verb, bul·lied, bul·ly·ing
To act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer; exert power over.
I'm grateful that bullying is a hot topic in the media and that parents have been calling on school administrators and teachers — not to mention social media — to do a better job protecting our kids from cruelty by their peers. As a mom of two, I understand our cultural outrage about this subject and, like so many others, I sometimes point fingers at the parents of bullies, particularly those who set bad examples by being bullies themselves.
Yes, parents can be bullies too. You know the grown-ups I'm talking about: You've seen them out and about, doing and saying awful stuff not just to their kids, but to their partners, too:
- They insult: "What were you thinking?" or "That was a ridiculous thing to do!"
- They name-call: "What an airhead!" or "Why are you always such an a*#hole?"
- They act superior: "If you'd just listened to me in the first place..."
- They issue commands: "Don't you dare say another word!" or "Why don't you say something? You should stand up to your boss!"
- They belittle: "How could you not know how to do that?"
- They threaten: "You say that one more time and I'm out of here."
- They manipulate: "If you just did what I asked, I wouldn't have to nag you about it."
- They withhold: "If you were kinder to me, maybe we'd have sex more." or "I'm not giving you another dime until you get your spending under control."
- They judge and gossip: "My husband's so insensitive. You know how men are."
"Them", "those parents", the ones over there, across the playing field, the ones who live across town, or next door, in another country, or school district … they're the parents whose kids become bullies.
But if we're honest with ourselves? Given the right dose of fear, frustration, powerlessness, exhaustion or shame, any of us, myself included, not only could bully our spouses and kids, but sometimes actually do, if only briefly, unconsciously, and hopefully unintentionally.
Not buying it? Thinking to yourself: "Sure I might be bossy sometimes, but I'm no bully!"? Fine. Insert "bossiness" through the rest of this post whenever "bullying" appears. Seriously: My advice is just as applicable to those of us who are bossy as to bullies.