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Parental Responses to Bullying

Truth in Love 146

How should you respond when your child is being bullied?

Mar 19, 2018

Heath Lambert: This week on the podcast, we’re talking about a problem that probably every one of us has experienced in one way or the other and it’s the problem of bullying. For many of us, we’ve been on both sides of the bullying equation. We have done the bullying and we have been bullied. This week on the podcast, what we want to talk about is children who are being bullied and in particular we want to talk about how parents can help their kids respond to that when it happens. When we talk about bullying, we often emphasize it as a problem, and it is a problem, and it is a growing problem. In fact, there are regular news reports about children who harm themselves and even take their own lives in response to bullying and mistreatment that they have received at school. It’s probably not that the epidemic of bullying is increasing and that it’s worse now than it was then, but there is a good chance that things like social media spread the problem of bullying so that what had previously been relegated to a specific area of life now is spread out across all areas of life as it’s published on social media platforms. In any event, we have to admit that this is a problem, but what I also want to say to those of us who are parents is that when the problem of bullying occurs it creates a number of opportunities for us as parents. I want to talk on the podcast this week what several of those opportunities are as we help our children respond to bullying.

The first opportunity that bullying presents to those of us who are parents is that we can help our children know how to trust authority. In I Peter 2:13, the Bible says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…”, and then it goes on to list out some examples of what those human institutions are. The reason I read this verse and talk about this idea is because a child who is being bullied needs help, and they’re going to need help probably from the authorities that God has placed over them whether that is parents, whether it’s teachers, whether it’s church authorities, or even the civil authorities with the police. People need to trust authority. Our children need to trust authority. This is important because there’s an instinct on the part of some kids who are being bullied that they want to keep it a secret, they don’t want you to talk to the other kid’s parents, they don’t want you to bring it up at school, because they are afraid that that will make it worse. This is an opportunity to talk to our children about how the Lord has given authority to them in their life, and they can trust in God by trusting in the authority that He has placed over them, whether that’s parents, or teachers, or whatever.

A second opportunity that we have as parents when we help our children respond to bullying is how to take joy in trials. I Peter 1 starting in verse 6, the Bible says, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” What is clear here is that God sees to it that we His people receive trials for a very specific purpose. That purpose is to refine us and demonstrate the authenticity of our faith. When God sends trials into our lives, He is testing our faith to prove that we trust in Him and not in the blessings that we have received from Him. This is important and has everything to do with bullying because there is not one of us who are parents who do not want to protect our children from all the pain that we can. And yet, what we have to do and help them do is entrust themselves to their Heavenly Father, the better Parent than we are, that He knows what He is doing and one of the things He is doing is sending trials into their life for a very good reason. This does not mean that we should be joyful about the bullying or that we should take delight in pain, but we can learn to take joy and delight in the good things that God is bringing about in the pain. One of the hard lessons about life is that there is no way to insulate yourself from pain and difficulty and bullying is one of the early hard lessons that that is true. And we will be good parents and good Christian friends to our children when we help them learn how to take delight, not at the trials, but in the trials of bullying. 

A third opportunity we have as parents in helping our children respond to bullying is the opportunity to help them know what it means to love their enemies. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” The reality is one of the benefits of the trial of bullying is giving children, our children, the children we love, the opportunity to respond to people who are being unkind to them with love, with prayers. There are going to be, as we are the authorities in our children’s life and as we reach out to teachers and other parents, there’s going to be some situations where the bullying will recede. There will be other situations that we won’t be able to deal with. And even as we want to ensure the safety and protection of our children, we don’t want to keep them from doing what Jesus here commands which is loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you. Jesus Christ wants everyone, even our children, to love those who are mean to them. And so, this is an opportunity to show Christian love and it’s an opportunity to show prayers to the people who are being unkind to us. Any parent knows that mean people don’t go away with adulthood. And so, we have the opportunity in childhood to teach our children how to respond to bullies. 

A fourth opportunity for parents in the midst of bullying is the opportunity we have to teach our kids how to be kind. In Galatians 5:22, the Bible is clear that one of the fruits of the Spirit is kindness. We have had opportunities with our kids where they have mistreated other people and we’ve asked them to confess that sin and ask forgiveness, but then it’s been fascinating when some time later they have received the mistreatment of others and it’s wound up being kind of a negative lesson about how important it is to be kind. When kindness is not shown to you, it has a way of underlining how important it is to show kindness to others. And so, we can take the painful opportunity of bullying to remind our children of how important it is to be kind to others and what a blessing it is when we are kind and how painful it is when that blessing of kindness is taken away.

A final opportunity we have in helping our kids respond to bullying is the opportunity to help them know what it means to trust God. Romans 8:28 says that God works all things to the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. We want to teach our kids that when they experience bullying this is not an opportunity for them to doubt God but to trust in His goodness. One of the most remarkable evidences of the power of God in a fallen world is His ability to take bad things and turn them for good. We want to take the opportunity of bullying, the painful, sinful, terrible problem of bullying, and teach our kids that they can trust God with that problem. They can take the heartbreak they’ve experienced, they can take the shame and embarrassment that they have experienced, and they can turn that into an opportunity to trust that God who loves them in Jesus Christ is able to turn even that for good.