What is bullying? Bullying is ongoing and purposeful physical or emotional torment. Therefore, not every insult or hostile act constitutes bullying.
Why it matters: Some people use the term “bullying” to refer to any upsetting behavior, no matter how small. But by making issues over minor incidents, you could inadvertently teach your child that he is incapable of resolving conflicts—a skill that he needs now and will need in adulthood.
The bottom line: While some situations might require your intervention, other situations can give your child an opportunity to develop resilience and learn how to deal with people.—Colossians 3:13.
What, though, if your child says that he is receiving ongoing and purposeful harassment?
How can I help?
Patiently listen to your child. Try to determine (1) what is happening and (2) why he is being targeted. Do not draw conclusions before you have all the facts. Ask yourself, ‘Could there be another side to the story?’ To get the full context, you might need to talk to your child’s teacher or the other child’s parents.
Bible principle: “When anyone replies to a matter before he hears the facts, it is foolish and humiliating.”—Proverbs 18:13.
If your child is being bullied, help him realize that how he responds can make things better or worse. For example, the Bible says: “A mild answer turns away rage, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) Indeed, retaliation can backfire, causing the bullying to intensify rather than diminish.
Bible principle: “Do not pay back injury for injury or insult for insult.”—1 Peter 3:9.
Explain to your child that refusing to retaliate does not make him a weakling. On the contrary, it gives him power because he refuses to be controlled by another person. In a sense, he is beating the bully without becoming one.
This is especially vital for your child to keep in mind if he is being cyberbullied. Getting involved in a “flame war”—an angry online exchange—only gives the bully permission to continue, and it could leave your child open to the charge of being a bully himself! Because of that, sometimes the best response is no response—a tactic that is more likely to disarm the bully and put your child in control.
Bible principle: “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out.”—Proverbs 26:20.
In some cases, your child can avoid people and places that invite bullying. For example, if he knows where a certain person or group is likely to be, he can avoid trouble by taking a different route.
Bible principle: “The shrewd one sees the danger and conceals himself, but the inexperienced keep right on going and suffer the consequences.”—Proverbs 22:3.
TRY THIS: Help your child think through the pros and cons of the options that are before him. For example:
What might happen if he simply ignores the bully?
What if he confidently tells the bully to stop?
What if he reports the bullying to the school?
Can he “disarm” the bully with friendliness or humor?
Whether the bullying is face-to-face or online, each situation is unique. So work with your child to find a solution that is practical. Assure him of your support throughout this ordeal.
Bible principle: “A true friend shows love at all times and is a brother who is born for times of distress.”—Proverbs 17:17.
^ par. 1 Although in this article we will refer to the child as a male, the principles discussed also apply to females.