One night the book I was reading to our kids at bedtime led to a conversation about how some kids mock others to make themselves feel better. Low self-esteem can lead to put-downs or unkind behavior, maybe even bullying.

Bullying is more than just aggression—it’s intentional, repeated behavior. It can be physical, emotional or psychological. Today it happens to our children and youth in person, via social media, and through email or texting. Youth who bully may threaten their target if that person doesn’t comply with their wishes. According to Psychology Today, bullying involves a “deliberate targeting of those of lesser power.”

Our daughter once shared that she hated recess because of how certain kids treated her. My initial reaction was to protect and insulate her from potential pain. Yet, I also knew I had to be careful with how I responded, because I didn’t want to make her feel that she couldn’t handle this hurdle.

Holding fast to who God says we are gives us and our kids the strength to navigate challenges.

“The best defense against bullying is being socially skilled—teaching [our] children social skills and allowing them to develop confidence in their own abilities,” reports Psychology Today. This is why I am so adamant about my kids knowing that their worth isn’t based on what other people think of them. I remind them often that God is with them wherever they go and that, as God’s children, they can do hard and great things. As Paul puts it in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.”

When we discussed my daughter’s recess challenges, I told her that I wanted her to hold her head up, keep being herself and know that, no matter what anyone else said or did, she is a beautiful, capable and resourceful person—the truth about who we are in Christ makes this so. Holding fast to who God says we are gives us and our kids the strength to navigate challenges.


  • Take the time to really listen to what your kids are saying and don’t dismiss their feelings. As they share, take a few deep breaths so that you can remain a nonanxious presence and keep your emotions in check.
  • Mark your kids with the sign of the cross as they leave the house in the morning. You might offer a small benediction such as “God goes with you today.”
  • Talk with your kids about how they’ll respond to bullying. Saying “Yeah, whatever” with a firm voice and then walking away is an approach some find helpful. Enlisting the help of other friends who can intervene is very effective, Psychology Today notes. Teaching your kids that they have resources and tools to respond gives them the confidence to handle difficult situations and increases their resilience. If bullying continues and children can’t resolve it successfully, involve their teachers and administrators.
Kari van Wakeren
Kari van Wakeren is a wife, mom, writer and pastor of First Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Minn. Her new book is Unbalanced but Centered: Tending to Your Heart in the Frenzy of Life. Follow her on Facebook @unbalancedbutcentered or at

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