoidance are often telltale symptoms of bullied children.

Unfortunately, many children, especially girls, experience relational aggression at one time or another in their lives.  But as Monica in this story comes to find out, "That doesn't make it right.  And that doesn't mean this is the way it has to be."

Holding bullies accountable for their behavior as well as recognizing the roles and responsibilities of the targets, bystanders, parents, teachers, administrators, and the community are key to the success of any anti-bullying program."

Read the book.  Share the book.  Spread the word about the book.  Buy the book for your child's teacher.  Keep a copy on your bookshelf.

It is important to empower our children to stand up to the bullies in their lives.  As parents we must build moral courage in their hearts because bullies can't stand against that.  We must teach our children to stand and face the giant.

We must commit to living passionately against the injustices of this world...bullies, especially secret bullies, are among them. 

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