For Adults

Making Peace with Bullies

By Seth Reid

I’ll never forget the first time I actually had to deal with a bully. I was in the third grade, and every morning I meticulously combed my hair and put on enough hair spray to keep it in place all day long. One morning as I was getting on the school bus, a fourth grade bully said to me in a mocking tone, “Got enough hair spray?” My face reddened, and I did the only thing I knew how to do in the face of such derision: put my head down and stayed silent. Fortunately for me, the bully simply laughed at me with his friends and moved on with his life, apparently deciding that I was not worth his effort. I have never worn hair spray since then.

I wish I had known back then what I now know, after 13 years as a public school teacher, about dealing with bullies. Most bullies back down when faced with opposition. As a teacher, I try to teach my students that you have to stand up to bullies or you’ll be bullied forever.

Not everyone is bullied, though. The majority of students are on the sidelines, quietly rooting for the bullies to get their comeuppance, yet they don’t do anything about it. They need to be encouraged to stand up for those who are being bullied. A group of “anti-bullies,” or peacemakers, has the power to put a stop to bullying. Our duty is to be peacemakers, which means we need to get up and play an active part in making peace and ending injustice. As Christians, it is our responsibility and our access to blessing to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). A muddy spring or a polluted fountain—that’s the comparison Proverbs 25:26 makes to the righteous man who concedes to the wicked. Bullies, once they’ve gained power over their victims, will not stop bullying unless met with a greater force than their own. Teaching our children to not be bullies isn’t enough. We need to teach them to actively say no to bullies and to try to influence their peers to do likewise.

So, what does this look like in the classroom? One of the most essential parts of my job as an educator is establishing a classroom environment of trust and security. Without either of those elements, learning cannot take place. My students quickly come to learn that I am someone they can trust and will provide them with a sense of security. When a student of mine is being bullied, he or she does not hesitate to tell me about it. Students know that I will do something to put a stop to it. When a clear-cut case of bullying is brought to me, I publicly stand up to the bully, call him or her out for the behavior, and empower the rest of the class to become peacemakers by including them in the conversation about right and wrong behavior. The class then becomes a cohesive force standing up against the bully, and they feel emboldened to do so because of the way I model intolerance of bullying behavior. Before long, the bullying stops. My students feel safe and secure. And most importantly, they have been given an example of how to deal with bullies themselves.

As parents we need to teach our children that good will triumph over evil, but in order for that to happen we must take action. We are given a command in Scripture to let our lights shine before others, so that our good works will glorify our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16). When we teach our children that it is a part of their Christian duty to stand up for the oppressed, then we are empowering them to actively participate in the kingdom of God. When they stand up against a bully, things may not go well for them the first time. But they will feel good about themselves knowing that they did the right thing. And others will see their act of love and courage and think to themselves, “I can do that, too!” Then the next time bullying happens, instead of just one good person standing up in opposition, there will be two or three. Before long, the opposition makes the bully’s task too difficult. It isn’t worth it. And if they’re lucky, the bully will feel the need to become one of the good guys. I’ve seen entire classroom dynamics shift as the balance of power gets transferred from the bully to the teacher to the empowered group of good kids.

What does this look like in the real world? If the school bus scenario were to play out today, it would probably look a lot different. A picture of my hair-spray-plastered hair would have instantaneously appeared on any number of social media websites, and by the time the school bus arrived at school, dozens of other students would have seen it and added their own mocking comments. I would have been completely embarrassed and humiliated. Can you imagine how much deeper the hurt would have been if, instead an isolated school bus situation, the incident had gone viral?

This is exactly what our children are facing today. The threat of bullying has gone viral in ways that we never experienced growing up. Physical and verbal bullying haven’t changed much over the past thirty years, but now the Internet adds a new dimension of bullying abuse in cyber bullying. Boys are exposed to online content that values physical and verbal aggression (cell phone videos of bathroom fights at school, “roasting” other boys by insulting them, etc.), while girls are subjected to body shaming comments that stem from unrealistic beauty standards they are exposed to on social media platforms. Because of this exposure, behaviors are changing. If you don’t want to participate in a bathroom fight or a roasting session, you are verbally bullied until you do or until another victim has been found. And if you do participate, the loser is then mocked online, which only leads to further social anxiety. If you don’t have the newest shoe style or look a certain way, then you are excluded from friend groups and become the victim of online chats that spill over into verbal bullying at school the next day.

Cyber bullying can be ended the same way as physical and verbal bullying, by the uninvolved bystanders choosing to take the side of the peacemakers. When more people are actively opposing the wicked behavior than are promoting it, the behavior will eventually stop. It’s not easy to be the one brave soul to stand up in the face of wickedness. But as we teach our children to let their lights shine, we must also pray that others will come to see their good works and join them in standing up for what is right.

 

This article originally appeared in an issue of FUSION.

For Adults

Kind Is the New Classy

Candace Cameron Bure recently sat down with our friends at D6 to talk about her new book, Kind Is the New Classy. Candace’s feeling of sometimes being the only one with her unique viewpoint is an experience many girls will relate to. But “we can still be kind and respectful,” Candace says, even when others disagree with us or don’t like what we have to say.

Shine-recommended author Dannah Gresh also joins the podcast to talk about questions moms should be asking themselves and to discuss common phrases moms may unintentionally say that have an impact on their daughters.

Listen to Candace and Dannah in the podcast here.

 

 

 

For Adults, For Girls

The Lies Girls Believe

In an anti-moralistic world, the lies our girls hear and believe are abundant. Our friends at D6 recently invited Shine-recommended author Dannah Gresh to join a podcast and share about some of the lies girls believe.

Many of the lies girls believe about their self-worth and confidence are shaped by social media, which girls can spend up to 9 hours a day looking at. Dannah encourages moms to “take the mask off of social media” and remind girls that social media isn’t always real life.

Listen to the rest of the podcast with Dannah here.

For Adults

Fearfully Made

by Jen Thomsen

Do you have a daughter who struggles with her self-image? Are you at a loss on how to help her? You may have told her she is beautiful until you are blue in the face, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. This generation is no different than yours and mine. The teen years are still difficult.

It’s not a new phenomenon for girls to compare themselves to thin and beautiful models and actresses, or to measure themselves against peers who they believe are prettier or more athletic.

With competing voices from media and peers, how do we as parents and youth workers help our girls understand that their worth does not spring from how they view themselves or how others view them? How do we help them recognize and tune out the subtle thoughts that the devil plants in their minds?

The simple truth is that God made everyone. Every person is beautifully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:13-16 is straightforward: For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (ESV)

God made each person exactly who they are. Before anyone saw or even knew about us, God put thought into who we would become. No one is made by accident—this is an amazing truth. We are created exactly the way that God wants us.

Your teen might not jump for joy when you share these verses with them. If your child is longing to be a bit taller or shorter, to have straighter or curlier hair, to have clearer skin or a different nose, reading that they are made that way on purpose might not sound ideal. Social media and TV are so full of seemingly perfect people that it can be easy to wish for something unattainable.

How do we help our girls see themselves as beautifully and wonderfully made? It’s our job to continually remind them they are beautifully and wonderfully made.

This is not a conversation that only needs to happen once. You will need to reiterate this over and over and over again. Teens aren’t always the kindest to each other and Satan’s lies can easily become ingrained, so we must continually remind them they don’t have to compare themselves to other people. They don’t have to look like everyone else at their school.

They need to be reminded that when they look at their reflection in the mirror that they are beautifully and wonderfully made. You can leave post-it notes on a mirror or other visible place that will remind them of this fact. In my house we have a wall decal proclaiming that we are beautifully and wonderfully made. Simple reminders in everyday life can help reinforce this truth.

Because we are beautifully and wonderfully made, we also must take care of our human bodies. 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17 says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” As we remind our girls that God created them beautifully, we must also teach them to honor the body God created by eating well, exercising, and going to the doctor regularly.

It’s worth noting that for some girls, a simple decoration or reminder that they are beautiful will not be enough. Some girls who struggle with self-image may need additional support or professional help. If you suspect depression, anxiety, or another form of emotional or mental illness, please seek medical advice. There is no shame in seeking medical help.

Finally, we must remember to practice what we preach. As we teach girls they do not need to compare themselves to others, remind them they are beautiful, and teach them to honor their bodies, ask yourself if you are doing the same. Are you comparing yourself to the women you see in magazines or on TV, or even your peers? Do you celebrate the way God created you, or does your daughter hear you complain about the way you look? Our children are watching and listening, even when we don’t think we are teaching. Let us teach them in actions and in words that they are wonderfully and fearfully made.

Talking to a girl in your life about her self-worth? Share this blog with her!

For Adults

Three Steps to Thankfulness

by Ana Batts

“In fifteen years of marriage, this is the busiest that we have ever been. If I can just make it to Thanksgiving, I think I can survive.”

I heard the words come out of my mouth before I could stop myself. Then the voice of conviction pierced my heart: “If you do thanksgiving first, the rest will work itself out.”

The busyness of my life had begun to quench my gratitude for the amazing gifts, tasks, and opportunities that God has blessed me with. I am working on creating a culture of gratitude in my heart and my home so that we can “do thanksgiving first” this year.

Here are three goals that I have set for myself in my ongoing journey toward thankfulness.

1. Clear the Clutter

With 6 kids and 2 adults in a 3-bedroom house there is always clutter in our house. The fight against the stacks of papers and things that want to clutter our counters and take up our space is nonstop. Clearing the physical clutter helps me focus less on “stuff” around me and more on the moments of our life.

But there is a much more dangerous kind of clutter that creeps in and takes our mental energy—the clutter in our schedule. Charles Hummel aptly called it the “tyranny of the urgent.” There is a nonstop parade of “good” things that are happy to take our time. Creating space in our schedule by saying “no” to good things so we can say “yes” to the best things will give us the mental space to make gratitude a priority.

2. Change the Narrative

The things we talk about are the things that we focus on. If we focus on the negative, we will always find the cloud instead of the silver lining, and our hearts will find it easier to complain than to be thankful. Shifting the focus by changing the narrative in our minds will help our hearts be more grateful no matter the circumstance.

3. Center the Gratitude

One thing I enjoy about November is seeing all the posts on social media as friends share the things that they are thankful for. But #blessed #grateful #thankful is not a substitution for actually thanking the One who is the giver of all good gifts. Taking time to privately and publicly address our thankfulness to God is important part of a healthy spiritual life.

As you travel through the busy seasons of this life, my prayer for you is that you find time for thankfulness in the everyday and that the culture of your home will be one of gratitude all year long.


James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 2:6-7 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

For Adults

Busy, Busy, Busy

by Diana Bryant

If you talked to a dozen women today, no matter their age or occupation, I can guarantee one word would come up in every conversation – BUSY. Young mothers, career women, retired grandmothers, church volunteers, and even young teens who go to school, play sports, and take dance lessons give the same answer. “Busy!” is the common reply to the question, “How are you?”

As parents, we have the responsibility to teach our children many things. From the mundane – how to brush their teeth – to the eternally significant – how to recognize right and wrong. We discover early on that some things are taught by instruction and some things are caught by daily observing our lives in the privacy of our own homes and in public before others.

“Busy” is not in itself a bad thing. Persistent idleness is not good stewardship of our time, resources, or abilities. But neither is the “busyness” that saps our joy, skews our priorities, and causes us to place more emphasis on the superficial than the significant.
What are your children learning from your mastery – or slavery – to your schedule?

Consider these opposing messages:

  1. We teach our children the importance of learning God’s Word, of reading their Bibles. Do they see you modeling that? If our busy day keeps us from God’s Word, regardless of what parents and Sunday School teachers have said, we are teaching, “It’s not that important, there are other things that really need to be done.” Priorities are caught, and when they don’t match our spoken words, children will notice and draw their own conclusions.
  2. We work hard to make our daughters understand that their value comes from who they ARE, a child of God, not what they can DO. When we have a relentless schedule, involve ourselves with too many commitments, and use an inordinate amount of our energy to make every event we are involved in as perfect as we can get it, we are really teaching our daughters that our successes and accomplishments define our self worth. If we are constantly talking about how busy we are, wearing that phrase as a badge of honor, it speaks loudly to girls who desperately want to be valuable in this world.
  3. Are we using our busy schedules to avoid something else? Are there issues in our relationships that need to be dealt with? Perhaps making sure every minute is filled with some kind of activity gives us the excuse we need to sweep those concerns under the rug? Busyness can become addictive, but real connections with our families and friends cannot thrive without the time and attention they need. “You can always talk to me!” won’t ring true with our daughters if they can’t find a time that we are available and not distracted by activity.

These words are easy, but dealing with this issue in real life is not. Being needed, appreciated, and admired feels good. The lure of being sought after feeds our self-esteem. But seeking God’s direction for our schedules is more reliable than doing things just because we want to – or feel like we have to. Our relationship with God cannot be nurtured by busyness – even if we are busy with good things.

Think about these things as you consider your priorities in scheduling and modeling time management for your daughters and other young women in your life:

  • Remember that there are seasons in life. There may be a particular activity or cause you really want to be involved in, but waiting until a different season in your life may be better for everyone. Important causes will still be there long after your window of everyday influence in your daughter’s life closes.
  • Understand the difference between a good work ethic and being a workaholic. One glorifies God, the other glorifies ourselves.
  • If you are feeling burdened, harried, frustrated, and exhausted by your schedule, honestly ask God if you are following His leading or your own. This requires honesty on our part, but God has promised wisdom when we ask. Take Him up on that promise!

Check out our companion blog post for girls: So Much to Do, So Little Time

For Adults

Decoding Girl Politics: The Issues Behind It, and How You Can Help Your Girl Rise Above It

by Beth Bryant

If you have a daughter, student, or mentee in 5th grade or higher, you might have noticed that in the stormy midst of all the other changes adolescence brings, there is a definite shift toward the importance of peer relationships (and away from the parents) and the role they play in her life. This is a normal, healthy, important shift toward independence as girls learn how to be a functional part of society.

But, if a girl does not have strong sense of her identity and self-worth built up by the time she enters adolescence, this shift can be negative, as she will define herself by the opinions of her peers and the way they treat her and accept her or don’t accept her.

Between 5th and 10th grades (and sometimes longer), many girl-girl peer relationships are all about status, power, approval, and affirmation.

Adults in the girl’s support system (parents, teachers, youth leaders, mentors) should recognize that relational aggression (the psychological term for “mean girl” drama) occurs frequently. The chances that your girl will deal with some aspect of relational aggression is very likely. This aggression occurs when there is a power struggle within a girl’s peer group or when any girl of the group acts physically, mentally, or emotionally aggressive toward another to protect or promote her own status.

Actions can be physical or mental, from threatening or isolating/excluding others, to spreading rumors and insults, online or in person. It’s important to note that girls tend to bully differently than boys do. Girl bullies tend to have plenty of friends, good social skills, do well in school, and know the girls they are bullying. With a group of friends, girls can act in packs to isolate and exclude “outsiders.”

Peer group structure is important to understanding your daughter’s or your student’s needs: The hierarchy breakdown below from Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes is incredibly helpful in decoding the social world of girls.

  • Queen Bee: operates through some combination of charm, power, money, looks, strong will and manipulation. The ruler of the social group—others will obey her commands because they’re afraid of her or they want to be associated with her to promote themselves socially.
  • Sidekick: second in command—copies the QB and carries out her commands when the QB is not around. She does everything QB wants her to and usually gangs up on other girls with QB. The sidekick can sometimes change for the better if she is separated from the QB.
  • Banker: gathers information about other girls and stores it up to use for her own agenda or to give herself more social power. This girl often appears to be trustworthy and friendly (otherwise she wouldn’t get the info in the first place.)
  • Torn Bystander: senses the QB is wrong, has a conscience and wants to do what’s right but feels powerless to help because of fear of the QB or because she’s devoted to the group.
  • Wannabe/Pleaser: grovels at the feet of the QB and will do anything to gain her approval and acceptance. She doesn’t realize that while the QB is using her to do her dirty work, she is also mocking her.
  • Floater: This girl floats easily between peer groups and doesn’t give them too much power over her because she is confident about who she is. She’s friendly to other girls, likeable, and doesn’t feel the need to have the QB’s approval, so she mostly stays out of the Girl Drama game. HINT:: these are the girls we are trying to build.
  • Target: She can be inside or outside the peer group, but she is the victim of the group’s humiliation for many possible reasons (guys, how she looks, what she wears, challenging the power structure of the group, holding different beliefs, etc.) The Target will rarely tell her parents about the abuse she suffers and she will often just withdraw—physically, emotionally, or even both.

(Here’s a handy printable version of that social hierarchy list!)

So what can you do to help your girl navigate the rocky waters of adolescent peer relationships?

  1. Teach her to build her relationships to be less about competition, comparison, and approval based on arbitrary cultural trends to build them around acceptance, common goals, support, and sharing and loving Christ. (Bible studies, all-girl small groups, discipleships, exercises in encouragement, church attendance that is an integral part of the student’s life– not just casual attendance—are all great ways to foster those relationships.
  2. If you’re a youth worker or ministering to girls, understand who the QB and Targets are in your group. Look for the girl others emulate and look out for the ones others isolate. Some will also isolate themselves in protection if they think they won’t be accepted.
  3. Don’t be deceived. Even pre-pubescent girls are very capable of manipulation. Even if a girl knows all the right Bible answers and plays the role of a good Christian, she can still perpetuate Relational Aggression. Our social media driven culture with its easy access and permanent nature (once online, always online!) make it very easy to do this behind the protection of a screen (even for less courageous girls).
  4. Know when to remove your girl from a bad peer group. Sometimes it’s best to stick it out and keep training her. Sometimes it’s necessary to take action and change schools or even churches.
  5. Teach girls from an early age that their value comes from God and His approval is what they really need.  Teach them outward focus and help them to see the real needs of the world outside their “bubbles” or cliques. Remind them that this season may FEEL permanent, but it’s not forever!
  6. Watch for deeper signs of stress, anxiety, isolation and depression. Remember Targets tend to internalize it or just try to “deal with” the aggression rather than letting any adults know about it.