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I don’t understand bullying. Why deliberately set out to hurt someone? And why is it a behavior seen too often in children?

One of my earliest memories is of a shiny little red purse I had at about age 4. I dropped the purse and the few coins I had in it spilled out. An older girl quickly picked up the change and then laughed because she had taken it from me.

I tutor second grade children and some of them have confided in me about times they were bullied. One child, in running away from the one spouting hurtful words, fell and broke her arm.

My daughter had her share of bullying in school. There was one classmate in particular who bullied and I tried talking to the mother. She simply dismissed it, saying she knew her daughter would not do such a thing. It continued, of course. Only when Kristi’s dad went to the child’s father and very firmly insisted he deal with his daughter, did the bullying stop.

Why do children bully? It may come from having been physically or emotionally abused. It could be that one of the parents is a bully and the child is acting out what has been seen at home. It may also be from feeling left out at home, school, or other social event and the individual is being a bully to get attention.

Research says that bullying begins at preschool age and, if not addressed, worsens through the school years. A bully left undisciplined will be attracted to gangs and a high percentage of bullies become criminals by their mid-twenties. It is not a conduct to be taken lightly, or to assume a child will grow out of the overly aggressive behavior on their own.

What can be done to protect children from being bullied? Here are suggestions from “Psychology Today” (www.psycholgytoday.com):

  1. Avoid the bully
  2. Use a buddy system (stay near a friend or two)
  3. Hold your anger and don’t retaliate; that is exactly what the bully wants to provoke
  4. Maintain eye contact and keep your voice calm and even
  5. Use the bully’s name when addressing their behavior
  6. Act bravely by walking away; try to ignore the bully
  7. Tell an adult early on. This is not tattling but is what the bully will try to make you think it is.
  8. Talk about it with a parent or older person who will give you support and love.

My heart aches for any child being bullied, but I also ache for the one who bullies, because I know that a child who continuously bullies is broken. Something very deep-seated is hurting in any individual who wishes harm or ridicule for another. It may not be easy, but as followers of Christ, we must remember to pray for the one who bullies, as well as for the one being bullied. Prayer is a mighty weapon; I know of one case where prayer alone turned a situation around.