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Bullying - what do we tell the children.

A few days ago, a friend on Facebook started a discussion in which she shared how she was dealing with her two 7 year-olds being bullied at school. She went to the school that is in Africa wearing this:

Well there were many comments that followed including one which I have heard before that, in effect says, tell the boys, or whoever the victim is to hit the bully and that will solve the problem. I responded at length as to why we definitely should not be encouraging a tit-for-tat response - here it is: (It was spread over a number of comments in the thread.

Yours is not an uncommon response to the problem of bullying . In fact I once heard a pastor give exactly this advice from the pulpit but I want to provide reasons why it is not advisable for an adult to advocate violent retaliation to a child. 

Reason 1 is practical: while children may find that hitting their bully has the desired effect, if the victim lacks the necessary strength to deliver a sufficiently strong punch , it may serve only to provoke the bully to violence (if the previous bullying was more verbal and emotional). or more violent if it had been physical. That hornets' nest of violence might be sufficient to put the children in hospital.

Reason 2 Not every victim of bullying is physically able to "hit back" and the inability to hit-back especially if the adult they have turned to for help has given this advice, is to live in a state of unannounced terror and loneliness and may make them more compliant with the bully or may result in the child committing suicide. or bullying themselves - i.e. self-harm.

Reason 3: A bully in my view is a childish version of abuse. Our advice to children if they are being abused is to TELL AN ADULT and that the adult has the responsibility to do something about it. The same should be true for bullying. How it is dealt with is different to dealing with an adult abusing a child but it is not the child or vulnerable person's responsibility to stop it happening.

Reason 4 : Let us assume that the advice is given and applied and with some measure of success. The victim hits his or her tormentor and so shocks them that the billing ceases immediately. What does the ex-victim take away from this experience? That when I am being given a hard time I must respond with violence. If they take that attitude into adulthood they will become violent individuals who will never learn to respond to conflict appropriately and could land up in court, like Oscar Pistorius, because they were taught from a young age to deal with threats themselves and not seek assistance. They may become domestic violence abusers, or even killers.

Reason 5: Hitting back is not how Christ has taught us to respond to persecution which is what bullying is. Jesus said if someone slaps you on the left cheek offer to them the right cheek too. I do not believe that Jesus is advocating accepting bullying but he most definitely is saying not to strike back. He said we should love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. I think that prayer is a POWERFUL weapon. Let's teach our children to wield the weapons of the word of God and prayer. These are two elements of the Christian soldier's spiritual armour: prayer and the Word. The servant of Elisha feared the enemy forces until he saw the BIGGER army of Angels that surrounded them. So we should pray and ask God to protect us and to help the bully so that they stop hurting other children. God loves that child and wants that child to have REAL friends not people who say they are friends because they fear the.bully.

Reason 6: I wear my "teacher hat". A child who bullies others - let's not label them , 'bully' is doing so to try and resolve an emotional need in themselves and it is the teacher's role to determine the need and equip the child on how to meet that need appropriately. A children who acting out violently towards others may themselves be a victims of violent abuse in their own homes. Threatening to hit such children if they continue to bully or actually hitting the child normalised the violent abuse they are receiving perhaps from a drunk parent. The bullying May be a cry for help.from a terrified child.

I realise reading the above that people may think that bullying is a childhood issue, and that it is one child bullying another - I am sorry to say that there are adult bullies too, and victims do not need to be children either, though sometimes adults bully children. We generally refer to this bullying as ABUSE. I also want to point out that bullies do not necessarily use physical violence to control and manipulate their victim. 

I shall return to this but have to go and get my laundry.


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