How do you know if your child is being bullied and do you know how to handle it? Seriously, are you confident you can answer this question for your child? I work as a school administrator and have worked with students and teacher for 20 years. So, I get this question a lot from students and parents.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the questions worth asking yourself to know if your child is being bullied, bothered, or babied.

I recently read about an event at Ole Miss where students canceled a retreat because of the offensive and oppressive symbolism of a banana peel tossed into a tree.

Admittedly when I read or hear of some of the goings on in the lives of our 18-23 year old’s—I’m perplexed. Campus safe zones, classes on overcoming threatening masculinity, etc., are some of the things that cause me to shake my head.

I bring this up because I’m often asked the question, “How do you handle bullying?” As a school administrator I know the answer the concerned mom or dad wants to hear- “Well, gee Mrs. Cleaver, we don’t tolerate that.” Or, “Mr. Rogers, don’t worry, there is no place for that here.” I think many wish I would say, “Well Mr. T, we don’t have it, but if we did, we would not pity the fool!”

What does biblical fatherhood look like as it relates to bullying? Unfortunately our current culture has broadened the definition of “bullying.” Anything that is felt, or seen as offensive, is pushed into this category.

For example, little Jonny – (wait…let’s make this more 80’s like…)

Corey F. prefers to save a seat at lunch for Corey H. Matt D. walks up and wants to sit there. Corey F. says, “No. I’m saving it for Corey H.” 

Because of the awkwardness of tweens and early teens in social groupings, the rest of the goonies sitting around kind of snicker at the awkwardness of the moment. Soon, Corey H (with his license to sit) takes the seat, and Matt D. finds another seat. Feeling picked on, teased, and “bullied”, Matt begins his search for a bodyguard. (And no, not his mom.)

Was Corey F. “bullying?” Or, was Matt D. just “bothered” because the preferred seat was saved for someone else?

In my experience I often find teasing and conflict, not bullying. A group of students picking and prodding often make a few feel like they are individual targets, and they become bothered. This age lacks the perception to see that the ribbing is distributed, where they too are dishing it out as much as they are receiving it. So, I ask you, how are you raising godly sons when it comes to this issue?

When it happens, consider these questions in determining if your child is being “bullied” or being “bothered.”

  • Is there conscious, willful and deliberate hostile activity, intended to harm?
  • Is there an imbalance of power?
  • Or, do they choose to be around the person, or group?
  • Or, are the two parties just angry, in conflict?

Here are some probing spiritual questions you must also ask:

    • What might God be teaching me, my child, or our family in this situation?
    • Why does my child seem to care so much what others think? (Uh hem…ask yourself how you deal with this as an adult before you broach this conversation, especially around social media; the idol worship of what others think should be somewhere in the discussion.)

Here are some questions to ask as in guarding against “babying” your child:

    • Do I get personally involved in their conflicts? (With other adults or even kids?)
    • Do I orchestrate circumstances as to manufacture outcomes I think are best?

As parents, of course we must protect. However, don’t confuse protection for privilege. Privilege – always getting results you want – breeds entitlement. Entitlement can’t stand against anything that pushes back, it never learns perseverance or endurance, and it only knows how to be offended. Young men and women must learn how to overcome conflict and not mistake opposition as oppression, or for an imbalance of power. Something the group at Ole Miss likely… well, missed.

Intentionally discipling your son looks different than entitlement. Jesus knows about an imbalance of power. The Pharisees were bullies. The Romans were bullies. God is all too aware of worldly powers and the persecution of His people. But He also knows of a greater imbalance of power – His coming rescue and defeat of all the contrived powers of this world.

Until then, teach your child to handle conflict and to be patient and shrewd in dealing with real bullies, learning to endure when you are bothered. In either case, the same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in you and hopefully in your child.