Bullying has been a major problem in society at large for decades. Despite attempts to put an end to this type of harassment, the problem continues to plague our social, educational and business structure at all levels. Children are particularly susceptible to being bullied at some time during their schooling experience. Many children who suffer from bullying during their middle and high school years carry the bad memories into their adulthood. Learn more on Religious Bullying!
Many schools have put policies in place to handle bullying or have initiated campaigns to keep bullying under control in their institutions. As a parent, you should be well aware of the bullying policies of the school that your children attend. You should also know what measures are being taken to ensure the safety and protection of your children. To be forewarned about this problem is to be forearmed with ways in which you can help your children combat bullying in their lives and give them the physical, mental and emotional support they need.
Who is Vulnerable to Religious Bullying?
Although anyone can be susceptible to Religious Bullying in today’s school system, some of the most common victims suffer from harassment due to their:
Sexual belief (i.e. lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender)
Mental or physical disability or special needs
The threat of bullying is very real in our children’s lives and should not be overlooked or ignored. The problem may seem unsolvable, but there are measures parents and teachers can take to see that bullying obstacles are overcome.
The following takes a more in-depth look at religious bullying, what it is, ways in which it may be manifested in your child’s life and strategies that can help parents and schools protect their children from being exposed to this type of harassment. By looking deeper into why children are subject to verbal and physical bullying, parents and schools can come up with viable solutions to benefit all parties involved.
A Look at Religious Bullying
Religious bullying can take on many different forms. Sometimes Christian children are bullied by “non-believers” due to their faith in God. Bullies may ridicule Christians for their Biblical beliefs or peaceful mannerisms and lifestyle. As a Christian, your child may receive physical or verbal abuse from more aggressive “non-religious” children that poke fun at their beliefs or that want to prove they are stronger and more powerful than their “religious” peers.
In like manner, children from non-Christian backgrounds such as Muslims, Jews, Sikhs or Buddhists may be bullied due to differences in their culture, dress and religious beliefs. It’s not uncommon, for example, for Sikh children to be made fun of for wearing turbans or Jewish boys to be ridiculed for their use of yarmulkes, etc. Muslim children may face bullying due to acts of terrorism that have been associated with the Muslim religion and the resultant misconceptions about their beliefs. Many Muslim families have suffered due to the appalling actions of a fanatical minority within their faith. As a result, Muslim children and teens who have nothing to do with terrorist activity feel the brunt of Religious Bullying from their peers.
In some areas of the country, fundamental Christians themselves may be the cause of Religious Bullying due to their prejudice and discrimination of “foreign” religions. In some communities, Christian students may even bully their non-believing peers in an attempt to get them to change their “evil” ways. Narrow minded Christians may even stoop to causing trouble with other Christian students simply because their peers are of a different denomination.
Religious Intolerance Can Lead to Religious Bullying
America is a country that is comprised of a multitude of races, nationalities, religions, creeds and lifestyles. As long as there is mutual respect and tolerance, American citizens can live and prosper in peace. When religious intolerance begins to seep into our social lives, schools and business communities, the result could very well lead to discrimination and bullying. There is a fine line between proclaiming your religious faith and trying to impose that faith on others who do not share your views.
Some students have used their religion to justify bullying their peers simply because they disapprove of their beliefs or way of life. Some Christian teens, for example, who disapprove of a lesbian or gay lifestyle, may resort to bullying to harass young teens who have embraced this lifestyle. Bullying of this nature often goes beyond mere verbal abuse or ostracizing their peers. Often times this hostility towards teens that are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) leads to physical violence and bloodshed. LGBT youth that feel so ostracized and unaccepted may make irrational decisions that will hurt them later on such as dropping out of school and missing out on a good education, retaliating violence for violence or succumbing to attempted suicide.
Understanding Bullying is Key to Resolving the Problem of Religious Bullying
From the time kids are old enough to go to school, they may be exposed to episodes of bullying. Bullying is often quite common in middle school from the ages of 7-11, but its effects can also be readily seen in junior high and high schools across the country. Helping kids to understand and identify bullying techniques early on in their lives is an important aspect of combating this problem. Young children, especially, should be encouraged to let their parents and teachers know when they are being harassed by other students. They should also be encouraged to expose cases of bullying when they see it happen to their peers.
Parents and teachers can play an important role in preventing and stopping verbal and physical harassment by acting quickly and decisively when bullying happens. Reports of bullying, even on a small scale, should be looked into immediately and action taken before the situation gets out of hand. Children need to know their teachers and parents will support them in time of need and take steps to secure their safety. Bullies need to know they will not get away with harassing their peers and that acts of prejudice and discrimination will not be tolerated in their school environment. By taking a united stand against bullying, students, teachers and parents can make a difference in helping to establish a safer, more pleasant school environment.
By listening, parents and teachers encourage children to overcome their fears and talk about problems with bullying as they arise. Parents who care about their children will do all they can to foster an open line of communication. It is imperative that teachers also maintain open communications with their students in order to preserve a healthy and vibrant learning environment. Young children need to know their parents and teachers care about what is happening in their lives. When problems arise, they will have someone they trust to turn to for help, support and advice.
There is no reason why children should be left to face bullying on their own. Religious bullying can hinder a child’s spiritual development and growth and cause him to unnecessarily question his faith and beliefs. No child should feel he deserves to be bullied because he is of a different religion or holds onto a different set of beliefs. If his beliefs are not harmful to himself or others, he should be allowed to embrace and pursue his faith in peace. A child’s religion is just as much a part of him as his nationality, color of hair or eyes, abilities and skills and personal interests; therefore, it should not be a cause for him to be ostracized. Every child is different in his or her own right. He or she should be allowed to celebrate these differences without fear of being persecuted for his or her beliefs.
Through open communication, parents and teachers can help set children free from these misconceptions and expose bullying for what it really is. Open communication can help give children the freedom they need to be who and what they want to be without worrying about being singled out or harassed for their choices. As kids learn to accept themselves for who they are, they can partake of the activities and interests they enjoy, making friendships with others who feel the same way. These friendships can be an important means of combating bullying, as children learn to stand together, protect each other and have conviction to stand up for their beliefs.
Long Term Solutions to Religious Bullying
When it comes to bullying, it’s important for parents, schools and local communities to seek solutions that will work long term where they live. Many schools are tackling this problem through teaching their students sound and ethical behavior from the start. Schools that stress the importance of good conduct in the classroom, playground, library, hallways, etc. set a sound precedence for children to follow as they grow older. This can be done by showing students how to treat each other with kindness, understanding and respect. By teaching children how to develop mutual respect for each other’s lifestyles and beliefs, it leaves little room for the concept of bullying to develop and grow in a child’s life.
Contrary to popular opinion, there are absolutes when it comes to behavior and ethics in life. Values such as respect, kindness, honesty, tolerance and acceptance play an important role in the education of our children. Children need to learn that their actions have either a positive or negative effect on themselves and others. They should be taught that bullying is a destructive behavior that has negative consequences for all involved. Bullying not only tears down other students’ self confidence and self esteem, it destroys the bully’s character and moral fiber, transforming him or her into someone that others dislike, distrust and disapprove.
Bullies actually have just as much to lose from their actions as those they harass. They lose the respect of their teachers and the friendship and companionship of their peers. Bullying may make some students feel powerful and in control temporarily, but as these actions begin to alienate their peers, bullies often find themselves left out in the cold. There’s no better time to teach values to children than when they are young and moldable. These values should be reinforced by family, friends and teachers through their personal sample of living the same. Children who grow up with kindness, respect and tolerance have no reason to resort to bullying to prove themselves or draw attention to their needs.
Eradicating Religious Bullying is a Teamwork Effort
Although there are no guaranteed methods of getting rid of bullying in local schools, there are steps schools can take to reduce student harassment and benefit from a safer school environment. As schools take a more aggressive stance against this problem, teachers and staff can be more effective by inviting parents and other members of the community to work with them in their anti-bullying program. A teamwork effort by parents, schools and the local community increase the chances of success in combating bullying and obtaining better results. The following are some practical steps that such a teamwork can take to help reduce bullying in schools and restore a safe and pleasant learning environment:
Anti-Bullying Policies: Schools should adopt strict anti-bullying policies and ensure these policies are enforced. Teachers should inform both students and their parents about these policies so everyone is aware of the standard that schools expect as well as resultant consequences for those that oppose this standard.
Reporting Religious Bullying: Students should be encouraged to report all instances of bullying immediately so action can be taken without delay. Bullying issues should be cleared up right away so students know that the school is serious about their commitments in this area. It’s important that teachers and parents take all complaints about bullying seriously to demonstrate to students that they are concerned about their safety and protection. Students often fear reporting these instances due to lack of adult concern and support. This only contributes to the problem and encourages its spread. Having the students’ cooperation and involvement is key to preventing the problem from escalating. As students see adults acting on their reports, they will have greater confidence to speak out in their defense.
Teach Good Behavior Values: At home, parents should instill in their children values that encourage positive behavior both in the home and school environment. Parents are responsible for the moral upbringing of their children; if children learn good habits, mindsets and behavior at home, they will be better able to adapt to their school environment. Children that come from large families often have more opportunities to learn such values as patience, sharing, preferring others, kindness, obedience, responsibility, etc., as they are required to incorporate them into their everyday living. These values can serve them well once they are ready to integrate into a school setting.
Maintain Uniform Standard of Behavior in School: Teachers should make every effort to reinforce positive values and mindsets within their classroom setting, making sure students are well aware that there is a behavior standard they are expected to follow. Most teachers have behavior rules for their classroom; these rules should be uniform throughout the whole school so students see teachers believe in a well structured, orderly environment.
Discuss Differences in Religion, Culture, Etc.: Parents and teachers should talk to students about any misconceptions they may have concerning different religions, cultures, physical or mental handicaps, sexuality, etc. Sometimes bullying can be the result of children having misunderstandings or fears about these topics, causing them to be prejudice without cause. By discussing these differences openly and honestly, parents and teachers can clarify misunderstandings and help children develop more accepting mindsets towards their peers. It’s important to teach children tolerance of other cultures, religions and beliefs, even if they choose not to believe the same. As they grow, these lessons will prepare them to live and work within today’s diversified and complex society.
Train School Staff to Handle Religious Bullying: For anti-bullying campaigns to be truly effective, both teachers and staff must believe and enforce the policies. Staff members may require training to understand more about the concept of bullying, resolving bullying issues, helping students deal with the problem, etc. Teachers and staff that are well prepared in advance have a better chance of stopping bullying at the onset of the problem and preventing it from spreading.
Community Involvement: Religious Bullying can also be tackled on the community level by getting the participation of the police, children’s services and other agencies. Schools can incorporate special programs within their curricula where visitors from these agencies talk directly to students about this issue. The more this problem is exposed and undermined, the less hold it will have in the school environment. Fighting these issues on all fronts will give children greater incentive to speak out against bullying and tackle the problem head on rather than keeping silent.