The bell rang, signaling the end of another school day in Largo for Jarrod and Gabriella’s 8-year-old son. Instead of leaving school feeling happy, their third grader came home sad and embarrassed.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world,” Jarrod said. Their son was being bullied.
More than one in five children have a similar experience, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And in a national study by the Cyberbullying Research Center, nearly 21 percent 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.
Jarrod and Gabriella talked with their son about helpful scriptural principles they learned through their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Bible principles can help all ages and in many aspects of life, including getting through school,” said Jarrod. “The author of the Bible knows how to best help us. Applying Bible principles have been vital to helping our children in school,” Gabriella added.
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.
“Praying about it and watching some videos on jw.org made me feel better,” said Jarrod and Gabriella’s young son. Despite being mocked and made fun of by his classmates, he decided to try and win them over with kindness.
Madison Bechtle of Clifton, N. J., 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 that help Jarrod and Gabriella’s family in many circumstances. “I think that’s the best way to live and to get through school,” their son said.