Today, we delve into a topic that may be uncomfortable but is crucial for us as parents to address. Bullying has become a prevalent subject in our society, often discussed in the context of schools and social media.. However, what often goes unnoticed is that bullying can happen within our own homes. We may not immediately recognize it, but believe me, it does happen. So today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the power plays in your family and how we dealt with this when our kids were growing up. Let’s dive in and shed light on this often-overlooked issue: tackling the power plays that happen in family life.

Bullying is about Power and it can Happen in your Family

I had a teacher say to me once that their school didn’t have bullying because they had an anti-bullying policy!  I’m sorry, a policy doesn’t stop bullying.  Bullying is an issue of the heart and too often any education programme – established by a school or by the government addresses the behaviour but not the heart.  One of the other things I notice is that they often address the victims recovery or resilience but rarely address the heart of the bully themselves.  They may punish the bully but not deal with the issues that motivate this behaviour. 

As Christian parents who teach their kids to get along and guide them towards good kids to be friends with, or even we might homeschool,   we might feel that we are going to avoid this type of social harrassment.  But I urge you to think again. Bullying can happen in your family.

 

Bullying in your Family

Like I said before – bullying is a heart issue.  And it doesn’t matter what protection you put around your kids, they still have a selfish heart that looks out for number 1.

For example, we don’t think of sibling niggles as bullying but it is. A bully takes advantage of their power over another person, to gain control over that person.

This power can be size, strength, ability or position. Bullies feel more powerful, more significant and act out these feelings. Bullying can look like teasing, pushing, tripping, manipulating, name calling, and they don’t give up, it is repetitive actions.

A bully takes advantage of their strengths over another person, to gain control over that person or situation.

 

Who is the Bully?

The experts can give us a profile of a bully but the truth is that each one of us can feel a power over another person, and can fall into the trap of acting on that – and therefore being a bully. Which is why it can happen in your family!

When an older sibling is constantly teasing their younger sibling this is bullying – or if you find that too harsh, it is the heart of a bully. They have a power of size and position and they are teasing, be it verbal or physical, over and over and over again. 

And just to get you really thinking, let me ask a question – can a younger sibling bully an older one – yes he can. A younger sibling can know that if they just push this button the older one isn’t allowed to do anything about it – and that is power – and that is bullying.

Consequences for the Bully

It is sad that the majority of solutions to this problem is helping the victim stand up and be strong, or escape, or avoid the tormentor. Though no doubt, this needs to be taught, the real heart issue is the heart of the bully. It is this issue that can be dealt with in your home.

When I have called a spade a spade, when I have labelled teasing behaviour as bullying my children have been shocked at their hearts. This of course, is an encouraging response and opens the doors to correction.

The bully needs to think through their actions – they need to see that they have been plying their strength over another person and that this is bullying. I always start any form of correction with the child fully understanding what they have done and what it is called. I can then focus on what is missing in their hearts. And in this case, the preciousness of others is missing – the respect and honour towards another person. They need to see that they are no more significant than their sibling, they maybe bigger, stronger, clever-er (yes you can have intellectual bullying too), but in the eyes of God they are a sinner but also in the eyes of God they are loved, just the same as everyone else in the family.

Every action has a corresponding reaction – bullying has consequences. This type of behaviour mostly happens when the parent isn’t in the room. Most children will know that they are not in power when the parent is there – they lose some agency.  This is why bullying happens in the school play yard and on Social media where there is no one calling them to account. Therefore the first consequence is to lose the freedom of being with siblings by themselves. They must learn to show love and kindness and consideration to their siblings before they earn this freedom back. This is not a humiliation thing but rather a time of training. 

Due to the power issues of bullying, another consequence will be to remove all responsibilities where there is a sense of authority. Is your child “in charge” of an activity? Do they babysit? A boss who does not consider the person-ness of his subordinates is not a good boss. This is a good thing for kids to learn. Being in charge is a privilege and until they treat people who are less able then them with respect, they don’t have the privilege.

 

Help for the Victims of Bullying

{Let’s turn to the victims because…} Yes, as parents we do need to help the “victim” as well.

We had a family rule “Stop means Stop” – and this applied to everyone. This means when anyone says “Stop” firstly, we mean it (so don’t say it if you don’t mean it), and secondly it needs to be heeded. Obviously in a case of a bully, the “Stop” hasn’t been heeded as they continue with their mean choices. This rule was based on our need to respect each others boundaries and it helped our kids know the line between teasing in fun, and making fun of a person.

Secondly, we taught our children a way of escape. Not necessarily to escape the bullying (though of course we wanted that too) but to escape the temptation to sin themselves – to do wrong themselves in the heat of the moment. In the situation of bullying in our homes the victim is often tempted to hit back – be it verbal, or physical. This then makes them a bully too – at least in desire even if they can’t pull it off!

We taught our children to come to a person of authority for help – not to “dob” or “tell tales” but rather to ask for help to do the right thing. For example, they would say – “Mum, my big brother keeps pushing me, and I don’t know what to do, can you please help?” It is here that we can help them see that walking away; “turn the other cheek” would be the right thing to do. It is here that we can teach them to say, “I don’t like it when you laugh at me.” This is resilience – to know what is right and to do it, even in tough situations. Once we talked through what they can do in their situation, we took them back to their bullying sibling and they were able to do the right thing in the face of the bully – it was like they had a mini coaching with me, and were then able to step back into the situation. Sometimes we needed to give extra ‘oomph’ by standing by.  (And – after the victim has learnt to stand strong, we must then deal with the heart of the bully – even if it seems like the child dobbed!)

This is one of the trickiest aspects of heart-focused parenting – and that is to divide the processes of instruction and correction.  But both children need help – so we need to be able to see what issues each individual child needs – and certainly not to lump them all together and just tell them to get along!!  That is not a helpful strategy!!

 

Remember the importance of Relationships

I often wondered what was going on with the niggles and little bits of friction that happen in family life and often someone was plying their power.  It is easy to see this as just teasing but if it is upsetting the harmony in relationships then it is unacceptable.  Let’s call it for what it is – bullying – and let’s help our children readjust their hearts and their actions and choose to love each other instead.

Let me just pause here and make a comment – and that is that I’m specifically talking about sibling relationships here.  When one sibling is mistreating another.  The principles may apply in other relationships – but the strategies you need to employ if your child is being bullied by others outside of the home is probably different.  It is important that we make that distinction.  Of course as we deal with the hearts of our children in our home, they grow in being able to treat other people with love and respect too so that is the grounds for helping them not be a bully outside of the home – but the essense of what I’m talking about today is applied to sibling issues.

 

Heart-focused action step

Check your heart first. Are you a parenting bully?  Do you get what you want (Compliance) through welding your position (and power) as a parent?  Do you emotionally manipulate by getting angry or moody? Do you say something and don’t keep your word – teasing them with the idea of what might be possible?   These are not godly responses as a parent.  

When we work on heart issues, we need to always check our heart for the things that we are doing – before we can help our kids.

{once we’ve done that…}

Now put your parenting hat on.  

When you think of the relational niggles or tensions in your family can you redefine them or see them as power plays?  If you can you now have some ideas of how to address it.  

Not only do we need to call out their bad beliefs (that they can use their power to get what they want) we also have to teach them (the bully) the preciousness of the other person and how to engage with others with respect.  Actually, Episode #33 was all about teaching your children to be other’s focused – so that might be a good one to revisit.

Of course not all niggles or friction in relationships is down to bullying – sometimes it is another form of selfishness or other poor choices – but this is just one aspect that we often overlook.

We may also have to teach our kids how to stand against a bully. And how to reconcile when relationships are broken due to the choices of one of their siblings. 

How we engage with each other in a family gives us as parents so much training ground to work with. It can be overwhelming especially if you have children of different stages and ages.  One of the Scriptures that laid the foundation for our family life, and interactions with each other was Jesus’ command to love God and love others – and then the simple verse – or 2nd half of the verse actually – Love is kind.  1 Cor 13:4b.  Love is kind – how simple is that!  When that becomes your baseline for how you interact with each other in your family – then bullying has no place.  

I hope I have given you something to think about as you encourage your kids to love each other in everyday life.

‘till next time – stay heart-focused

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Stop means  Stop

Our children have to learn to read the room – to be aware of the feelings of those they are interacting with.

We taught our children two things to help with bullying

1- Our rule was: Stop means stop – don’t say it unless you mean it, and when someone says it, stop doing what you are doing to them.

2- I did not allow my children to say – I was only joking – because invariably they weren’t – their words, or actions had a smidgeon of meanness and now that they were caught out they are fobbing it off as a joke.

It is not a joke.
It is not teasing.
It is mean.

And if it continues it is bullying.

Let’s call it for what it is – and help our kids deal with the attitudes in their heart.

Have you listened to this week’s podcast on: Bullying can happen in Your Family – Know How to Deal with it! DM me the word BULLYING and I’ll send you the direct link so you can either read or listen.

#bullying #nobullying #safefamily #Christianparenting #realmotherhood #parentingcoach #parenting #homeschoolingfamily #mother #mum #mom #aussiemums #loveothers #valueseducation #valuesmatter #charactermatters

A Way of Escape (from doing the wrong thing)

If we don’t help our children do the right thing they will lash out in retaliation when their sibling is being mean to them.

Teach your child to come and ask for help to do the right thing. Be available to help them do the right thing in the wrong situation.

If they come to dob – tell them – “I can help you do the right thing even if your sibling is doing the wrong thing. Do you want my help?”

This puts the onus on each person to do the right thing regardless of what the other person is doing.

Listen to the podcast for more details on this parenting strategy.

 

Further Reading:

Stand up for Yourself – Teach your Child to be AssertiveBeing assertive is a tricky thing to teach in a family where we consider the other person first. But we do need to find the balance and help our children develop a strong voice.

Setting Your Children up to Succeed:  Can your children do the right thing at the right time in the right way?  We need to help them grow towards that.

How to Respond when your Child makes a Bad Choice: Our children will make bad choices all day – but the key is in how we respond.  Will we help them grow or will we shut them down?

Teach your children to be Other’s Focused:  This is key for harmony in family life, and maturity in our children.

 

 

3 Comments

  1. TB

    Thank you for this insightful post……how do we parent without bullying….

    Reply
  2. TB

    Thank you for your insightful post…..how do we parent without bullying. How do we apply our authority with kindness and consideration?

    Reply
    • Belinda

      Being in authority doesn’t automatically mean bullying behaviour. We can address our children with love, respect, kindness and still hold the position of authority/parent. We can speak firmly and mean what we say the first time, without getting angry. We can be consistent with our expectations and consequences. Consequences can teach instead of punish. We can approach our children’s immaturity and journey with love, mercy and grace instead of demanding and demeaning. We need to redefine our understanding of authority – becuase any authority we have comes with a huge sense of responsibility not entitlement.

      Reply

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