Do I Bully my Child

Sara is screaming, “I hate you! I don’t want to talk” Maggie “Please Sara come out of your room and talk to me” Sara “Blah blah blah blah” click the bedroom door is locked. Maggie feels the heat rise and her patients lower “GET OUT RIGHT NOW OR I Will ground you this weekend” BLAH BLAH BLAH Slam crash, rip, pound.
Maggie’s heart sinks, and she shakes the door yelling and threatening to ground, take allowance away, and spank as a last resort.

Maggie enters the office, saying what a bad mother she is, how she feels like the bully. She has to question her motives and her actions to be sure she is not the bully in this situation. She looks at me and asks, “ am I the bully?”

Peter sighs and admits, “Well, I did grab his arm and yell at him. I threatened him and took all his toys out of his room for a day. I also was so frustrated that those actions did not work. I taunted him, saying: ‘who’s kid, are you? Do you want to have all the kids at school to tease you? What kinds of a kid are you?”

April with tears running down her cheeks, “Well, I told his friends he was a baby and would not go in the water. Now they tease him, and he does not want to go to school because the kids on the bus and playground call him a baby?”

Photo by Vera Arsic on

Parents who were bullies or were strong-willed may have any issues with their child. This child is exactly like them as a child. They may look at the child as someone who seems weak and out of control. If parents need control, they may feel inadequate when their child is out of control, and they have no idea what to do. So they act tough, yell, or bully the child in hopes it will work to control the outburst.

Bullying never helps. A parent who has to walk away or give in is not a weak parent but a strong one. Remembering meekness is not weakness, and strength is not aggression can be difficult in some cases. Allowing the child to walk away or have a cooling-off period is also not a loss or weakness on the part of the parent. It can be a win-win for both.

The parent and child have a cooling-off period. They get to regroup, take a deep breath, and think about what is going on. Parents who are at the frustration level where they can not allow their child time to walk away or get a short time out that parent may be at a place where they are a bully. Actions and frustrations like these may appear as borderline abusive, and this parent needs to win, show strength, or have the ‘respect’ authority, which seems more important than the real issues at hand.

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Justin was on the phone all morning watching YouTube videos. Time and time again, he was asked to stop watching videos. After several alternatives and finally a few threats, his mother grabbed the phone. He responded to the danger of losing the phone for two days or until he completed his work. He got up, stormed out of the house, and went to ride his bike. The bike chain feels off. He pushed the bike back to the house and jumped on the swing. He fell off. The worst day, every he yelled.

He came back in the house and still refused to do his work. He went back into his bedroom. He locked the door, and all Jennifer could hear was thumping, slamming, and pounding. Fear rose in her as the last time this happened; it cost her a few hundred dollars to repair the damage and repaint.

She stands at the door, yelling, “open this door.” She pleads for him to open the door. She shakes and screams and kicks the door herself. She heard nothing from the other side of the door. She walks off and hears, “I just need to be left alone” uncertainty rises from her. This situation can be a scary moment for parents and parents with a child who has special needs or emotional issues; it can be paralyzing.

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How do we move forward?

One idea may be to give the child time. Giving the child time also allows the parent or adult to step back and reevaluate their next steps. Steps that could make an already hostile situation violent or turn it around. One bad decision could lead to additional emotionally charged actions, which may lead to someone getting hurt. Emotionally charged words just as bad as actions. Yelling threats or curses will only add fuel to the fire.

Once the storm has passed, and apologies made what happens? Do we say apologies or just let it go without any positive words? How is this explosion handled? For me, it is usually a reminder that if he breaks anything in his meltdown, he will pay for it. Recently, this reminder has begun as he can self-regulate if given enough time alone to gather his thoughts and emotions. He also understands when he is pushed too hard and needs a break. The tears usually flow over little things like a memory of where he received an army hat.

When allowed the cool-down period, he will apologize, and in turn, I apologize for my lack of patients and ask what I could have done to help the situation before it ended up in a meltdown. We can decide how to move on from here.

Photo by Ethan Jones on

Getting to this place in his growth and emotional stability is not easy. It takes work and understanding. It also requires the adult to examine themself to see what is going on within them, which may have caused explosions or meltdowns.

If your child is tired or hungry, meltdowns may come easier. Quickly they may explode or burst into tears. Being hungry is a ticket to a fight, tantrum, or breakdown. Fighting over food is never the answer. Getting your child to eat can be the family struggle; however, if your child did not have food therapy or helped to work through food issues due to sensory processing or another need, this fight can last all your life or until he moves out.

Photo by Jill Wellington on

Allowing your child to win may seem like you have given into him, but in reality, it may the way he learns how to adapt, compromise, or focus on what is right.
How we parent is often reflected in how our parents raised us. You may hear yourself sounding or acting like your mother, father, or the person who raised you. You may see yourself doing things you never felt in a million years you would do.

What does this mean? Do you need parenting classes? Only you can make that determination unless you harm your child, and someone makes it for you. It is never to late to learn new skills, understand yourself, take stock of who you are and your tipping point. Knowledge is power. True meekness is strength within.

Knowing your self and your child is the beginning of a new relationship.

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