By Sean Grover
I was leading a parenting workshop in a New York City middle school and staring in admiration at the blurry-eyed parents who show up at 8 a.m. to openly share their child-rearing woes. As they guzzled coffee and jotted down notes, I asked them a question.
“Who here recalls yelling at, cursing at or speaking down to their parents?”
No hands went up.
The response to my next question blew me away.
“Who here has ever been treated like that by their own kids?”
Every hand in the room went up — not a single parent opted out.
A generation ago, it was inconceivable that kids could push around their parents. Today the phrase “Bullied Parent” receives instant recognition and knowing nods at my workshops. Parents know exactly what it means to be bullied by their kids, and for many of them, it has become a way of life.
To avoid joining the Bullied Parent Club, watch out for these troubling signs:
1. Name calling
Never let your kid dis you. Mocking nicknames set a belittling tone that you don’t want to encourage. Make it clear: Loutish name-calling is not welcome.
If your kid disparages you, blames you and finds fault with everything that you do, be warned: This annoying habit will get worse with age if not confronted speedily. Kids that denigrate their parents internalize a terrible model for relationships. Make mutual respect the bedrock of all healthy communication in your home and you’ll be teaching your kid how to positively connect with others.
Does your kid exploit your insecurities to get what she wants? Guilt you or sway you with tears or lies? Manipulation is a delinquent tendency you don’t want to foster. Confront such behaviors with a firm, unwavering resolve and snuff them out before they take root.
Bullies love to exploit their parents’ fears to get their way. If your kid makes public displays of whining, nagging and ordering you around, chances are he’s attempting to control you by embarrassing you. Never yield to such trickery. Walk away, demonstrate that his efforts are ineffective and he’ll quickly abandon such noxious strategies.
If your kid relentlessly follows you around the house, pelting you with demands and harassing you until you to give in, put your foot down. Never surrender to badgering. If you do, you’ll be teaching your kid that bullying works — and that’s the last message you want to send. Send this healthier message: Harassment will not be tolerated or rewarded.
More: Parenting a bully
Bullying behaviors emerge when parental authority is wobbly. Fortify your leadership, up your self-care and unite with your partner. During test periods, maintain your authority and your kid will realize this valuable life lesson: Bullying is never an option.
Sean Grover, L.C.S.W., author of When Kids Call the Shots, has worked in child development and adult psychotherapy for 20 years and maintains one of the largest private group therapy practices in the U.S. He has been quoted in Newsweek, New York Magazine, NPR and elsewhere about parent-child relationships, and has also been a guest on The Today Show. You can read more on his website, follow him on Facebook or keep up with him on Twitter.