Warning – this blog post might offend some of you (and it’s long). But I encourage you to keep reading, because I’m going to use Scripture to back up my point.
Ignoring true bullying doesn’t make it stop. In fact, passivity only encourages a bully. I believe we need to be raising children who will stand up for themselves and others against true bullying.
Many parents have mistakenly bought into the idea that it’s wrong to confront a bully. It’s tempting to encourage children to stay far away from conflict … to stay out of a fight … to turn and walk away. “Turn the other cheek” some say. The problem is that verse has been taken out of context when it comes to bullying. Bullies intimidate with fear, and if in fear a child “turns the other cheek” then that is not a willful choice to lay down their rights for another. This might offend some of you, but “turning the other cheek” in fear is cowardice, not a righteous choice.
Bullies have influence and power beyond the back alley, and have frightened millions into submission. And it’s wrong. Whether it’s on the playground or in an office, as Christians, we can’t ignore bullies out of fear. Because it doesn’t stop them. Dr. Dan Olweus author of Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do describes the typical victim as someone who makes no assertive response to the aggression. When there is no response, it happens again.
Teaching your child to ignoring teasing is a good response. Yet, ignoring a true bully won’t always stop the torment. They may be a time when your child needs to stand his ground and confront the bully, just as David did.
I grew up loving the story of David and Goliath. I can almost picture little David standing his ground in front of the giant Goliath, with only a slingshot, while the entire Israelite army quaked in fear. Woosh, woosh, woosh, around his head the slingshot swung. With a strong arm, David let the stone fly and bam! The giant fell, and David was victorious.
What a great story! But is it to be left in the history books, or are we to learn anything from David’s example? As I read the passage in 1 Samuel, chapter 17, a few things jumped out at me. First, David wasn’t planning to get in a fight that day. He was just an errand boy sent to deliver food to his brothers and report to their father. So truly, he was just a bystander. But as David neared the front lines, he heard the taunts of Goliath, and got drawn into the situation. Something within David’s heart started to stir, maybe a righteous anger.
David asked in exasperation: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” David’s anger wasn’t for the threat given to himself, nor his brothers. His anger burned because someone dared to threaten and defy those chosen by his God.
When the trained professionals wouldn’t step forward, David – confident of his God’s power and protection – spurned an armor and helmet, put five stones in his shepherd’s bag and approached the bully. Calmly, David said to Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). With only one stone, David felled the giant and defeated the Philistine army.
We could write off the courage of David as a legend to be enjoyed but not applied to our lives today. Except for two biblical truths: 1) David was a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22) 2) God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6).
Although Jesus calls us to a life of forgiveness and compassion, even He didn’t tolerate those who dishonored God’s holy temple. With righteous indignation, Jesus turned over tables, and drove out money changers and those who were selling doves within the walls of the temple, accusing them of turning His father’s house into “a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17).
Our children are finding it harder and harder to summon moral outrage about anything. Today a challenge is set before us as parents to raise men and women who will stand for what is right, which is going to take moral courage. And we can’t learn moral courage from a book. Bravery takes practice.
Which is why my husband and I have always given our children permission to stand up for others in a bullying situation. They are never to be the aggressors, but if they see a weaker child being bullied, we want them to intervene. And we will stand behind them if they get in trouble. Because if my children were being bullied, I would pray for someone to protect them.
So how do we bully-proof our children? We teach them that they are God’s children first. And that they have a right to stand up for themselves and for others. We teach them that is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak and vulnerable. And we let them see us caring about the rights of others. It is a bit scary at first, but the God who protected David will protect us.
1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.”
Psalm 9: 8-10, “He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
Proverbs 3: 27, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.”
Today’s tip doesn’t have anything to do with moral courage, so please forgive the abrupt change in subjects. But I wanted to share some tips for saving children’s school work.
When your child is in pre-school you save EVERYTHING they do. Every scribble across a page is a masterpiece! Truly worthy of framing. Then they start kindergarten, and little Picasso brings home coloring pages, construction paper bunnies with cotton balls stuck to its tail and every letter of the alphabet spelled in macaroni.
By first grade you’ve got a room of the house dedicated to these treasures. And you are wondering if you need to build an addition to get through the next 11 years of school. Well first a word to moms of young children. By junior high, you are praying for a sample of their work. So it does slow down.
With five children, I had to make some rules for what I saved. Early on I decided to only save that which showed their unique personalities. So that meant I could toss coloring pages, but kept the “self-portrait” Joshua colored in kindergarten (it was a rainbow). I also only kept assignments and tests that marked their development.
During the year, I have a hanging file folder where I store these papers. Then, at the end of the school year, most of these papers go in a 9 x 12 clear plastic envelope, along with that year’s school photo and miscellaneous papers. These envelopes are stacked in a plastic tub in their closets. Visiting an art supply store can provide other ideas for larger pieces.
I know this has been a long post today, so thank you for hanging with me till the end. I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you want to blast me on my bullying stand, go ahead. I’m tough, I can take it.
In His love,