I have a kind, tender-hearted, smart, funny, athletic, handsome 10YO who has lately become the bully’s target. I really don’t understand why, and it breaks my heart. He’s such an easy-going, likeable kid.
I know the bullies, too (yes, plural – there are 2 of them). One of them thrives on intimidating others and making them feel inferior. The other one is a short-tempered my-way-or-the-highway kind of kid who believes his own rights are more important than the rights of others. The first kid’s parents became involved when my husband went over to their house and told them not to allow their child to come over to our house without adult supervision. Mind you, I’m always here, but it is not my job to be raising someone else’s uninvited, badly-mannered child on-the-fly. When my kids go out in the back yard to play, they shouldn’t have to worry about a superfluous party crasher raining on their parade. It is their yard, after all; and they should feel safe and comfortable. And, it’s my yard.
The other kid…well, it’s complicated. He is often very assertive whereby respect is a 2-way street, but quickly becomes aggressive when being assertive doesn’t get him what he wants. He’ll snatch things away, or just say mean things.
So, what can my son do about this maltreatment? For starters, he can focus on clear communication. Posture, voice and eye contact are huge communicators. Stand tall – shoulders back, be firm – but don’t yell, and always look the bully in the eye. Then he could choose to employ one or more of the following techniques:
1. Take a deep breath and commit to controlling his emotion. The bully wants to get him upset, so if he is able to remain calm the bully doesn’t get what he wants.
2. Be clear, calm and concise about what he wants. (That is my ball, and I want it back now please.)
3. Stick to it. If he’s decided he wants his ball back, he could become a very steadfast broken record. (I want my ball back, now. That’s my ball and I want it back. I want my ball back, now. That’s my ball and I want it back.) Keep in mind that a broken record doesn’t change emotion or intonation. It just repeats.
4. Do not obey the bully. Don’t make excuses or apologize, either. Just say firmly and confidently (not yelling) “No.” Repeat with the broken record. No heightened emotion. Just “no.”
5. Use “I” messages to get his point across, since this type of communication tends to be both assertive and respectful. (I feel unhappy when you take away my ball. I need you to give it back.)
6. Not risk his physical safety to protect possessions – walk (or run) away.
7. Tell a trusted adult. It is not tattling to expose a bully. Bullying is very serious.
8. Pray: “When you pray, I will answer you. When you call to me, I will respond” (Isaiah 58:9)
He doesn’t need sophisticated words because God understands our hearts. (Romans 8:26)
He can pray for relief from the situation(s), and pray for the bully’s heart and salvation. “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”. (Luke 6:27-28)
9. Be an example by teaching forgiveness: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31)
10. Know that he doesn’t have to be their friend. He doesn’t have to like them either, but he cannot, in turn, be cruel.
“Kind words are like honey-sweet to the taste and good for your health” (Proverbs 16:24)
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)
Have you ever had to deal with a bully, either personally or on behalf of your child? What did you do? Was it ever fully resolved?