Many adults believe that bullies only exist at school. Unfortunately, this is not always the situation. Many kids return home to face humiliation, verbal aggression and behaviorally manipulative parents. This blog is not about them. This blog is about the well-intentioned parent who “bullies” their child—by accident.
The intent of these parents is not to erode self-esteem, but their behavior is a subtle form of bullying that has long lasting effects on their child “victim”. This can take many forms but it is often the parent that is trying to positively impact their offspring but utilizing an ineffective technique. Consider the parent that comes up with a “cute” pet name of endearment that focuses on a child’s sensitive area–calling the overweight child “chunky monkey” the small child “short cake”, or the ADHD child “wiggles”.
Other parents think they are motivating their child by continually identifying the successes of a sibling. This is what I like to call the “favorite child” syndrome. Mom says things such as “if only you could do math as well as you brother” or dad comments “practice more so you can make the varsity team like your sister.” When a child hears these comments with regularity, he may begin to feel inferior and may develop feelings of hidden resentment.
Identifying that one of your offspring is more sensitive than the others will also breed sibling conflict. This parent over focuses and worries too much about upsetting one child more than the other. Schedules are created around the needy brother and parents go out of their way to ensure his emotional stability. Other children, as a result, begin to feel inferior.
Overprotective parents are also guilty of bully behaviors. While it is acceptable to safeguard your child and tell him “don’t do _________”, make sure not to overuse this approach. Continual use of the “don’t” parenting style is an adults attempt to dictate every move their child makes. In essence , it is parenting “puppetry” creating dependence, fear, and resentment.
At any given time, every parent has done or will do some of these misguided strategies and that is okay. The parent that employs these techniques regularly is bullying their child. To avoid these parenting pitfalls reflect on how you handle your kids’ bothersome behaviors.
Provide and discuss solutions rather than dictate behavior. Instead of telling you child to eat less, teach him how to cook healthy foods and make better dietary choices. Also consider that most parents act inappropriately due to frustration—learn to reflect on bothersome behaviors and practice patience. Let your teen make the occasional mistake, but then discuss alternative approaches. Some of life’s lessons are best learned the hard way for both parents and kids.