My son has hidden disabilities. Since he was an early elementary child he has struggled with social interactions. He is an empathetic kid but can be awkward in his interactions. Unfortunately this has often made him the brunt of bullying.
I have never been able to find words to wrap around the pain of bullying and the injury it causes. It has sadly been visited more often than I like to recall. It seems to be part of the journey of hidden disabilities and I hate that. I have had several encounters over the years that have left me feeling not so Christian in my response.
I was reminded today of a particular experience from a number of years ago, the response the Lord laid on my heart, and the result that still makes me smile.
My son has never been an athletic kid. He was as physically awkward as he was socially awkward. We tried baseball for a year (the coach was a burly former FBI agent – oh my) and it was pretty much a disaster. And that was where the bullying began with one particular boy. He was a gifted athlete and sports came easily to him. He excelled at whatever he put his hand to in the athletic arena.
My son was in school with this boy and often on the playground with him in those unsupervised recess settings. In my experience, those were the most difficult times because they were unstructured times of play and if you were not in a group of some kind you were often left out. The bullying began there and carried over into the hallways and after school care a couple of days per week.
Our son would come home distressed and deflated from their interactions. We tried coaching him on appropriate responses to deflect the mistreatment and he seemed unable to execute the recommendations effectively. We tried talking with adults in the surrounding settings as well.
One night I lay awake praying over the circumstances. I was so distressed at the grief it was causing my son that I was ready to call the other mom and address it that way. I asked God what in the world I should do to address this challenge.
And that was when he gave me a radical approach. Well, it felt radical to me at the time. I have since used it on several occasions and found it remarkably effective.
I determined to make this child love ME so much that he would quit mistreating my son. I began a deliberate engagement of this young man in every setting where there was opportunity – asking about his sports, his classes, his family – ruffling his hair and patting his back. Within weeks the mistreatment had diminished and within a couple of months it was eliminated completely.
I look back at it now and see that it really wasn’t so radical. I just loved him whether he deserved it in my mind or not. And he responded to that and began to be more kind to my son.
What have you found to be effective in addressing bullying in the life of your child?