One day your child comes home from school and tells you that another child was mean to him and pushed him down. He's sure it was intentional and that the student is a bully. You pause and wonder, "Is it bullying, or not?" "How can I tell?" "What is the definition of a bully?" "How should I deal with this situation?"
When I asked the kids at our school, "What is a bully?" , here were some of their responses:
1. someone who is unkind
2. someone who is not nice
3. a person who pushes me on the playground
4. someone who says something that hurts my heart
5. a person who makes me sad or feel bad
As a school administrator, I have some concerns regarding the current use of the term "bullying." It's a dangerous thing to start labeling people when they aren't characterized by a behavior, even if they have sinned. In fact, roles can quickly reverse when one begins calling the other person a bully due to the negative connotations in our society today. The victim can "bully" the other person by threatening to report them, and at that point, the relationship or hope of a friendship quickly begins to break down.
Sin should be called sin and consequences result from purposefully committing sinful actions. However, is that really the same as being a bully?
What is the correct definition of a bully?
If we used the definitions the kids gave to me earlier, we might ALL be called bullies! Who among us has not been unkind?
“Although we do not find the word bullying in the Bible, we do find the word brutish, a synonym of the brutal thuggery associated with thieves, assassins, and savage beasts (Psalm 49:10; Proverbs 12:1; Isaiah 19:11). The Hebrew and Greek words translated “brute” or “brutish” mean “stupid, foolish, and irrational, as cattle.” We can derive from this that those who bully are acting as cattle or other beasts incapable of rational thought. It is, unfortunately, not uncommon to see this type of abhorrent behavior in fallen man—even in the church—in both males and females throughout all life stages.” (This excerpt was taken from gotquestions.org).
According to dictionary.com, a bully is a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
Given these definitions,
True bullying should meet 3 criteria...
1. when someone seeks to intimidate a smaller or weaker person through acts that are physically or emotionally harmful,
2. when their behavior is habitual, they are characterized by such acts,
3. and they are unrepentant (certainly an irrational thought given their actions!).
Coach your child regularly to practice these 4 steps...
1. Do not use the term bully or bullying. This labels people before they have a chance to reconsider their actions and repent. It also implies that they are characterized by the behavior. Rather, use descriptive words such as hitting, saying unkind things, playing a joke that wasn’t funny.
2. Pray for the other person and how to approach them regarding the situation. Ask God to give them a repentant heart.
3. Try to work it out together - student to student or person to person. This is a great skill needed throughout their lives!
4. Seek adult help if you are unable to resolve the issue after practicing the first 3 steps. This is Matthew 18:15-16 in action!
"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private, if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed." ~ Matthew 18:15-16
If these steps were regularly taken on school campuses, true bullying would not be as rampant because it would either be resolved quickly or the adults would be aware of a pattern developing and could work with the family before a habit sets in.
As a Christian school, we have the privilege of sitting down with each family before they enter the school to discuss common goals for our children and we have all agreed to our statement of faith which includes the biblical principles to resolve conflict. Because of this, we are willing and able to work together to help coach our children to resolve conflict. Reaching the heart of the child before true habits of bullying develop guides the student to regularly confess and repent (to turn AWAY from sin). And for the student who finds themselves wondering if they are being bullied, they have the tools to work out issues with someone who has sinned against them.
I'd say that's a great life skill to master while one is young!