I have zero tolerance for bullying of any kind. No child should be made to feel like they don’t belong, that the things they love are stupid, that they aren’t safe, that they don’t have worth. Yet, it happens every day and in such small ways that teachers and parents often don’t address it.
I have a first grader who sees his fair share of the ‘little’ ways kids bully. Older kids tell him his winter hat is lame, that the bags I put in his lunchbox are for babies, etc. He stands up for himself, which often makes them target him more.
These experiences have taught him compassion. He sticks up for kids who get teased, he tries to comfort them when they cry, he prays for them at night.
One way to keep our kids from bullying is to give them another option. I choose service. When you serve, your heart changes and you’re filled with love. Here are 5 ideas of ways your kids can serve this holiday season and all year:
1. Make cards or pictures for neighbors and community members who might like it. If your kids are like mine they draw and color TONS of pictures. Many trees have fallen to satisfy my marker wielding offspring. Help them choose a few to take to a friend who is ill, an assisted living home, teachers, etc.
2. Shovel sidewalks. Send them out with shovels and a mission to clear the sidewalks on your street. If you have elderly neighbors, or single parents, start with them! If you don’t have snow, rake leaves or sweep porches.
3. Donate food. Kids can help go through the cupboards and pantry to find food to donate to a food bank. Take them with you and let them carry the cans and boxes in to drop them off. When they see the full process, they understand how badly others need the things we take for granted.
4. Donate their old clothes and shoes. Help them go through their closet and drawers to find things that don’t fit. Put the items in bags then take your kids with you to drop the bags off at a local shelter or donation site. My kids sometimes have a hard time parting with favorite things but if I explain that their beloved t-shirt will be worn by another little boy or girl who has very little, they become excited to share.
5. Donate their hair. There are several organizations that take hair donations (most require 8 inches) and make them into wigs. We choose Pantene Beautiful Lengths because I’m a cancer survivor and they make wigs specifically for cancer patients.
I may not be able to stop my kids from being bullied, but I can try to prevent my kids from being bullies.