I have been shocked and disappointed by the number of bullying tragedies in the last few weeks. There has been college cyber-bullying. A dad facing charges for defending his daughter against bus bullies. And a 13-year-old who committed suicide after being bullied at school. Each of the stories I've heard lately have focused on the victims and talked about how parents and schools need to protect kids from bullies. Although this is true, I don't think it's the solution to the problem.

To solve, or at least improve, the bullying problem, parents need to teach their kids not to be bullies.

I know, we all say "My kids would never bully another child!" But every bully has parents, and often those parents don't know their kid is a bully until things get out of hand. So what's a parent to do? Here are my thoughts:
  1. Teach children the importance of others. Instead of landing at "You are special" or "God made and loves you" take it a step further to "God made and loves every person." It's a slight, but important, difference. When you're driving in the car, point out people who look different than you and ask your child if God loves that person. Of course He does! And since God loves that person, that person should be important to us.
  2. Give your children opportunities to interact with people different than him. Intentionally play sports with kids of a different color. Set up play dates with the kids at school or in the neighborhood whose family practices a different faith than you. In the privacy of your own home talk about how some people are different than us. Some of those differences are designed by God, some of those differences are our choosing, some differences (like handicaps) could be from accidents. Be specific about the same and different characteristics in their new friends. But end the conversation with "Even though they're different than us, does God still love them? Then they should be important to us."
  3. Teach your kids to respect their bodies, and the bodies of others. Show her pictures or drawings of the skeletal or nervous system. Be amazed together at how our body heals itself when we get a cut or scrape. Wonder at the amazing bodies God created for us. Since our bodies are so wonderful, we need to treat them with respect, which means not hitting, pushing, etc.
  4. Help your child develop ways to deal with anger. We all have times when we get upset, but we can't allow ourselves to take that anger out on others. Maybe it's as simple as counting to 10. Maybe your child needs a Bible verse to repeat. If he's a particularly physical kid, maybe he needs to hit a pillow or go for a run in the yard to blow off steam -- or sign him up for football to give him a healthy outlet for that physicality.
These four strategies cannot be taught in one day. They must be a part of the ongoing conversation you're having with your kids. But if more of us can use the time we have with our kids intentionally, we can cut back on the number of bullying victims in this generation.