Bullying within the family is a form of bullying that is often overlooked. This article examines how it affects families, and how it can be prevented. The anti-bullying movement has gathered a lot of momentum over the past 15 years. 49 of the 50 states in the US have passed some sort of anti-bullying legislation, with the first being Georgia in 1999. Montana is now the only state that has yet to adopt any sort of anti-bullying legislation. If the statement “my family is a bully” applies to you, then give this article a read!
|SEE ALSO: Stories of Domestic Violence|
My Family Is a Bully
Bullying in the family happens in all sorts of ways, it could involve nit-picking, put-downs, constant criticism, lack of affection, siblings complaining about each other to parents, silent treatment and all sorts of other activities. To many, bullying in the family is not considered bullying at all. However, family bullying can have a huge effect on both family life and life outside the home. It can damage victims’ ability to build friendships based on trust. It’s hard to trust anyone outside your family when you can’t even trust your family members. Family bullying can cause physical harm as well, when family relationships become physically abusive or otherwise violent. Aside from individual harm, family bullying can create long lasting damage to the family as a whole, creating distance and distrust that can impact those not directly involved.
If you are a victim of family bullying it is important to know that it is totally acceptable to remove yourself from the sphere of influence of the individual or individuals that are harming you. Sometimes this is the best course of action if you have already tried to resolve the problems by discussion. However, this should be the last resort; it is always better to fix the relationship if possible. Sometimes confronting the bully can help you achieve this.
Sometimes your family member may not realize that their actions are affecting you so severely. In this situation a frank and open discussion may be all that is needed to fix the issue. If, however, the issue persists then it may be time to seek counselling or advice from an expert. This will help you deal with the effects of bullying, as well as direct you in how to resolve the situation at home. Developing your friendships outside of the family home can be a useful way to avoid the bully and put your effort into more productive pursuits. If you’ve attempted to make amends with that family member, and they’re not willing to make changes, you have to move on.
Bullying amongst siblings is one of the most common forms of bullying. Often siblings who are of a similar age spend a lot of their time together, and it is easy for these relationships to turn into bullying relationships without being noticed. Research has shown that the mental health ramifications of sibling bullying can have a lifelong effect.
The challenge with studying sibling bullying is that interactions between family members may be viewed differently from interactions at school or elsewhere. While shoving or name-calling in school would be considered bullying, at home it is often passed off as perfectly normal sibling rivalry. Victims of sibling bullying may not report it to parents for fear of repercussions or reprimand from the bully. This is very difficult to avoid in a family environment when you see each other every day.
Because of the challenges in reporting sibling bullying, it has remained a relatively under-researched area of bullying. Once a clearer rubric of terminology exists for the study of sibling bullying we can hope to see more research in this area.
My Parents Are Bullies
Bullying parents can be way too controlling or overbearing on their children either physically or mentally. While bullying is usually thought of as occurring between peers or siblings, parents can definitely be bullies too. Bullying parents can cause lifelong emotional damage to their children. While parents need to be able to discipline their children in some way, there is a fine line between this and bullying. This can often take the form of verbal and emotional bullying, which is used to make the bully feel superior and more important. This is often done by parents who are struggling in their own lives, at work or socially, and take out their frustrations on their children.
Parents who bully their children often do so as a means to get control, but this approach is derisive and very damaging. This can affect the child both physically and mentally, often resulting in depression, as well as affecting the child’s relationships down the road. The damage to relationships and attitudes can carry on down the generations, with children growing up to take on the behaviours of their parents and perpetuating the very worst sorts of family traditions.
Trying to confront a bullying parent can be a very difficult task. The first thing the child should try and do is to have a frank and open discussion with the parent. If that doesn’t work, then external intervention may be required. A teacher at school, counsellor or even law enforcement could be an option. It’s important to deal with this issue as quickly as possible before it has a long-term impact on the family.
Bullying in Step-families
Often the sorts of problems that can cause bullying in the family are exacerbated when applied to a step-family. This is more common than immediate family bullying, since step-families enter each other’s world after having formed original families. Often the bond between step-family members is weaker, which makes it easer for bullying to happen. Dealing with a step-family member who is a bully can be a very difficult and touchy subject. Usually when a serious issue comes about, family members tend to divide along biological lines. The division can cause the already fragile step-family unit to break.
Bullying within the step-family is a lot like general bullying. The perpetrator may pose threats, tease, name call, ignore or exclude their victim. Multiple biological siblings may gang up on the sibling that is not biologically related. Often it is hard for a parent to not sub-consciously prioritise their biological children, leading to unfair situations, jealousy and rivalry.
Blended families have the added dynamic of having another parent who lives outside the home. Children can also bully by telling the biological parent that lives outside the house things that are not true about his or her step-sibling.
There are several ways to deal with these types of bullying. Firstly make a clear set of rules, and a clear set of consequences for the offenders. It is important that these rules apply to all children whether it is biological or step. If you see inappropriate behaviour, correct it on the spot. Enough supervision of all children should help stop or discourage bullying in step-families between step-siblings. Showing all the children a united front as parents will also help to discourage any bullying in attempts to exploit gaps or fissures in the family unit. Getting professional help for the child who is being a bully through counselling or support groups can also help curb negative behaviour.
General Bullying Statistics
According to dosomething.org:
- Over 3.2 million students are affected by bullying each year.
- 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying, and will intervene only 4% of the time.
- Approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying.
- 17% of American students report being bullied 2 to 3 times a month or more while in school.
- By age 14, less than 30% of boys and 40% of girls will talk to their peers about bullying.
- Over 67% of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.
- 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
- 1 in 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.
- As boys age they are less and less likely to feel sympathy for victims of bullying.
- Physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant.
- Girls bully in groups more than boys do.
- The average bullying incident lasts only 37 seconds.
- Children with a learning disability or ADHD are more likely to be bullied; they are also slightly more likely to bully.
Above all else, the most glaring issue that these statistic show is the lack of helpful intervention and involvement to tackle bullying. All the research shows that the best way to deal with bullying is quick intervention. When a bullying situation is left to grow and evolve the results become much worse.
The anti-bullying movement is going from strength to strength both in North America and worldwide. America has come a long way the last 15 years to help take these measures, but the further we go the more we can see what a huge issue bullying is, both in school and at home. As a concerned parent, adult or even friend you can do your bit by joining community help groups for bullying, joining campaigns to help fight bullying and spreading the word.
Not sure what to do about bullying? Here’s Fighting Bullying 101.