Maurice and Laqueshia’s then 8-year-old daughter loved going to her school in Las Vegas, Nevada, so when she started having anxiety and stress on school nights — they knew something was wrong. Opening up, their daughter explained that a classmate was attacking her physically and threatening her. Their child was being bullied.
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.
Maurice explained how they often talk with their two children about helpful Scriptural principles they learned through their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses, including on the drive to school in the mornings. “(We help) them keep those principles in mind so that if something does happen, that they won’t respond in the wrong way. Being a peacemaker and not needing to fight … ,” explained Laqueshia.
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.
Along with help from her parents and teachers, Maurice and Laqueshia’s daughter chose to win over her bully by responding with kindness.
“After time, it started to go away and she wasn’t really picking on me anymore,” their daughter said.
Madison Bechtle 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 Laqueshia said help their family in many circumstances. “Bullying is like a cycle … (I) think that’s something that parents will see by going to jw.org. They will find some good information on how to deal with (bullying), to really help their kids and themselves.”