Let’s Talk

Bravery in Today’s Culture – Part 5

What If I Am the Family Bully?


Q. Could you please talk more about the dynamics of bullying? I am the bully in the family.

A. Let’s Talk!  Thank you so much for disclosing. Let’s see if we can uncover some truth to set you free. It is common in familiar circles like families for someone to be the corrector-in-chief. Communication is often disrespectful with eye-rolling or “the Look,” teasing, name calling, and many other hurtful messages including raging and disrespectful punishing (as opposed to discipline). It is such a trap because you may mean to be helpful, but the effect is damage to your important relationships. It is a misuse of authority to disrespect others when you are correcting or instructing. Let’s talk about other ways to accomplish being a leader without bullying.

First let’s talk about owning your bully behaviors. An idea is to have a family meeting and self-disclose (as you did with this column) that you see what you have been doing is “bullying.” Share your deep regret for harm done. “I have been wrong to ____. My behavior has been disrespectful and very hurtful, and I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” You then need to build in some ways to change your behaviors so that you don’t revert back to the bullying. Some adult bullies have asked their children to make a hand signal or another cue when the bullying shows up again. Hopefully the correctors of your bullying will be kind and respectful. It is a good thing for families to keep seeking better ways to communicate.

Coercion is a first cousin to bullying. And, under most forms of coercion is fear. You may want to self-evaluate and see if coercion and fear are issues for you. Many people use coercion with people close to them for fear that if things aren’t done a certain way that bad things will happen. We don’t want to ever let fear drive us or our behaviors. This is a huge issue for your own mental/emotional/spiritual health. Many times I end my column with “Ask God to show you” and that is the case here. Ask Him to reveal any fear(s) in your life. You don’t want that stronghold. Moreover, ask Him to show you all of the issues in your choice of bullying behaviors; and ask Him to replace those behaviors with loving correction and instruction.

I hope you are not hearing me just say, “Quit it!” because I am not. It is a journey to make life changes and not an overnight destination. In summary, your disclosure that you are a bully is a huge first step. Kudos to you!! A second step is sharing with family or a wider circle. Thirdly, this change involves replacing the bullying behaviors with other more desirable behaviors. Hey, you are moving forward.

You as the parent or adult really can set the standard for loving, firm, and respectful leadership—void of bullying behaviors. Our world has become so full of the fruit of bullying such as verbal abuse that it almost seems “normal.” It is not the norm. Here’s the real model for us: Jesus had all authority, but was not a doormat, nor was He a bully. Ask Him to grant you a renewed leadership style that blesses all those around you. THAT is the pattern we all long for in our relationships and everyday lives.

For Deeper Reflection

 Colossians 3:8 – “But now, you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”

Colossians 4:6 – “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.”

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

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.