Dear Mentor Mom,
My first grader came home from school upset because he was called “fat” by another kid. We talked about how that wasn’t very nice and how it’s a person’s character that matters. Any other advice on how to manage bullying from the bullied perspective?
When our children are hurt, especially by the words of another child, it is easy for our emotions to take over very quickly. In our house, I say “Someone poked Mama Bear!” So after giving them momma comfort and hugs, the first order of business when my children were hurt or bullied was always to take a little time to process what they told me and PRAY before I respond. No matter what the situation is, there is always the potential to have a beautiful teaching moment with your child. It is a very real life example to them of how words and/or actions can be hurtful, and yet because of the example of mercy that Jesus shows us every day we can choose to extend that same grace towards someone who has hurt us. And most importantly, this gives us one more opportunity to remind our children that we are created perfectly in God’s image! Other children’s opinions of them, while hurtful, are of very little significance compared to the Creator of the universe and HIS handiwork when he knit your child together in your womb. Remind them of all the wonderful traits and special gifts that God gave them that make them so wonderfully unique. Here are a few practical ideas if your child has been hurt or bullied by others:
1) Stay calm and pray before you respond! Try not to react out of extreme emotion, but instead take a very supportive stance with your child and let them know you are concerned.
2) Make sure to get all the facts as straight as possible before picking up your phone to call the school or another parent. Often times, young children perceive things in a different way OR (I’ve learned this from experience) your child may have said/done something hurtful as well and they just “forgot” to tell you:)
3) Remember that you are the adult. Although it feels very personal, it will not help your child to engage in a battle with another parent. Equip your child with the words to say(“It hurts my feelings when you say I’m fat” or “Can you please not make comments like that because it hurts my feelings”), practice with them, and then encourage them to go back and handle the situation on their own. I would also email the teacher and give them a ‘heads up’ so that if my child is needing some extra help or support, the teacher is aware of the situation and can help out. Often times, we sent our children to school holding our breath and fearful of what would happen, only to have them bounce home from school and say “It wasn’t a big deal, we’re best friends now!” Assure them that if that does not help the problem, you will be there to help them take the next step. The next step would be talking with the teacher to see if they’ve noticed the issue and asking for their input/advice. We’ve never had to move past this step, but my next course of action would be to talk to an administrator if the teacher is unable to help.
4) Pray with your child before they go to school each day and remind them of their worth in Christ.
5) Leave love notes in their lunchbox or backpack to let them know you are praying for them and they are NOT alone in their struggle. And don’t forget to celebrate their success in handling their own conflict. If they are able to go back to school, express their feelings, and find some resolution…by all means celebrate with them!! It’s a HUGE deal for them to effectively deal with conflict. Many adults haven’t mastered that skill yet;)
6) ** This one is important ** Be very careful with the daily behavior that you model to your child!! It’s easy as adults to be very angry with people who act rudely towards our child, but we have no problem acting rudely ourselves in traffic at school, long grocery lines, sporting events, etc. Your child is learning from everything you say and do. The best way to prevent rude and bullying behavior is to start with your own family and make sure you are teaching and modeling the love of Christ! And P.S., when you mess this one up, don’t be scared to ask for your child’s forgiveness and tell them you were wrong. (I have a lot of experience with this step!)
7) Some bullying behavior is very serious and should be treated as such. If your child has been physically injured or is fearful for their safety, you must intervene. Contact your child’s teacher and administrator and seek their assistance and advice in helping your child to be protected. Although you may feel very fearful for your child, try to remain calm and not overreact to the situation as it may make it even scarier for your child. There are so many times in parenting where it feels like we are falling apart on the inside for our children, but this is a time where your child needs you to be strong and steady for them.
8) Lastly, don’t forget to fill up your ‘mom tank’ each day with truth and encouragement from God’s word. It is HARD being a mom, and it’s heartbreaking when your child is hurting. You can not minister to your child’s heart effectively if your heart is running on empty. After seeking God, seek the encouragement of other mothers/friends that you respect and can point you in the right direction.