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Parents Who Bully Their Kids… by accident!

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.

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12 Responses to “Parents Who Bully Their Kids… by accident!”

  1. April says:

    I was a victim of parental bullying by my father. I am now 46 years old and I see my step daughter going through this with her mother. It is shattering my heart and I need to help her, but I don’t know how. Fear and intimidation is used and total social control is going on in her mothers home. If anyone can tell me how to help her, please do. Her mother also tries to bully the many fathers to her five children and as shocking as this may be…sometimes she gets away with it.

  2. Christina says:

    My parents do the same thing to me as well. I am having to move out of town and change my name just to get away from the pain that I have been put through. I get bullied from my parents and grandmother. They degraded me for so many years that I thought something was wrong with me. We have to break the cycle and learn from their mistakes. Whenever family bullies us, we turn to our kids and show love and affection and letting them know that us as parents will never do that to them. It’s going to be hard to cut contact with them, but I have to in order to get better and to move on.

  3. Julie says:

    My parents are always talking about my weight and my mom makes it feel like she cares about my little brother more than me and my oldest brother. My dad and his comments are so hurtful it makes me cry my self asleep, but I hide it till I brake, I confront my mom she laughs and I hate going home because no one understands my situation.

  4. Learn from this experience says:

    I have read your comments, all of them. I too am in the situation that all of you face, which is dealing with a difficult (to say it nicely) parent. I don’t know what the solution to the problem is. I think (as a 31 year old mom myself) the issue is with the bully parent.

    Nobody can make them see the error of their ways. In their mind (well in my moms case) they do nothing wrong and have a HARD time owning up to mistakes. Sometimes I think they have the right intentions but execute wrong, in a counter productive way.I know that sounds bleek to say (cause you want to be able to trigger a change), but 31 years of being abuse has made me feel that it is not my issue.

    I am the type of person that TRIES (and I REALLY STRUGGLE with this) to take a bad experience and turn it around. I have found that being on the otherside of a bully is not the way I want to portray myself to people ESPECIALLY my kids!!! I do struggle with disiplining my children,having a strict abusive mom made me struggle with my “comfortablness” (if that’s a word) in that area. I am looking to find the medium and know that my 12, 10, and 5 month old boys know that I love them DEARLY.

    My suggestion to all of you, take the horriable experience and learn from it. It’s gonna take ALOT to be the better person from this experience. It is important to remember how it feels to be emotionally tortured, make an effort not to make someone feel like terrified or hurt. I have also learn that my experience has given me a sense of compassion for others. In a weird way I feel that my experience in this area has helped directed me to help other surviors. I hope this helps, my heart TRULY goes out to you all.

  5. Izzie says:

    My parents bully me without even noticing. When I talk about being bullied to them they don’t even realize that it’s them who are the bullies.

  6. Natalia says:

    This article barely scrapes the surface of what we go through. It barely describes the pain that we feel when our parents tell us that we are worthless, and that we dont deserve this, or that, and that we are “habitual f___ ups.”. It hurt more than anyone can say, when people who are supposed to love you tell you that they hate you, and that they want nothing to do with you, if you arent absolutely perfect. Thanks for calling attention to this issue.

  7. Ravinder Tulsiani (Parent Central: Advice & Tips Blog for Parents)…

    [...]Parents Who Bully Their Kids . . . by accident! |[...]…

  8. fay fay says:

    i hate my parents because they do that to me all the time. it hurts and they dont even care. i can really relate to this article. thanks

  9. Lynne says:

    My Ex bullies my four children all the time. He name calls me, and them without relent. He is unaware of the long term effects. Last night I over heard my young teen age daughter tell him that “that isn’t nice’ to him on the phone and my other son cut his phone call short. It does catch up with them.
    Hang in there.

  10. cutelilmd says:

    There are a lot of parents out there with negative intentions in bullying their child. I believe they do so because their parents are also bullies and they think it’s ok to bully their child. It’s an endless cycle of abuse. A lot of kids don’t know how to cope with the abuse from school and home, so they end up suicidal or making the wrong decision. I think that children who are bullied by their parents should spend more time away from home, and engage in hobbies that are both educational and entertaining. This will keep them focus and away from their parent’s abuse.
    Don’t try to stand up for the parents because a lot of times parents do regret having children and they will do their best to get rid of them legally. Parents can also do their best to destroy their child’s self-esteem just so they can heighten their own. It’s a cruel world out there, and there is no such thing a good intentions when the results are malevolent and heart breaking

  11. Cindy says:

    What about parents who bully their children in obvious ways? I feel that my dad bullies me a lot. He starts conversations knowing that this will instigate conflict-and never at opportune moments (like when I’m working on a huge assignment for school or when I’ve just gotten off an 8 hour shift at work).

    This escalates to him screaming and me crying while he calls me names and makes me feel that my response to his bullying (crying) is invalid. Primma-donna, cry baby, and bitch are frequently spewed at me. He then proceeds to tell me that he’s taking this-and-that away, which then comes down to him telling me that he can take my whole future away (financially).

    This might sound like what a lot of kids go through (though I hope it’s just me), but he also uses his larger physical and vocal stature to frequently intimidate me. I feel that there is a difference between trying to effectively parent and just wanting to fight with someone.

    I never had to deal with a bully in school, but I feel like I’m taking high school home with me whenever I have to deal with my dad. How can I deal with such a negative situation? He refuses to believe that his behavior is wrong. It hurts me even more to know that he thinks this is appropriate.

  12. Karen says:

    My ex husband is a serial bully. He has used the courts and custody to bully me and my 7 year old daughter for the last 4 years. He uses techniques of name calling, abuse and has managed to get his way in custody through bullying. His style is relentless spending weeks and hours to take custody of my daughter. She has been bullied to the point that she has serious concerns and is trying to learn young how to protect herself. I don’t know how I can help her now that my ex has more custody and will bully her more.

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