Brian and Anaise, from Manhattan, New York, were worried enough when their 10-year-old son was verbally bullied on the school bus, but they did not think it would get physical. “Receiving a call from school that my son was punched left me distraught,” said Anaise.
With millions of children back to school, more than one in five of them will have a similar experience, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And in a national study by the Cyberbullying Research Center, nearly 21% of tweens said they had been a target, aggressor or witness to bullying online or by other electronic means.
As parents search for ways to protect their children, a growing group of families are turning to an unlikely source for practical guidance: the Bible.
Brian and Anaise take time each week to talk with their son about helpful principles from the Scriptures they learned through their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses. “This [bullying] situation left our son feeling sad and hurt and at times frightened,” said Anaise. “As parents, we created an atmosphere where he can always tell us what is on his mind and the challenges he faces in school. We have realistic conversations where we use Bible principles and role-play different scenarios on what to do if he gets bullied.”
They also went to jw.org, the Witnesses’ official website, where a search for the term bullying brought up a wealth of free resources including videos, articles, worksheets and other online activities on topics young people face at school. Those resources include a whiteboard animation entitled, “Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists” and an animated cartoon about the powerful effect of prayer for those who are being bullied.
“The website gives practical information on how to deal with a bullying situation. There are many videos and articles that are beneficial. It helped our son and has helped us as parents, and we are very thankful for that,” said Brian.
With his Bible-based training and use of the website, their young son did not retaliate. Instead, he received an apology from the bully who admitted his actions were wrong. “Now he considers me his friend,” their son said, “and he never bullied me again.”
“The Bible has proven to be a practical resource for many families to navigate difficult situations in life. The principles found in this ancient book can help adults and children resolve conflict and maintain peaceful relationships with others.”– Robert Hendriks III
U.S. SPOKESMAN FOR JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
Madison Bechtle, of Clifton, New Jersey, also turned to the Scriptures when a cyberbully started harassing her in the eighth grade with dozens of disturbing notifications on her cell phone. “It was really crazy. He was sending me pictures of my house. I was really paranoid all the time,” she said.
Reading the Bible and praying calmed her anxiety. “It’s just you and God, and you’re just talking one on one,” she said. “It’s very comforting, and it works.”
She also followed the practical steps outlined in the jw.org whiteboard animation “Be Social-Network Smart” to protect herself. She told her parents and teachers about the situation and deleted the social media account her bully had targeted. “I still don’t have that account to this day,” said Madison, now 21.
“Not every situation resolves so easily. But applying the Bible’s advice and focusing on the big picture can help individuals cope and maintain their sense of self-worth,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The Bible has proven to be a practical resource for many families to navigate difficult situations in life,” said Hendriks. “The principles found in this ancient book can help adults and children resolve conflict and maintain peaceful relationships with others.”