What to do when … One boy picks on another boy, ridiculing and pestering him

View a list of all the problems covered in this series.

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Every group of boys will contain its strong and weak members, physically and socially. The quality of a Brigade group can be measured by its treatment of the weak.To put this in stronger terms, the quality of a man is measured by how he treats the weak. Boys who are not physically strong or agile (due to small size, overweight, handicap, etc.) or who do not fit in to the group easily (because of appearance, personal habits, background, etc.) often receive poor treatment by other boys. This is never acceptable. You should seek to create an environment in which each boy feels safe and accepted. If God loves and accepts this boy, how dare we act as if we have a better standard.

The quality of a man is measured by how he treats the weak

Also a bully is usually an insecure boy who picks on weaker boys to prove his own strength and gain acceptance by others. Your goal, as God opens the doors to do so, is NOT simply to stop the bullying. Rather, your goal ought to be to help address the heart issues that are producing bullying. Ultimately the Gospel is the solution to this, and every other, sin problem.

Sometimes a boy who is picked on by others has peculiar habits or mannerisms that invite ridicule. He may annoy other boys because he does not participate well on a team or in a group project. This can be particularly aggravating to boys and can produce high degrees of impatience on the part of men. But “Just stop doing that!” rarely works and simply produces anger or shame in the boy who has been called out. Habits are hard to break. Remember that when dealing with boys. God is patient with us. We ,therefore, must be patient with others.

Several steps of action can be taken:

Be careful of public correction

Generally you should deal personally and privately with the boy who is ridiculing and picking on a boy. Inform him of his actions and how the other boy might be feeling. A lengthy sermon on kindness is not required, but emphasizing responsibility to help one another (an important theme in a Brigade group) is good. Offer your services to the boy to remind him to act in a  kind way toward the boy whom he dislikes. Offer to pray for him then, as well as through the week.

Be positive and encouraging toward the boy who is being ridiculed

Compliment him for what he does well (publicly and privately). Sometimes these boys receive constant beratement at home and at school. Our words of encouragement can stand out starkly in contrast and can be life giving. This means you must be proactive in seeking to observe the boy’s strengths and praiseworthy behavior. Praise must be genuine. Find things he can do that are helpful and for which he can be recognized (e.g. overweight boy serving as game scorekeeper). Call him by his first name. Don’t be too protective of him, but encourage him to do his best.

Create a Team

Constantly emphasize to the whole group the friendship enjoyed by all the members. Build a sense of unity (“our unit”) and appreciation of one another. This can be done in prayer (thank God for each boy) and by direct statements to the group. An occasional Council Ring or Story Circle on relationships and Jesus’ command to love one another can help create the atmosphere of acceptance. Don’t let any boy leave the meeting without hearing and experiencing the fact that someone cares for him.

Manage their interactions

If one boy constantly pesters another, separate them as much as you can. Team up the weaker one with other boys, preferably some who are more mature and will be friendly to him. Be warm and sensitive to the tougher boys. Counteract his negative behavior with positive interest.

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This series was adapted from a resource that has been used by Brigade leaders for decades.

View a list of all the problems covered in this series.

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