Every family has its bullies. By definition a bully is someone who uses power to get their own way.
My maternal Grandmother was a bully. An Aunt was a bully.
My closest friend is bullied by her daughter-in-law. The friend fears not being able to see her grandchildren.
Another friend is bullied by her youngest child, a grown man but one who has always used threats and temper tantrums to get his own way.
A cousin is bullied by his ex-wife. She has taken him to court three times, demanding an increase in support. The judges have laughed her out of their courtroom. My cousin is generous, but fearful his exe will keep their daughter from him. She cancels mandated visits saying the daughter is sick.
A neighbor’s mother-in law ruins all family events. She demands special treatment, calls family members by nasty nicknames; she says she is only teasing and the family members just can’t take a joke. She gossips about anyone not at the gathering.
Parent advice about bullies
It is best to think of a bully as a spoiled brat who needs to be stood up to. That’s not easy when the brat is an adult and skilled at making other people feel shamed or blamed. Hopefully the following tips will help.
Tip one: You owe it to your children and all bullied family members to confront the bully. Not so easy for those of us that bask in being nice guys and girls. Those of us who don’t bully are reluctant to face down a bully, but letting a bully rule the family is worse.
Tip two: Determine the extent of the bully’s power. Legal custody and the ability to keep some family members away from beloved off-spring or grandchildren are difficult realities. Another difficult reality arises if the bully controls purse strings of one sort or another.
Tip three: Decide to confront or to live with it. Making an informed choice matters.
Tip four: Seek allies. Who in the family will join you in curbing the bully’s destructive behavior? The more allies the easier the confrontation will go.
Tip five: Alone or with your allies, take the time to lay out rules you expect the bully to abide by, and what your response will be if those rules are not followed.
Tip six: Decide how to let the bully know the rules and consequences. My thought: write a letter and in the letter suggest meeting on a neutral but public venue to test the waters of the bully’s willingness to abide by the rules you are imposing.
Tip seven: Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.
Tip eight: Be prepared for resistance, and equally prepared to follow through on consequences.
Tip nine: Assume responsibility for your feelings, as another parent advisor suggests when dealing with recalcitrant children:”Shields up.” Remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s saying, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Tip ten: Remember that whatever the bully does, you are doing the right thing as long as you don’t bully back. Even if you decide to do nothing, you are doing the right thing. How is doing nothing right? It is controlling what you can control; it is acting and not reacting.
Relationships pose some of life’s more difficult struggles. Being a parent is difficult enough without the presence of a bully. You might find some useful strategies in my free eBook How to Win a Gotcha War. Bullies, even child bullies, are Gotcha Warriors. The tactics described in the book also work against adult bullies.
If you need help keeping your shields up, consider buying my eBook Parents Are People Too: An Emotional Fitness Training Program for Parents.
DISCLAIMER: FORGIVE MY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS FOR I HAVE DYSGRAPHIA. If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. Dysgraphia is a not well known learning disability and means that sometimes my sentence structure is not that easy to follow or I make other errors. Still, most people understand me. All of my books are professionally edited, but not all of my blog posts are. If this troubles you, feel free to read elsewhere. If you persevere, you are practicing kindness by lifting my spirits for that means you find what I say helpful and that is one of my missions. Kindness always repays those who spread it.