My child is bullying classmates
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater ...” Mk 12:31
Jesus’ expectations for the way we should treat each other are crystal clear, but sometimes we fall short. Realizing your child has missed the mark and is bullying classmates creates a tough but very disciple-forming opportunity, so here are some ideas to help.
• Address the behavior immediately and let your child know bullying is not OK. The next step is to pray for the compassion, prudence and wisdom to discipline the situation in a way that changes behavior and lovingly leads the child to more Christ-like choices.
• Find the root. Social pressure, a desire to fit in, desire for control, underdeveloped social skills and being a victim of bullying themselves can all be reasons a child bullies others.
• Don’t use shame or humiliation to “teach them a lesson.” Christ calls us to show empathy, mercy and kindness, so modeling them will provide a roadmap to those behaviors.
• Natural consequences are powerful. If the bullying is taking place electronically, take away the devices. If the behavior is coming from a social group your child is a part of, such as the soccer team, suspend their contact with the group until you can clarify your expectations and help your child develop the vocabulary and skills to return to the group with proper behavior.
• Teach or provide opportunities for your child to learn and practice empathy. The ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes doesn’t always come naturally, it might need to be fostered and practiced.
• Make amends. Apologies aren’t always sincere. Most children can see through a forced or required “sorry,” making it more hurtful than helpful. Asking, “What can I do to make things right?” will not only lead to peace and healing, but it gives the bully a chance to develop empathy and take responsibility for their behavior.
• Accept consequences that come from bullying behavior. If your child knows they will be rescued from the consequences, there is little motivation to change their behavior.
Our primary goal as parents is to help our children get to heaven, so helping them live these words from Mark’s Gospel is so important. We have to remember to model these words for our children, and prayerfully lead them in a new direction when they miss the mark.