When a child is bullied, our first impulse is to immediately do something to the bully. Rightfully so, the bully should be stopped even if it means using physical restraint or a good hard spanking. But, if we stop there, we have not corrected the real problem. It is somewhat like cutting off the top of a weed when we garden instead of pulling it up from the root. If we just cut off the top, the weed is sure to grow back. If we pull it up by the roots, that is the end of the weed.

When we stop the bullying for the moment, we are just cutting the top off of the weed, so to speak. We need to get to the root of the problem by trying to determine the cause of the bullying. If we do not do this, the desire remains to continue the unacceptable behavior. If the desire is not stopped, these children become good candidates for future prison inmates, and many more people get bullied down the road.

Since most bullying stems from how children are raised at home, we really cannot depend on the home to change the child unless there is some sort of help for the family. This means that a great deal of the responsibility falls on the school or church. This is unfortunate since the school personnel already have their hands full with so many other things that are required of them. There is a program for intervening with “at-risk” children. It would seem that bullying is certainly an indication of an “at-risk” child. Hats off to our schools for efforts made in this direction. School counselors and other staff have their hands full when it comes to working with children who want to hurt others.

Too often, the child who bullies is ostracized from the rest of society. This simply makes the child want to bully all the more. These children want to “lash out” at people who, in their eyes, don’t like them. In truth, the bully may be in far more danger than the victim. Bullies are left with little hope when society turns its back on them while victims are pitied and coddled and encouraged. Tough love requires that we stand ready to forgive and at the same time stand firm on not accepting bad behavior. Bullies need love as much, or perhaps even more, than those bullied. This is not an easy thing to do, but we must rise up to loving bullies if we are to help them find a better way to relate to people. Loving does not mean acceptance of bad behavior. We can love a person without liking what a person does. It takes a certain amount of maturity to be able to do so. That level of maturity is required to be a good parent or teacher.

Working with bullies may sound like a very complicated job, but it simply comes down to loving all people, being firm, and doing our best to understand the “why” of actions. Once we understand why a child behaves in the way that child has chosen, we can start to work on the root of the problem. We cannot expect children to act like adults until they are taught to do so. Of course, we do not want to let our sympathy for a bully be greater than our sympathy for the victim, but we can sympathize with both and try to help both to be able to cope with situations where respect of an individual’s rights have been violated. By doing so, we are more apt to prevent problems in the future.