By clearly defining what bullying behavior is, people will be able to look for patterns that may have gone unnoticed before to take action against the inappropriate behaviors of bullying parents. Not all bullying behavior is physical; some parents emotionally and mentally bully their children, even extending into cyberspace with a new type of bullying known as cyberbullying.
Regardless of the type, one general definition of all types of bullying is any behavior from one person that is regularly overbearing upon the rights or wishes of another person, including a child. Bullies of all forms are seeking to bring discomfort and/or humiliation to someone who is most often smaller and/or weaker than the bully themselves.
Depending on the age of the child, parents can display bullying behaviors ranging from excess corporal punishment on a toddler to physical attacks on older children. Interactions of parents and older children during sporting events also can become a venue for a parent to potentially bully a child. It is also important to remember that an adult can display bullying behavior towards one or more children that may or may not be their own offspring.
When children are three years of age or younger, some experts advocate the use of physical behavioral corrections (such as a mild pinch or perhaps spanking in rare cases) as these youngsters are too young to reason with; by communicating directly with their bodies, the message of “when you do this, you feel ouchy” can quickly and effectively discourage babies and young children from engaging in unsafe or overly rebellious behaviors. There is a fine line between effective parenting and bullying, and the best gauge may be the attitude and intention of the parent at the time of their corrective behavior.
Parental bullies are intentionally trying to bring humiliation and/or discomfort to a child; when corporal punishment of young children is done in the spirit of anger, parents may be using the physical punishment as a means of venting thier own anger by inflicting discomfort on the child who sparked their anger, regardless of the age of the child. Corporal punishment of young children should never be done in a spirit of anger, fear, revenge, etc.; in cases where it is used in this manner, parental bullying is likely to be occurring.
Bullying parents interact with older children in other ways, such as displaying overly aggressive behavior during a sporting event or other situation where there is physical contact (such as a martial arts class). Although more rare, extreme cases of parents bullying children can lead to physical injuries as a result of parental abuse such as hitting, pushing, etc.
It is important to remember that some parents may not bully their own children but instead may become bullies of the children that bully their offspring. When a youngster comes home to report that another child is bullying them and the parental response is something to the effect of teaching the other child a lesson, the parent is likely displaying bullying behavior to the child who is bothering their own child. The parent of the bullied child may also threaten to bully the parents of the young bully.
Parents may not realize they are bullying their children if they are not intentionally causing them any physical pain but instead are inflicting emotional and/or mental damage. Some of the most insidious types of parental bullying are those emotional and mental forms that cannot be seen, such as verbal threats and intimidation, demeaning language, and responses intended to shame children.
Simply because these forms of bullying are more difficult to spot does not mean they are any less damaging to the child. In truth, the emotional and mental scarring from the long term abuse of parental bullying can lead to depression throughout a child’s life and make it difficult for them to develop healthy, lasting interpersonal relationships.
When a child is raised by a bully, they are likely to either become a bully themselves (during childhood and/or adulthood with their own children) or develop issues with their own self-worth and personal confidence.
As more people from all age groups gain access and interest in social media through the internet (such as Facebook, twitter, etc)., a new form of bullying is beginning to develop. Cyberbullying occurs whenever one person writes mean or unflattering comments or graffiti on someone’s public social “wall” or posts photos of the person in a situation they are not comfortable sharing in a public way.
Unfortunately, cyberbullying can be a form of bullying that continues after children have left home and are off on their own. Because parents of adult children often still have a significant influence on their offspring, they are sometimes able to manipulate their children to tolerate a great deal of online abuse that, until recent years, did not present an opportunity for bullying behaviors to occur.
A unique twist that sometimes occurs with cyberbullying is the possibility of children bullying parents. Since children are often much more adept at computer usage than their parents, even some young children are able to behave in ways that could be considered cyberbullying directed towards their parents or another adult authority figure they are having conflict with.
Since it is clear that adult bullies were almost always bullied as children and that children who are bullied by their parents are likely to grow up as bullies as well, breaking this generational chain of negative behavior patterns is critical to eliminating the all too common habit of parental bullying.
By helping adults who do bully their children understand more about their behaviors and how they affect children both in the present and future, some parents may be able to alter their bullying behaviors through the simple act of awareness that an issue they are responsible for is creating a problem for their child. Since some bullying behaviors are so ingrained, parents may be genuinely unaware of when they are bullying a child, particularly when the abuse is emotional, mental, or through cyberbullying.
Many bullying parents are in need of therapy themselves for help healing emotional wounds from their own past that are causing them to continue behaving in unproductive ways with their own children. By helping parents to realize that they themselves were likely a victim of parental bullying, healing can begin with the realization that they are not “bad” people, but instead, have simply been taught poor relationship skills by parents who also had not been taught such skills.
Another important aspect to breaking the bullying chain is to empower children and other adults to speak out whenever they see bullying occurring. By promoting the concept of inherent rights for all humans, young and old, large and small, male or female, etc., both youngsters and adult witnesses of abuse can become more aware of what types of behaviors should be cause for concern that bullying is occurring in one form or another.
If you are aware that bullying is occurring, the first step towards ending the behavior begins by speaking directly with the bully whenever possible and/or if you are comfortable doing so. In some cases, speaking with an authority figure as a mediator can be more effective, such as the case of a parent who has a tendency to bully the parent of a child (or the child themselves) who is bullying their own child.
Children should be encouraged to speak out to a teacher or other adult with whom they feel safe about bullying parental behaviors they feel are occurring. Helping children to understand that sharing this important information can help their whole family heal at many levels can help children find the confidence to talk to another adult about potential parental bullying occurring within their home.
Because of the potential for severe, long term emotional damage as well as physical harm from different forms of parental bullying, teachers and other authority figures also have the responsibility to inform law enforcement agencies whenever parental bullying issues cannot be resolved between the parents and children directly.