Let’s Talk

Bravery in Today’s Culture – Part 4     

What About the Family?  


Q. Could you please talk more about staying brave when people are bullying you in your own family? My teen is our bully!

 A. Let’s Talk! This is a tender subject, but it is good to talk. Thanks for sharing about your child. I am going to throw out some thoughts and hope they connect with your situation. I will speak in generalities since I don’t know the specifics. Many times a child bully or teen bully in a home is actually “acting out” what is happening to him/her. Is it possible that your child is being bullied at school or in the neighborhood? Remember the principle of patterning [repeating what is being done to them]? Moreover, sometimes children find it a shameful incident to be bullied and so won’t tell – and sometimes they have been threatened not to tell.

We have talked in earlier Let’s Talk conversations that it is important to “look under” the behavior. Does your child have some anger or hurt that is stuffed or buried? What we know about every behavior is that there is a reason or backstory for it. Sometimes we just need a little help exposing the reason(s). There IS a reason your child is choosing bully behaviors.

Here’s another interesting sidebar piece of information. Bullying in families always feels personal, but most of the time it is not. The hurtful behavior is about them and not about you. Secondly, sometimes the victims are the scapegoats because they are “safe” emotionally to the venting member of the family. It’s sort of like hitting a backboard to practice your tennis swing. You are just a convenient target. This does not make bullying okay – I am just sharing various possible elements underneath the behavior.

Do we ignore the bullying? No. Ignoring the bullying enables unhealthy behaviors to continue. It’s like ignoring the proverbial elephant in the living room. But, how does one start taking out the huge elephant? Telling your teen bully to just stop bullying is not wise. You want the bullying to stop, but don’t we need to address what’s under the bullying even more? A defiant bully will sternly resist an authoritative statement by you to “just quit it.” The result will be something like a tug of war without a rope.

Talking about what is under his/her behavior might be a wiser place to start. Here is a sample: “I am very concerned about your choice to bully members of our family. Could we talk about what you feel that you need? We want to help you. Your heart matters to us. You can try to share with us as your family, or we can seek counseling together to help us navigate this disrespect and anger . . . .”

What if YOU are the bully? That’s for next week! If you have questions about bullying, I would love to hear from you. Let’s Talk!
You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 4:23 “Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.” (Actually, the whole chapter is inspiring.)

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.