Dealing with Bullying by Pastor Alicia Lafleur

Dealing with Bullying by Pastor Alicia Lafleur

The first day Aliciaof school can be scary for both parents and children.  I remember my first day of grade one.  My dad and I walked to the school. After a brief introduction in the office, the Principal assured my dad I was in good hands and she walked me to Mrs. Quick’s class.  As I entered the room, a sense of panic hit and my eyes swelled up with tears.  I looked, dressed and spoke quite different from the children in the class.  Then, the dreaded lunch time came.  I can’t remember what else my parents had packed me for lunch, but I do recall taking a bite of a ginger snap cookie when it happened.  The laughing began when a boy made a comment about my nose.  He then moved on to make fun of the texture of my hair and the fact that my shoes were from Bargain Harold’s.   I did what perhaps any child who had gone through such a lunchtime experience would have done.  I went to the washroom and spent the rest of the lunch hour in a stall crying.

After a few more lunches in the washroom, the pressure and the hurt became serious enough; my parents stepped in and met with the Principal and teachers.  I can recall the Principal calling me to her office in private and telling me that should anything else happen I need to tell her first and not go crying to my parents.  From that moment, I kept silent. According to the Red Cross, over half of bullied children do not report being bullied to a teacher.  However, 71 per cent of teachers say they usually intervene with bullying problems; but only 25 per cent of students say that teachers intervene[i]. I can go on for pages telling stories of being bullied all through grade school.  Bullying was a social issue for me in the 1980s and is also a very real experience for many kids today.  Unfortunately it isn’t confined to the lunchroom or schoolyard anymore; today bullies can come into your home via cyberspace.

According to the Canadian Institute of Health Research[ii]:

  • Canada has the 9th highest rate of bullying in the 13-years-olds category on a scale of 35 countries
  • At least 1 in 3 adolescent students in Canada have reported being bullied recently
  • 47% of Canadian parents report having a child victim of bullying
  • Any participation in bullying increases the risk of suicidal ideas in youth
  • Girls are more likely to be bullied on the Internet than boys
  • The most common form of cyber-bullying involved receiving threatening or aggressive e-mails or instant messages, reported by 73% of victims

Bullying can have long lasting physical and psychological effects on a child.  Some signs that your child is being bullied can include: loss of interest in school activities, absenteeism, skipping/dropping classes, tardiness and truancy, lower-quality schoolwork, lower grades, fear, anger, depression, and changes in your child’s personality.

There may be several responses to bullying depending on the type of bullying.  Regardless of the type of bullying we should try our best to avoid a response that is based on emotions.  Rather, the response must be dealt with logically and biblically.   If your child tells you that he or she is being bullied, avoid overreacting or responding in anger.  Allow your child to tell his or her story uninterrupted.  Be sure to get details like: who the person is, where it is happening and for how long it has been going on, do any other adults know?  Make a note of all of the details and discretely take photos of any injuries or damage to property.  If the bullying involves criminal activity, report the information to the police.  If it occurred in a public place (school, sports club etc.) report it to the authority figure responsible.  Finally, pray with and for your child and for the bully.

He rules the world in righteousness
and judges the peoples with equity.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 9:8-10 (NIV)

It is always important to keep the lines of communication open between you and your child.  Initiate conversations after activities. Ask open ended questions to promote conversation.  This will give you insight and show your child that you are genuinely interested.  Be sure to monitor your child’s media use (cell phone and computer).   If cyberbullying is the case, Thomas Jacobs, author of Teen Cyberbullying Investigated, advises “A message to the bully and/or bully’s parents may put a stop to it.” He recommends a brief call or message to indicate that you’re aware of what’s happening and want it to stop, but advises against accusations over who said what or who started it. “Then, if necessary, contact the cell phone provider, the social network, etc.”[i]

If you find it necessary, seek counselling for your child through your church, your child’s school, or contact the Focus on the Family Canada’s counselling staff at 1.800.661.9800.