Let’s be real. When it comes to helping your student handle the pressures of bullying as a parent or mentor, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, unsupported by their school, and ultimately powerless. Being a youth pastor and having a wife who works in education, bullying is something that I am very connected to. Here are three impactful things that you can do as a parent or mentor that I’ve found work well in the fight against bullying. Here we go…
1. They Need You To Pray
Yup. Pray. It may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when your kid tells you what happened at school today or what that ‘one girl’ said about her on Instagram, but it’s one of the most effective things that you can do as a parent or mentor. Before you are a parent/mentor you are a child of God, and as a child of God your prayers are effective and powerful (See James 5:16). They actually have the ability to tear down evil structures like, bullying, depression, sickness, and so on (2 Cor. 10:4).
“As a child of God your prayers are effective and powerful.”
What should you pray for?
Good question. I don’t believe there’s one answer to this question, so here’s a few ways…
Pray that the bullying stops.
Pray for your kid’s emotional state.
Pray for the bully and their family.
Really prayer at its core is communication with God. Talk to Him about your child’s situation. Invite Him into it. Share your frustrations and fears with Him, then sit and listen for what He has to say. He’ll give you timely wisdom for what your child may be facing.
2. They Need A Place
One of the reasons why bullying can be so crippling for a kid of any age is because it violates one of our most basic human needs. Belonging. We all need a place of security and safety, where we feel valued and known. When a kid is experiencing bullying it can create a feeling of isolation. It can further the idea that, “I’m not accepted here.” Sure, they may not use those words, but at it’s core one of the areas that bullying attacks is our need for belonging.
What’s the solution? Give your child a place. What do I mean by that? I mean give them a secondary option outside of school where they can have the chance to connect and build relationship with a completely different group of students. A place where the school labels don’t exist. For me that place was church. I was able to overcome bullying at school because I knew that I had a secondary place outside of it where I was known and valued. For others maybe that secondary place is a club sports team, youth group, a volunteer organization, or a after school program. The objective is that by giving your child a secondary place you communicate to them, “Despite what you believed, you are accepted.” Give them a place. As a youth pastor, I’m a little bias towards the belonging that an intentional student ministry can give a child. Just sayin’.
“Despite what you believed, you are accepted.”
3. They Need Confidence
Nothing can strip you of your confidence like being bullied. Especially when we’re talking about vulnerable, hormonal pre-teens/teens. For them, they don’t say to themselves, “Well, in 15 years this won’t even matter! It’s all good!” No, studies show us that’s not the case at all. Generally speaking it’s the complete opposite, “My whole life sucks, and it’ll always be this way.” Bullying has the potential to affect a student in every area of their life. It slowly breaks down their confidence like cancerous cells break down healthy body tissue.
If your student is experiencing bullying, they need to be put in intentional environments and situations that rebuild their confidence. As believers in Christ we are actually created to be not only Builders but Rebuilders. Isaiah 61:4 puts it this way,
“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
The bullied needs their confidence rebuilt. They need their self-worth restored. They need their spirits renewed. As an authority in their life you have the privilege of being a part of the construction process. So what does that look like practically? It looks like putting them in a sport, giving them music lessons, boxing lessons, or giving them some sort of leadership responsibility. The goal is to put them in an environment where they can see their God-given talents flourish, which in turn will begin to rebuild confidence. It communicates, “See, you are so much more than what others say about you! You’re gifted and talented!”
“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Isaiah 61:4
Remember, all of this is done in the context of relationship. There is nothing on earth that can replace the power of presence. Your student needs your time, your ear, your prayers, and your love. Be led by the Holy Spirit and compassion and take on the fight against bullying with your student.