This morning as I was driving my son to school listening to the radio, he played his video game beside me. As I’ve mentioned before, he is on the autism spectrum and this is the first year I’ve not home schooled him. Yes, I’m concerned about how he is acclimating to his new surroundings, and the idea of him being bullied is one that is in the forefront of my mind. Like most boys, getting information about his day involves a lot of questions that are mostly met with one word answers. Today, rather inconspicuously, I asked him if he was making friends in his class. “Yes mom”, he answered, without looking up from his game. He named two boys who he had been playing with at recess.
“But are the other kids in your class nice to you? Do they call you any names?” I asked.
“Yes”, he said. “They call me Joey.”
I guess with all the talk in today’s media of kids being bullied, even dubbing October as National Anti-Bullying Month, I have been a little anxious that perhaps my son might be the target of ridicule from his peers at school. Having an IEP (independent educational plan) helps him in many academic areas, but socially he’s sort of on his own. People can be mean. Their words can be hurtful, even destructive. Bullying is an issue that many of us parents think about, and one that can have devastating consequences.
How do we talk to our kids about bullies?
I’d like to think that “bullies” are those individuals who the movies used to depict as juvenile delinquents. The rough-around-the-edges kids. My mind immediately goes to the image of “Butch” from The Little Rascals series. He was a menace to the good kids, but only one antagonist–perhaps with a sidekick, who was well defined. Wouldn’t it be nice if in real life we’d know who these Butch-like bullies were, and we’d tell our kids to stay away from them? Unfortunately bullying goes a lot deeper than what used to be depicted on screen. Bullies can be kids who come from good homes, belong to church-going families, and who are respected as being intelligent and surprisingly friendly to some, can also bully others– and still cause very deep pain to those who they target.
We live in a time when kids are taught that character counts, but we must ask ourselves where do they learn these traits? Well, for starters they learn many of their character traits from mom and dad. Do mom and dad talk negatively about people who may be different than them, or do they speak kind words? This is a huge area where we parents can take a deeper look at our own actions and make changes, if need be, in the ways which we speak about others. I know I am doing a whole introspection about how I may have spoken words that were not-so-nice.
Friends of our kids also play a hugely important role in them picking up character traits of bullying. Do your kids hang out with those who are mean to others? Do they think they are better than someone else based on looks, intelligence, or economical position? My dad taught me the importance of choosing my friends wisely. He’d tell me and my brothers, “Dime quienes son tus amigos y te diré quien eres”, which translates to “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who YOU are.” Choosing friends based on their popularity and not on their character can definitely backfire on all of us.
Luke 6:31 “Treat others just as you want to be treated.” It’s simple, but…Golden!
We can’t be with our children every minute of the day. As praying parents, we pray for their physical and emotional protection. But we must not bury our heads in the sand when it comes to bullying. Not only must we talk to our kids about being the target of such hurtful words, we must also be proactive, and discuss with them the need to be Christ-like when we talk to and about others. Reminding them that we are always there to listen to their concerns and answer their questions. But we are also there to give them an example of character, as well as help them understand how important it is that they choose friends who possess Christ-like character traits.
About the Author: Lisa Strnad is a weekly contributing writer to What’s in the Bible? and Jelly Telly. She works freelance in Christian Media, specializing in writing, promotions and marketing. Lisa lives with her husband and their two sons in Nashville, TN. Follow her personal blog: www.talkinglikeagirl.blogspot.com