How To Help Children Respond To Bullying

When I was a kid, I hated riding the school bus. I was skinny and wore thick glasses. Unfortunately, that was a recipe for occasional ridicule. In middle school, I rode the bus with high schoolers and had to withstand a few jokes if certain teens were on the bus that day. It never got out of hand, and life went on. In those days, no one talked about bullying. Today, it has become a popular topic. Teen suicides have received national attention as the past few years have given rise to cyberbullying.

Our kids are growing up in a challenging world. We parents must prepare them to handle it. Fortunately, we do not have to do it alone. We have God’s Word, and more specifically, we have the words of God’s Son. Here are three principles to consider:

Help your kids understand their own value and worth. God knew us at the beginning of time. He knitted each one of us in our mothers’ womb (Psalm 139:13). We are the most valuable of all His creation. Jesus said, “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:30-31 ESV). God created us, and He saw so much value in us that He sent Jesus to die for us. That makes us valuable. So if God is that crazy about us, who cares what everyone else thinks?

Teach your kids to respond to hatred with love. In Luke 6:27-31, Jesus said, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. … If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. … Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” This radical concept goes against everything the world tells us to do. But, then again, we are supposed to look different. As Martin Luther King Jr., said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Encourage your kids to pray for bullies in their school. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus told His followers to love their enemies and “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 NLT). It is hard to hate someone you are praying for on a consistent basis. Prayer changes things. God may not soften the hardened heart of the bully, but He can certainly soften yours and give you the vision to see them as someone He created and loves.

When Jesus came to earth, He took on flesh like ours. Like us, He became tired and hungry. He also experienced a full range of emotions. He took ridicule from people who did not like Him. He faced bullying from soldiers as He was nailed to a cross. Yet He sinned not; He responded with grace and mercy. That is not an easy task. But, as we are molded into the image of Christ, we can endeavor to show God’s love to all those we encounter and teach our children to do the same. When people in our lives seem like they are undeserving of such mercy, we would do well to remember that we are not deserving either.

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