So what is Parental Bullying?
Sometimes in a family a certain power dynamic can eventually cause a family member to become dominated by another. Certainly that may happen between siblings for any number of reasons, but it also can frequently occur between a child and a parent. There are many forms that this abuse can take, and not all of them are simple to understand. It may come to pass that a child or young adult may bully their parents, although perhaps not as often as the other way around. A parent is in such a place of power over the child that bullying can easily become a real concern. Children or parents from a second marriage can commonly be a target in these situations, but no one is safe from power struggles and domination. They are a basic fact of human interaction and must be controlled, ameliorated, planned for, and above all understood. In this article I will discuss forms of bullying acted out by both child and parent.
Sometimes children and young adults will test their boundaries so far that their behavior constitutes abuse of the parent. Bullying of a parent, especially an aged parent, could include many activities ranging from manipulation, verbal threats, stealing, name-calling, hitting, and punching. It is hard for a parent to know what causes this kind of behavior in their offspring, and many find it personally insulting, but there are a number of reasons why this could be happening. For instance, a traumatic event such as a divorce, imprisonment, or rape could cause the child to act out in this manner.
What if there is no life changing event that can be linked to the bullying behavior in question? If so, there are a number of other dynamics to consider.
- Is there a consistent parenting styles? Is one parent saying one thing and another something else? Are the rules too strict in the home, or are they too loose? Either extreme can have negative effects on a child or young adult’s behavior. Kids need to feel that life will be orderly and relatively easy for them to predict, and that means that it is necessary for their parents to act sane and stable. Children and young adults will act out if they feel they are not getting their needs met in this way.
- What kind of diet does the child/adult in question have? If a young person has too much sugar and carbohydrates in their diet, and not enough of important but subtle things like proper protein and trace minerals, it can make them act angry, erratic, or grumpy in general. Parents often don’t pay enough attention to what kinds of things their children are eating. The only way to enforce good eating habits is to have them yourself. Eat vegetables, cut out white sugar, and don’t eat meat every day.
Many children are misdiagnosed with mental disorders because of a poor diet. New scientific research is pointing more and more to iron deficiencies, magnesium deficiencies, and other essential mineral depletion as a cause for depression, anxiety, and rage issues. These emotions may lie at the heart of bullying.
Now that we’ve spoken about parents getting bullied by their kids, what about parents who bully their children?
But wait, isn’t that called discipline?
How can a parent tell the difference between bullying and “normal” punishment? This is a tricky question, and there may be a fine line between abuse, bullying, and discipline. Any action rooted in anger or insecurity, especially one that demeans instead of teaching, insults rather than constructively criticizing, or evokes a sense of shame may contain more domination and bullying than guidance and honest instruction. Remember, a child feeling guilt is very different than a child feeling shame. Guilt says, “I did something bad,” but shame says,” I am something bad.” The former is obviously more constructive and desirable.
Parents can be guilty of the same bullying that children get in trouble for everyday. It is a double standard that must be resisted, just like the bullies that it directly creates. Parents have to understand that they serve as the leaders and role models for their offspring. Their children learn how to act directly from their example, and they will watch their elders closely as they attempt to mature and try to do what they are told to do. Parents of bullies often ask themselves how their child could have ended up with such deplorable behavior, but the real answer waits for them inside the mirror. “Do as I say and not as I do,” does not apply to real life scenarios.
That means if an individual finds themselves resorting to bullying techniques instead of good parenting, they should seek professional help like talk behavior therapy. Parents often act out the disciplinary styles their parents showed them, and this is not always a good thing. It is important to keep an open dialogue between parent and child, so if there are any grievances they can be resolved.
The answer is that children learn their abusive behavior from somewhere. Whether it may be from parents, caregivers, classmates, peers, caregivers of peers, family members, or cartoons, bullying behavior is a learned action. At some point the child or adult learned from someone that domination and mean behavior get positive results. The children then take this lesson and act it out with their peers or on their own parents. That is why it is so important for parents to be aware that the fashion in which they were raised is an inherited dynamic that should not be necessarily adhered to. Spanking is a good example of this. Just because your parents spanked you doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right parenting style for your child.
Sometimes, however, bullying is a result of someone acting out real abuse that they are experiencing or have experienced. It may often be a cry for help. When an adult, young adult, or child is consistently dominated by someone emotionally or physically, they develop stress and anxiety around certain aspects of interpersonal small group communication. This anxiety easily takes the form of bullying because it allows the youth to experience a sense of power where their self esteem as been depleted.
Anyone can be a bully: young and old alike. Many people think that bullying is confined to just children and teenagers, but the truth is that anyone can do it. Any consistent behavior directed towards any another person that dominates, demeans, or makes them uncomfortable may be considered bullying. Bullying done by a parent or caregiver can arise from abuse that they themselves endured in their childhood. If the caregiver bullies while ignoring the youths needs for comfort and affection or simultaneously subjects them to other abuses, then it can permanently damage their ability to experience love.
Parental bullying can include spanking, name calling, mean-spirited punishments, overbearing micromanagement, shaming, and exclusion. Many parents bully their children unintentionally, thinking that they are just using proper disciplinary techniques or dishing out ‘tough’ love in order to make their child tough or respectful. These dangerous techniques of violence are sometimes rooted in peoples’ skewed interpretations of religion or even the Bible. It is odd that so many ignore the biblical stricture to “do unto others as you would have done to you,” in order to focus on the part that claims if one “spares the rod they spoil the child.” This tendency appears to have caused generations of pain.
It is now the current generation of parent that has the responsibility to accept the full effects of authoritative parenting styles and switch to a more peaceful and nurturing type of child rearing. Parental bullying can be stopped, but only if our society takes a long look at itself and tries to stop it.
Science points more and more to the negative consequences of spanking, and many countries have outlawed it. Native tribes and cultures cuddle more with their children, holding them close instead of encaged in a wooden jail surrounded by scary clowns and giant cartoon animals. Instead of a warm breast they are given a plastic bottle with synthesized milk void of essential enzymes babies need to develop strong brains. These unnatural environments have lasting effects on children that may affect them all the way into their adult life.
Parental bullying can stay with a child for decades, interfering with their ability to form solid emotional bonds. The negative effects of a dominating parenting style so many that they seem hard to quantify. Parents who experience abuse from their children will experience a similarly profound sense of mistrust in all interpersonal relationships after experiencing this phenomenon.
If you are thinking you are parents of bullies then you need to sit as a couple and determine how to move forward as parents of bullies and help your child to grow up as a kind respecting adult not as a bully. May this be the needed wake up call to parents of bullies everywhere.