Happy parents raise happy kids

Bullying (23): Bully parents

Sad girl with teddy bearBullying parents are a very dangerous phenomenon in our society, because parents are supposed to be the people who protect their kids from bullying. Yet, as I have described in previous chapters, there are many parents who feel weak and lack the emotional intelligence to maintain a sense of control without bullying someone else. Being smaller and weaker makes kids easy targets for them.

It is parents' "job" to provide for their kids' basic needs:

  1. They need to give them a sense of trust
  2. They need to build their kids confidence and prepare them for independent life
  3. They need to provide their kids with a sense of security (physical, social and emotional)
  4. They need to give them a sense of love and belonging
  5. They need to provide their kids with food, drink, air, shelter, education…
  6. They need to provide understanding and support (physically and emotionally)
  7. They need to give them verbal encouragement
  8. They need to provide their kids a sense of fairness within the family
  9. They need to spend with their kids
  10. They need to provide healthy environment (food, physical)

It is not easy to provide for kids all the above needs. However, some parents do the opposite by bullying their kids.

Why are there bully parents?

Parents bully their kids because they have been bullied themselves as children or they are being bullied by someone else (often severely or continuously for a long time - see Workplace Bullying). This creates a never-ending cycle of parents who bully their kids, causing them to grow up and bully their own kids (and other people at work) and so on.

Often, people who have been bullied as children do not realize that their behavior is bullying. When you grow up in a place where bullying is the norm, you accept it as part of life and behave accordingly.

I am sure you have gone to a friend's home many times and discovered that they ran things differently, which questioned the way things are done in your family. In the past, aggressive behavior, physical violence and abuse of power were part of daily life - kids were physically beaten at school with a cane or denied food or sleep as part of a discipline method that was totally controlled by their parents.

When kids are bullied at home and have never learned ways to resolve conflicts peacefully, they react in an aggressive way when things seem to get out of control with their own kids. Had they lived in a home where the parents set a good example of conflict resolution, they would have developed healthy ways to handle challenges and difficulties.

Childhood bullying is also connected to challenge in handling emotions, lack of self discipline and inability to manage stress, which causes people to react in a snappy, impulsive way to things that seem difficult. Because their parents were responsible for teaching communication and used abuse as a way to communicate, they grow up lacking communication skills, which increases their frustration with communication with their kids and makes them more aggressive and violent.

Child abuse poster

Growing up in a home where Dad was abusive towards Mom can send a message that women are weak and need to be controlled, which can be directed later towards kids as well. Some men bully their wives and daughters as a result of growing up in at a time and place where women had no say.

Some parents bully their kids because they are bullied at work. Feeling weak because of lack of power at work increases the risk of neglecting kids from overwork, not being able to support the kids because of emotional drain and lashing out at the kids as an outlet.

Another reason parents are bullies is that they are bullied by their partner, which makes them feel inferior, so they turn on their kids.

There are two forms of parent bullying: Physical, Emotional (including social).

Parents' physical bullying

Physical bullying is an act of physical aggression that causes injury.

  1. Shaking a baby or a toddler (can lead to brain injury)
  2. Drug or alcohol use in pregnancy (can seriously damage the baby)
  3. Physical punishment - linking the child's actions with physical consequences
  4. Beating
  5. Slapping
  6. Hitting
  7. Kicking
  8. Pinching
  9. Pushing
  10. Hair pulling
  11. Throwing the child
  12. Denial of food
  13. Preventing the child from going to the toilet or washing
  14. Making the child to do what the parent wants by physical force
  15. Use of objects to cause pain, like belting or burning the skin with cigarettes or a hot iron
  16. Sexual abuse - any kind of sexual act between an adult and child, including revealing genitals, exhibiting pornography, telling sexual stories, forcing a child to touch adult genitals, sexual intercourse, penetration, rape and child prostitution

Kids are at a higher risk in families living in isolation, orphanages and families in financial crisis. Again, some parents do not even recognize that this behavior is bullying, because they grew up with such parents (or carers) themselves.

Parents' emotional bullying

Emotional bullying is harder to detect, but its impact is huge and last for a long time. Parents sometimes behave in such a way thinking they are doing what is normal or even doing their kids a favor. Parents' emotional bullying can be done by aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior that creates humiliation and/or fear.

  1. Girl hiding her faceThreatening
  2. Name calling
  3. Using foul language
  4. Insulting, especially in public
  5. Creating competitions between siblings
  6. Negative gender-related comments (you play like a girl!)
  7. Negative remarks about preferences
  8. Negative comments about skills
  9. Favoritism towards one child
  10. Causing fear of physical bullying
  11. Sarcasm
  12. Shouting
  13. Unreasonably strict rules
  14. Telling the child it would be better if they were not born
  15. Telling the child the parent does not want him or her
  16. Controlling the child's every movement
  17. Continuous criticism
  18. Competing with the child
  19. Unfair punishment
  20. Violation of the child's privacy
  21. Ignoring and neglect
  22. Uncompromising perfectionism
  23. Exposing the child to violence, drugs, extensive alcohol use or crime
  24. Prevention of social interaction (with friends, other partner, grandparents)
  25. Slavery - helping at home is reasonable, but having to earn enough money to pay for school or for your own food as a child is illegal

In every family, there is some kind of emotional bullying, mainly because there is a fine line between what is considered abuse and what is part of our role as parents. While some call forcing kids to eat what is on the table bullying, others may call it educating them to appreciate money and health. Unfortunately, because the line between them is so fine, parents can, with no bad intention, justify themselves by thinking this is the way they have been brought up or that without it, they will lose control.

Each form of bullying of parents towards their kids causes a problem in their physical and emotional development. Sometimes, it can even affect their cognitive development. The earlier the abuse is and the longer it continues, the more severe the damage will be and the longer it will impact the child's life. In most cases, the effects of a serious act of bullying will be there forever and there is a high probability the abused child will grow up to be a bully too.

Parental bullying information

Here are some findings about the impact of parents' bullying on their kids:

  • Child protection posterMost of the kids who suffer bullying from their parents bully their own kids
  • Kids who suffer from parental bullying become suspicious of other people
  • Kids who suffer bullying by their parents have difficulties maintaining relationships as adults
  • Kids who suffer bullying by their parents have lower self-esteem, problems with concentration, more learning difficulties and lower academic achievements
  • Kids who suffer bullying by their parents are less likely to take on challenges because of fear of failure. They expect less of themselves and achieve less
  • About 80% of kids subjected to long periods of physical abuse develop a mental disorder: depression, panic attacks, paranoia or social isolation
  • Kids who suffer bullying by their parents tend to show aggressive behavior. They sometimes even become extremely violent
  • Some kids who suffer bullying by their parents become self-destructive (self-harm, suicide)
  • Kids who suffer bullying by their parents are more likely to have sleeping problems and eating disorders
  • Kids who suffer bullying by their parents are more likely use alcohol and drugs to ease their emotional pain

The impact on kids' health and wellbeing and their ability to function as independent adults is reduced significantly when growing up with bullying parent.

Join me next week for a self-awareness activity every parent should do to examine their own home and take immediate action.

Until then, happy parenting,

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  • Amberwhitcthurch

    How do I stop my ex to stop bullying my kids where do I get help

  • http://www.get-business-online.com/ Gal Baras

    Amber, depending on where you are and what you mean by "bullying", you may be able to get help from the Police, Social Services, Child Protection, the family courts and even from the local community leaders you and your ex belong to.

  • http://www.ronitbaras.com/ ronitbaras

    Amber, if you are in Brisbane or am happy to go through life coaching by skype. look at:

    We have the program for you. 

  • http://www.ronitbaras.com/ ronitbaras

    Dear Pam, 

    I hope going over your life story helped you a bit. 
    It is a shame some people are like that. 
    If someone did something bad to hurt you it is not helpful to hurt yourself too. 
    Try to be strong. find happiness and read the post: 

  • Artee

    My mother is a parent bully and she terrorizes me father and I am starting to realize the unfortunate consequences on my mental health. I am very tired of it all. The empty shell I have become is a result of my parents being the aggressive bully. I don`t know how to cope with stress, it`s true. I actually am having an anxiety breakdown and it`s my last year of university. My mother always compares me to my "useless father" who apparently is lesser than a human being. My father on the other hand was able to bully me until I reached adult age and I fought back. Now I have my mother to deal with. She grew up with a lot of emotional turmoil but that doesn't justify her cruel emotional and financial abuse. I need to move out. I pray to god that I never have children or become a mother. I never want to become the disgusting person my mother is. I am a passive person when it comes to bullying, I just take it and don't do anything. I am tired of this and I am starting to see a counsellor, I need to reach out to someone or I fear for my own mental health  and I don't want to inflict any more damage to my self esteem. Sorry mom, some people are born soft, with emotions, and can cry. Apparently emotions are weak things to have because she's so high and lofty and better than everyone else. One thing I've learned is blood is NOT thicker than water. I am leaving this place as soon as I can. God help us all in a world where your own parents are your worst enemy.

  • Jackie Yoshi

    I have problems with bully parents bullying me for having sound sensitivity. They act like I'm reacting to them or their kids because I'm mean, when I'm trying to warn them I might behave in a disturbing matter if their child yells.

    I have been attacked for not being a parent, and told I must know nothing by parents of small kids. Mocked for my condition by parents of small kids. As well as glared at for covering my ears if their child screams.

    The last one really upsets me, I'm only trying to protect myself from pain. I have Asperger's Syndrome, and the way many parents act unpredictably aggravates my fight or flight response, as well as being stared at. Which is very common for people with my condition.

    I don't know what to do anymore, except ignore parents of small kids. I'm depressed after trying to discuss this on a message board, and told I could expect the cops if I messed with someone's kid. I'm now terrified of dealing with the bullying parents of small children. I'm depressed, I keep flashing back to the time two parents stared me down after I covered my ears when their baby cried, and how I felt helpless, and like a freak.

    The way these parents treat others, is a way they would never want someone to treat their child. Yes parenting is a hard job, but why does that mean it's okay for parents of small kids to intimidate people like me. I would never be so cruel to their children. Guess I just need to heal again, and give up on the idea that this will ever change.

    I need to work on dissociating, as that's how I dealt with bullies in high school. Either that or plan 2 was to just get used to crying in public bathrooms. I hear parents complain how they're not welcome in society with their kids. They should try to imagine how hard it is to function in society when you have a sensitivity to something people don't or refuse to recognize as painful. Guess I'll go listen to some Goth music now.

  • http://www.ronitbaras.com/ ronitbaras


    Your condition is not something you do to hurt others .
    If you know it is not something you can control, stay away from people who are not understanding and tolerating.
    It is hard for parents to control their kids yelling and screaming and they rather blame you.
    There are some things you can do to move your attention from the sounds. You can try to sing, hum and trigger your body to do something totally different that won't look so different.
    How old are you?
    I think finding an NLP coach will help you find out NLP techniques that will show you some ways to shift the focus from the overwhelming voices to something else.
    Don't be angry at parents who are a bid scared if things seem different.
    Do you have kids of your own?
    I think it is a long life battle. People are in their shell and they cannot imagine at all what it means to have something that makes every voice sound like it coming out from a loud speaker.
    Remember, your condition was not chosen by you. never blame yourself for other people's behaviour.

  • http://www.ronitbaras.com/ ronitbaras


    It is sad.

    I agree. It is the hardest thing to have your own parent as an enemy.

    It sounds like your mother doesn't know any better. She grow up like that and continues to do what she knows.

    But you, you know better. You think it is not good and it wonderful that you do not justify it. ( trust me, many people do)

    Pick yourself up, do not let your mum ruin it in your last year of university. find a support group. join a club, a group of people doing fun and happy things. Make a list of happy things and do them every day.

    When you finish your studies and be able to work, you can move out of home and start a new life.

    You will be a great mother because you were brave to notice how your mother was not able to do her job.

    What she want through does not justify her behaviour but explains it.

    It is good you're seeing someone. great!

    You should not let your mum's fears and demons dictate your life.

    Some people are so hurt in their past they lock their emotions and throw away the key to a place that will never ever be found. Do not be angry. I hope you will never do that.

    Plan your move out of the house.

    Do it with reason and care and trust yourself.

    When you don't live home, you can limit the way she talks to you.

    Be strong!

    If you want to know how many people think and feel like you, read my post " divorcing your parents" and look at the poll.


  • Sarah Westwood

    My father says that my daughter is his grand daughter no matter what. He treats me badly by putting me down in front of my daughter and treating her as if she is his! He buys her things and tries to compete for her affection by making me feel like an outsider. He treats my brothers partners better than me! I have suffered from depression for a long time and now he says. "You can die from depression"

  • http://www.ronitbaras.com/ ronitbaras

    Hi Sarah,
    The truth is that your daughter is his granddaughter no matter what.
    Why are you spending time with him if he makes you feel bad?
    Why do you give him opportunities to treat her as his?
    why do you give him opportunities to compete with you at all?
    If you don't hang around him, he won't!
    If you want take your daughter to be with him, he won't compete with you?
    If you want be with him, he won't treat you bad in front of your daughter?
    Depression is a condition that is not good for you and if it is a long time thing, it is not good for your daughter as well.
    Treat it!
    Do something to change it!
    If your dad is a bully, you need to work on your weaknesses.
    As I said, confidence repels bullies.
    Depression is a weakness that bullies pick on easily.
    Everyone will benefit from you feeling happy, confident and fulfilled.
    You, your daughter and as much as it is hard to believe, even you dad.
    Your confidence is your power.
    Work on it!
    Build it!
    It is not something someone can give you, you must take!
    Good luck!


Ronit Baras

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