Today I heard a feature on TV about a grandma bus monitor who was bullied by some students on the bus. The video is on YouTube, and when you view it you either want to cry or scream! It's really getting the attention of the public, and maybe we in the church need to work with parents and help them teach their children to respect adults. Public school teachers face this every day.
Some years ago we had trouble with what is now called bullying (we called it put-downs) in the church where I worked. We worked on a plan which I'll copy below. Maybe this will be helpful to you:
Problem: Our students fell into a pattern of using bullying/put-downs with each other and with adults. They did not seem to be aware of just what bullying/put-downs were or how it effected others. It had become the popular thing to do. We wanted to turn the peer expectations in the opposite direction.
1. Help students recognize what bullying/put-downs are and how they effect others.
2. Turn peer approval to avoiding bullying/put-downs instead of using them.
3. Establish and enforce disciplinary procedure.
4. Create a safe environment for everyone.
Plan of Action:
1. Develop bullying/put-down badges (using specially made rubber stamp) of a hand with thumbs down and words "Put Down Put-downs."
2. Tell staff about plan and give them permission to participate.
3. Explain to students (see below)
4. Launch affirmative slogan campaign (see below)
5. Concentrate on affirming students and reward students who affirm.
Proverbs 3:12; 19:18 and 1 Corinthians. 13 and Rev. 3:19
Presentation to Students (done is groups of 6-8)
(It was important that this be done by someone who had already established a positive relationship with the students.)
1. Define bullying/put-downs -- a critical, insulting form of abuse.
a. Students define abuse.
b. Students give examples of bullying/put-downs, such as:
• name calling - jerk, stupid, etc.
• teasing for something different -- i.e.: glasses = four eyes; slow runner = slow poke; slow thinker = dummy, stupid; complexion (ruddy, race, freckles); intelligence = brainy, egghead; accent; body size = fatso, skinny.
• foul language against another
• change name to degrading word
• private jokes
• talking when another is talking (this says, "What you say isn't important)
• ignoring/indifferent - cruel/neglect. These insults lower self esteem.
• sarcasm - It's not what you say but how you say it. - Nice dress! vs. NIce DRess.
2. Inform, students that bullying/put-downs did not originate with their generation.
Example: Parable of Pharisee and tax collector, "God, I thank you I am not like this tax collector." (Luke 18:9-14)
Often adults, even parents, fall into this habit too.
3. Review discipline policy. (If there is no policy, it may be good to develop one after this exercise.)
4. Recognizing what bullying/put-downs do:
a. Each student makes a list of bullying/put-downs. Then take a large paper cut-out of a person and pass around the circle. Each person gives an example of a bullying/put-down statement and tears off part of the paper person.
b. Talk about how it feels to be "torn apart".
c. Pass the paper person back around circle and ask each to give an affirmation or positive remark and tape their part back on the paper person.
d. Look at the taped "person" and talk about how, no matter how we try, we can't completely undo the damage that bullying/put-downs do to a person.
5. Put-downs and bullying are negative power -- how can we turn power positive?
a. Treat each as a CHILD OF GOD.
b. Build up with affirmations.
c. Positive power multiplies.
d. List affirmations (listing on an outlined hand, symbolizing a pat on back.)
6. Ask students to leave the negative somewhere else when enter church grounds.
7. Make posters using put down bullying/put-downs and positive statements. (See photo.) We made multiple posters, and the students asked to take them to school and use them there with students.
8. Plan slogan campaign.
Out of this campaign came several ideas. The winning idea:
You know what makes me frown?
It's when you put me down.
So go the extra mile
And make me have a smile!
You can see the logo in the other photo. Both the logo and slogan were put on T-shirts which most of the students bought.
NOTE: This campaign was initiated and within the first week we could see a difference in the attitude of the students. They began to call each other on put-downs. They felt that they had permission to go against what had become a trend. It did not solve every discipline problem, but it did turn the general attitude, and the teachers at school even said that it helped there. Many thanks to Denise Beggs, who did the primary work with this at Sanibel Community Church, Sanibel, Florida.