The first week after starting fourth grade at the local public school, my daughter came home asking about a certain girl in particular. Instead of simply listening to my daughter talk or asking what she needed from me, I immediately launched into fix-it mode.
Worried that she’d heard yet another inappropriate word or, worse, was being bullied, I started asking detailed questions. Instead, Kariss assured me that the classmate in question was kind, but rather she was worried about her. When I asked why, Kariss told me the girl wore the same outfit every day.
She went on to describe how other kids often made fun of this classmate and wondered why she wouldn’t just change clothes. As you can imagine, it launched us into a powerful conversation about how her family may not have enough money to buy several outfits each for her and her siblings.
But rather than focus on the classmate’s financial situation (which Kariss couldn’t directly affect), I instead chose to direct our conversation on her classmate’s emotional response (which she could affect through her own response).
Sometimes our kids don’t see how their one life can ever make a difference in the grand scheme of things, so I broke it down for her this way:
• Choose your attitude. The only person we can ever truly change is us. As we’ve already learned, our actions can often make a much greater impact than what we say. Empower your kids to take responsibility for their own attitude and pray that it will positively influence the attitude of others.
• Squash the gossip. Gossip and lies spread like wildfire, especially in school hallways. Another step beyond encouraging our kids to carefully choose their own attitudes is to make sure the gossip stops with them. Coach them on how to respond to classmates who begin to gossip around them, and if that doesn’t work after repeated attempts, let them know it’s okay to remove themselves from the situation to get help from a trusted adult.
• Befriend the victim. When sharing our faith, we never know the impact our testimony can make in the life of another. In the same way, it’s difficult to measure the impact we can make on another until we go out of our way to try. Counseling your child to sit with the bullied child at lunch, offer to play with them on the playground, or even just nod at them in the hall can be the small encouragement they need to know they’re not alone in this world.
I cannot tell you that my daughter went back to school the next day, led said classmate to Jesus, and now the two are best friends. I can tell you, however, that she returned to school unafraid of the unknown, and instead of running away from the unfamiliar, she engaged in interactions with this classmate, not knowing what might happen as a result.
The book of James is filled with insights on the topic of wisdom, yet perhaps the most practical is James 3:17: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
In my book, Raising Uncommon Kids, I discuss how wisdom is not made up of a single component, but is instead made up of a series of our own worldly experiences contemplated alongside heavenly traits. When we seek God’s ways for how to combine the two, especially when it comes to guiding our children, he honors us by illuminating the path ahead. Modeling how to seek God’s wisdom and counsel in the same way for your children will benefit them far beyond any words of wisdom you could offer them.
I always want my kids to remember this: What other kids make fun of is actually an opportunity to reach out.
Disclosure: This post was written in partnership with Tommy Nelson and my role as a Tommy Nelson Mommy. I was not told what to write and whole-heartedly believe in the resources I shared above. You can read all my Tommy Nelson posts here.