Des Plaines, Ill., Families Find Solutions to Bullying From a Surprising Source
Melchizedek and Susana’s son was in the fourth grade when a group of children from his school in Des Plaines, Illinois, began to verbally assault him every day.
When the words turned into physical blows, the couple recognized that this was not a simple children’s game. Their child was experiencing bullying.
As millions of children head back to school this year, 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.
Melchizedek and Susana talked with their four children about the useful principles found in the Scriptures that they had learned through their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Before leaving home, we always try to say a prayer,” Susana said.
Together, they also went tojw.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 titled “Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists” and an animated cartoon about the powerful effect of prayer for those who are being bullied.
Melchizedek and Susana’s son, who is now 18 years old, explains how he coped with help from the Bible. “I didn’t hold a grudge, or anything like that,” he said. “I try to show compassion and help my peers.”
This had a good effect. At the end of the school year, the children who had bullied him treated him better and even apologized.
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.”
Principles such as the well-known Golden Rule of treating others as you would like to be treated, showing love and being slow to anger are tools that Melchizedek said help the family in many circumstances. “My children can cope any situation that comes their way and make the best decisions,” he said.
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