This post is part of “Bully No More,” an editorial series hosted by the Fort Worth Moms Blog.
Where to start? That is exactly what popped into my mind when I sat down to write this. Here we are, at the end of a week long, 15-post editorial series on the topic of bullying. The Fort Worth Moms Blog has covered the gamut: Signs that your child is being bullied; a teacher’s perspective to bullying; how to raise psychologically resilient kiddos; understanding the lasting impact of a bully’s words and actions; how to approach the school administration when bullying has occurred; mom-on-mom bullying; and more, if you can believe it. So, what is my contribution to this series?
As Meagan stated in her post, “The Roots of Bullying: Tips to Raising a Child Who Doesn’t Bully,” most incidents of bullying happen in the home. This was surprising to me because I had the preconceived notion that bullying mostly happened outside of the home — primarily at school. Of course, as this series has pointed out, bullying most certainly happens at school too! When I read Meagan’s article, I so quickly resonated with the “bully at home” angle because, well, (here goes, gulp) my mother was a bully.
Does this mean she was a horror 24 hours a day, seven days a week? No. There are multitudes of instances where she fit the role of “good mom.” In fact, some of my best mothering moments come from ways I am emulating her.
The bully came out when my mom reached her end. And any mother knows what that means. We all have an “end,” and we all behave differently when we’ve reached it. Like most mothers, the culmination of family stress, demanding children, and those inevitable moments of resistance, disobedience, and defiance sparked her inner bully. Instead of taking a time out for herself, seeking to discipline in gentleness, my mom turned into a bully. When she didn’t get her way, a tantrum to rival any toddler was thrown.
What did that look like?
- Name calling — from expletives to insults to severely derogatory words, she’d use them to get her point across. If your mother believes you are such, then it must be true, right? I can tell you that is what a seven year old thinks. This time of name calling — whether using words to make a sailor blush or words that “aren’t that bad” — is not beneficial for anyone, especially the child. She didn’t prove herself as superior because she pointed out my “stupidity.”
- Manipulation — using both blatant and indirect tactics, my mom mastered the art of manipulation — again, often using shame or fear as the catalyst.
- Fear and force — like all seasoned bullies, my mother wielded force — arm grabbing, charging towards you, facial slaps, and spankings — as a way to impart fear so that her children obeyed.
The obvious question to ask now: Has the apple fallen far from the tree? I hope and pray so. The apple has certainly put in a lot of work to plant its seed in an entirely different orchard! However, the key to making different choices than my mother is to admit and acknowledge that her parenting style is really my innate default. It’s what I know. It’s what I lived. If I want to parent differently, and I do, I must identify what was abusive and wrong about her tactics, think through alternative ways to react, pray about heart change, and be intentional about my choices. Parenting on auto-pilot is not an option.
Shame is no way to parent. Fear is no way to parent. Manipulation is no way to parent. Force is no way to parent. Your parenting style may not be as extreme as my mother’s, but do examine your approach. Do you bully to get your way, to get the desired outcome? Do you treat your children with respect, dignity, and value? When you don’t get your way, do you model the types of reactions you want your children to emulate? The answers to these questions mean the world to your kiddos. So, I plead with you: Don’t bully your babies.