Today I am posting about something that literally hurts my heart. I have been very disturbed by recent news reports of teens and tweens who are literally taking their lives because they have been bullied by people in their schools and communities. Obviously these cases of bullying are more severe, but there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of kids represented by readers of this blog who are being bullied everyday at their schools, in their neighborhoods, and unfortunately, even in their churches.
I guess one of the reasons why the bullying situation bothers me so much is that I was a victim of bullying growing up. While today, I am confident in the person that God has created me to be, I wasn’t always this way. Growing up in the tiny central Mississippi town of Durant, I really struggled to find friends.
When I was a kid, I had several things going for me that made me an easy target for bullies. I did really well in school. Some people call people like me nerds. I was completely uninterested in sports. To be a guy and not interested in sports, made me a quick target. I was also very involved in my church and for some reason that didn’t reasonate well with my classmates. I think that probably the biggest thing that made me a target was that I was TINY! Seriously, when I got my driver’s license I weighed 90 pounds and was less than five feet tall.
I finally found my niche in eleventh grade when I started attending a boarding school called the Mississippi School for Mathemathics and Science. For the first time in a while, I felt okay to just be me and didn’t feel judged because I was smart, or athletically challenged. Thankfully, this experience left me more secure in who I was a child of God and I was able to find friends and really connect with my peers like never before.
One thing that I’ve learned about bullies is that they are generally insecure. They are acting on their own inabilities to control their environments and look for easy targets. Probably one of the most interesting thing about bullies that I experienced as a child is that some of the people I would have considered my bullies are now my friends on facebook!
If bullying is a problem in your community and church (and it is, trust me!), here are some things to be aware of:
1. Look out for the kids who are smaller than other kids. Small kids make easy targets. They are not as coordinated, not as fast, and just get picked on more often. Preteen boys who are small are especially easy targets. Be sure you are watching our for the little guys.
2. While non-athletic boys can be picked on unmercilessly, girls who are athletic can also be targets of bullies. Thankfully, I think that the world has become more open to the idea that girls can be athletes and boys don’t have to be since I was younger, but this can still be a tough issue to overcome in elementary aged kids.
3. Kids who aren’t of average intelligence need extra attention. Kids who suffer from learning disabilities or are gifted learners can be targets for bullies. Often it can be helpful to pair gifted learners with special learners who can buddy up to work through activities.
4. Make your kids aware of the problem of bullying. Don’t ignore the issue. Be open and honest. Tell kids about how bullying hurts others and help them know that it is not acceptable. Remind them that in the world of modern technology, bullying can even take the form of mean texts or chat sessions.
Remember that bullying in today’s society is an epidemic. You have the power to help control the epidemic. Tell your teachers about the dangers of bullying that can occur in Sunday School and be especially aware of bullying at special events such as fellowships and camps like CentriKid. Don’t forget about mean girls who group up and pick on one vulnerable girl in your group.