The Full Mentor Mom Answer on Child Being Bullied

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.

Love, Kara

The Full Mentor Mom Answer on Prayer

What do you use to teach your children to pray?

A great deal of what children do, and subsequently learn, comes from watching those around them. They mimic you and those who are a part of their days.  They watch you use a phone and they want to put the phone to their ear or open an app. They see you use a fork and they become discontent with being fed and want to use a fork themselves. These things become natural to them and kids eventually become comfortable using a phone and managing a fork.  I think prayer is similar in that if kids see prayer as a natural part of your life, it will not be so foreign to them.

Prayer is conversation with God and it can be done in many ways.  That is to say, the Bible talks of many postures but these are guides, not rules.  Scripture also shows us how Jesus modelled prayer to help the disciples learn to pray. So, modelling prayer & exposing your kids to prayer, will help them see it as a natural part of your life.

There are a couple of things that we did with our kids to help make prayer a part of our family routine. Mealtime always began with prayer and it still does.  We also added  “thank You fors” to our evening ritual.  Don’t let ritual and routine throw you into a tizzy..  I do not think prayer is a ritual nor do I encourage adding a stressful portion to what may already be a tough routine.  But the point that my kids reiterated to me when I asked them the questions of teaching kids to pray, was that “the habit was huge.”  Making prayer a part of our routine meant it became natural and comfortable and a necessary part of their day.

Mealtime prayers are fairly self-explanatory. They can be simple by thanking God for the food and the time together. I would encourage taking turns to help it become comfortable for all. There are times when prayers may prompt laughter, but don’t worry about that.  I think God created humor!

“Thank You fors” were done before the youngest went to bed, as she had the earliest bed time.  We found that the landing at the top of the stairs was a good meeting place. Each person would say something about their day for which they were thankful. In truth, we had to limit our youngest as she could run a really long list.  The list was then incorporated into the prayer. We would take turns saying the prayer, but it helped give the kids a framework of what to say to God, as well as establish a grateful mindset. This “thank You for” time took maybe 10 minutes and even as our kids got into high school, it was a part of our family life. When the oldest went off to college, he looked forward to rejoining the time on the top of the landing and we even included him on the phone a time or two.  This could easily be done with “high/lows”. Each person can share a high and a low of their day. This not only offers our thanks and our needs to God, but helps the family know the hearts of each other.  Our” thank You fors” and high/lows weren’t necessarily deeply spiritual.  Life is made up of daily stuff and God is waiting to hear whatever is on our hearts.  I would encourage honesty. If your child is thankful they got to watch their favorite show or that they didn’t have to eat peas for supper, that’s okay. Just as conversation between friends develops over time, conversation with God develops as time is spent with Him. .

When you see something during that day that makes you happy, thank God right then and there and let your kids hear you. When you might feel like you’re losing it, stop right then and there and let God know you need His help.  This type of action shows your kids you can talk to God anytime, anywhere.

Your kids need not hear all of your prayers and if prayer is not natural to you, don’t be discouraged or sink into the parenting lows and stay there.  A tool that we used with our kids, and I still use at times today is the ACTS acronym.  A: Adoration – Praise Him for who He is, acknowledge some of His attributes. C: Confession – Share your heart. Where have you messed up? Ask for forgiveness. T: Thanksgiving – Tell God what you are thankful for – He is good! S: Supplication – Give God the needs on your heart. Let Him hear from you about your needs and the needs of others. The ACTS tool may be complicated to explain to little ones, but can be modeled and expanded on as your kids grow. There are countless scriptures that can be connected to the ACTS acronym and may encourage some great discussion as your kids grow.

Love, Diane