My husband plays in our church’s softball league, and my sons and I recently attended a doubleheader. Upon arriving, the children all ran off to the playground and quickly organized a game resembling one part freeze tag, one part kickball, and one part chaos. Late-night screeching and giggling filled the summer air. It wasn’t until we were driving home that I heard about the “naughty boy.”

Apparently, a young boy had refused to follow the agreed upon rules. My son Michael explained that when he gave the troublemaker an ultimatum of playing the right way or not playing at all, the child became agitated, grabbing my son’s shirt with both hands and threatening to tell on him for not being fair. Michael forcefully removed the younger boy’s hands and told him in no uncertain terms that if he tried to touch him again, he would be leaving the playground with a bloody nose.

The younger boy relented, got with the program, and the children’s evening concluded joyfully. When I was growing up, this is how almost all of our playground disputes were resolved. But a few days after this event, I was told by an acquaintance who’d heard of the “incident” that my son should be reprimanded for bullying. Times certainly have changed on the playground. And we adults—and the anti-bullying campaigns we’ve designed—may be to blame.

The Crisis du Jour

Most anti-bullying programs, both Christian and secular, seem to operate from a “turn the other cheek” perspective. Popular platitudes like, “Be nice to everyone,” “Let’s all get along,” and, “I’m okay, you’re okay,” are the norm, while action plans usually boil ...

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