Gus and Bully Goose: A Tale of a Changed Heart is written for very young children (ages 2-6). In this book, Gus and his duck siblings enjoy playing in their little pond when they encounter a not-so-nice goose. At first, Gus and his siblings are afraid of the Bully Goose, and swim away. One day, Gus decides to be brave and finds out that the Bully Goose is not a bully at all, but rather a Mama Goose who is protecting her babies. Gus learns some important lessons:
1. It’s always good to find out why someone is acting the way they do
2. Exhibiting some unkind behaviors does not necessarily mean someone is a bully
3. Sometimes, folks just need to know someone cares
Sharing this delightful story with your child can open doors for positively communicating how to handle unkind behaviors. Running away in fear usually does not solve anything. You could also explore other reasons why people may do or say some unkind things, and to show you care, in spite of their mean behavior. It is always good to relate this kind of teaching to real-life circumstances. Perhaps your child has already faced someone who appeared to be unkind. Here are some questions you might ask:
a. Has anyone every been unkind to you? What did you do?
b. What are some reasons people may do and say mean things?
c. Can people change? How have you changed?
Jillian and the Bully: A Tale of Healing a Heart is a story designed for Grades K-3. In this book, Jillian learns that people who hurt others usually do so out of their own pain. At first, Jillian is at a loss as to how to handle this bully (Anita) in her life. Once she understands the painful situations her classmate has endured, Jillian finds it easier to move from being a victim to becoming a teacher, showing Anita another way to get along with others. Jillian is able to find her voice and stand up to the bully, and by doing so, Anita begins to learn that kindness feels much better. Here are some questions you might ask:
1. Who do you know that acts in an unkind way? Why do you think that is?
2. What does “Hurt people hurt people” mean?
3. What could you do or say to help them see things differently?
4. Who do you know that could stand with you when you are dealing with someone being unkind?
5. What does it mean to “find your voice?”
Bullied? Only If I Let Her is a book written for Grades K-3. In this story, Stephanie is dealing with a classmate named Kaitlynn who seems to go out her way to say and do hurtful things. As Stephanie is coming to grips with the reality of living with this bully in her life, she visits with her guidance counselor to learn some strategies to gain resilience. Stephanie has also learned from her mother that Kaitlynn is likely feeling unhappy inside and it is out of her own pain that she chooses to be hurtful to others. Stephanie learned the hard way that trying to get the adults in her life to fight her battles for her only made the situation worse.
With her guidance counselor, Stephanie practiced an “I-don’t-care-what-you-say” look on her face by using a mirror to learn how to not visibly show her true emotions.
One day, Stephanie finds her voice, and stands up for a friend who has also become a target of Kaitlynn’s bullying. Stephanie is quite surprised to learn that her decision to speak up has changed the dynamic. The most important lesson is: When we choose to act like a victor instead of a victim, usually the bully will back down. Here are some questions you might ask your child as you explore dealing with unkind behaviors:
1. Has anyone ever been mean to you? Tell me what happened.
2. How did you react?
3. Why do you think people do or say mean things?
4. What does it mean to be a victim?
5. Why might it be important to have an “I-don’t-care-what-you-say” look on your face?
6. How can you stand up for yourself when someone is unkind?
7. How do you stand up for others?
8. Who can you choose to stand with you when you are dealing with someone being mean?
9. What are some ways you can get past your fears and speak up?
10. What does it mean to “find your voice?”
In Bully in Disguise: A Look Behind the Mask, Jenny learns how to cope with the bully in her life. Gloria has convinced the adults that she is an excellent role-model, but Jenny sees her true colors, and devises a way (with the great advice from her Nana) to move beyond her fears. Jenny has an opportunity to show kindness when she could have promoted her own desires and Gloria begins to have a change of heart.
There are ten tips for parents and teachers in the back of the book, making great discussion starters. Here are some questions you might ask when helping your child learn to move from victim to victor:
1. How do you feel when someone is being mean to you? What do you do?
2. Who are your friends that can stand with you when facing someone being unkind?
3. Are you able to privately talk with your teacher about the person who is being unkind?
4. What is confidence? How to we show others that we feel confident?
5. What does it mean to find your voice?
6. Who needs you to be their friend? What does that look like?
7. Why do you think people do and say unkind things? What can you do about that?
8. Some folks don’t believe that people can change. What are your thoughts about that?
In this story, Jonathan has been a victim of relentless bullying by Carl and his friends. While trying to follow his mom’s advice to stay calm and not feed the bully with his fears, nothing seemed to change. Then one day, Allen (one of Carl’s friends) took an interest in Jonathan, and together, they explored the ravine. Clearly, Jonathan was completely in his element there in the woods, showing Allen his ability to handle the wildlife with ease. Realizing that he had an advantage in this place where he felt most sure of himself while his opponents were completely inexperienced, Jonathan invited Carl and Ricky to join them the next day. Gaining even more confidence as Carl and Ricky were at such a disadvantage, Jonathan gained the upper hand through their lack of experience in handling the normal aspects of outdoor life. With this newly found self-assurance, Jonathan was able to change the dynamic, being no longer the victim. There are seven tips in the back of the book that make great discussion starters.
1. Why do you think the bully in your life acts the way he/she does?
2. What are your strengths? How can you use them to your advantage?
3. How could you practice letting go of your fears?
4. What does confidence look like?
5. Who are your friends that can stand with you when someone is trying to take advantage of you? Who can you stand up for?
6. What does it mean to find your voice?
7. How can you position yourself to speak up for others?
The ABCs of Bullying and What God Wants Me to Know is designed to be used as a tool to help victims of bullying understand God’s perspective of social behaviors through scripture. Each letter of the alphabet provides a frame to assign words pertaining to bullying and being a victim. Appropriate scriptures are provided for each term. In addition, each scripture is rewritten in kid-friendly language, making this book useful for a wider range of ages (Grades PK-6).
Rather than go page by page, it might be good to think about what exactly your child is experiencing to get to the heart of God’s perspective on dealing with conflict and people who exhibit unkind behaviors. Dwelling on each aspect, and fully exploring your child’s own experiences while aligning with God’s heart will be the most beneficial.
For example, on the “A” page, the words are “anxious” and “alone.” When dealing with a bully, it is easy to become anxious, and certainly the feelings of being alone are very real. Here are some questions you might ask your child:
1. Tell me how you feel when someone is being mean to you? What does your body feel like? What thoughts go through your mind?
2. What does the Bible tell us we should do when we feel anxious and alone?
3. What will help you to remember that God is always with you and you are never alone?
4. What are ways you can let go of your anxious thoughts?
Using each scripture as a starting point for discussion, this will open doors for exploring ways to help your child gain confidence through applying God’s promises as a way to disempower the lies of the enemy.
For more support in using this book, please feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org)