Louisiana families find solutions to bullying from a surprising source

Published 2:53 am Saturday, October 22, 2022

Shreveport resident Earl still remembers the day he realized his child was being bullied. His son came home from elementary school with the news that someone had slammed his head into his desk. “For it to happen right there in the midst of a classroom environment was shocking to me and very upsetting,” Earl explained.

As millions of children head back to school this year, more than one in five of them will have a similar experience, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And in a national study by the Cyberbullying Research Center, nearly 21% of tweens said they had been a target, aggressor or witness to bullying online or by other electronic means.

As parents search for ways to protect their children, a growing group of families are turning to an unlikely source for practical guidance: the Bible.

Earl and his wife talked with both of their children about helpful scriptural principles they learned through their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses. “We talked a lot about it, and we looked up resources,” Earl said. Then together they read “about how to recognize a situation where it might happen, how to deal with those situations, to tell the teacher, to let the adults there handle it.”

They also went to jw.org, the Witnesses’ official website, where a search for the term “bullying” brought up a wealth of free resources including videos, articles, worksheets, and other online activities on topics young people face at school. Those resources include a whiteboard animation entitled, “Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists” and an animated cartoon about the powerful effect of prayer for those who are being bullied.

Earl has seen the positive effects it has had on his son because he is putting into practice what he has learned. He said, “Treating people the way he would like to be treated seems to have helped him to learn how to build better relationships in the household and with other classmates. If an issue comes up, he’s learned how to deal with it. It’s worked all around and made him a better person.”

Madison Bechtle, of Clifton, New Jersey, also turned to the Scriptures when a cyberbully started harassing her in the eighth grade with dozens of disturbing notifications on her cell phone. “It was really crazy. He was sending me pictures of my house. I was really paranoid all the time,” she said.

Reading the Bible and praying calmed her anxiety. “It’s just you and God, and you’re just talking one-on-one,” she said. “It’s very comforting, and it works.”

She also followed the practical steps outlined in the jw.org whiteboard animation “Be Social-Network Smart” to protect herself. She told her parents and teachers about the situation and deleted the social media account her bully had targeted. “I still don’t have that account to this day,” said Madison, now 21.

“Not every situation resolves so easily. But applying the Bible’s advice and focusing on the big picture can help individuals cope and maintain their sense of self-worth,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“The Bible has proven to be a practical resource for many families to navigate difficult situations in life,” said Hendriks. “The principles found in this ancient book can help adults and children resolve conflict and maintain peaceful relationships with others.”

Principles like the so-called Golden Rule of treating others as you’d want to be treated, showing love, and being slow to anger are tools Earl said helps his family in many circumstances. “Problems are going to come up in everyday life, so learning how to solve problems and have better relationships with others saves a whole lot of trouble and is very beneficial.”