When we talk about bullies, images that often come to mind are those of big-bodied kids at school or in the playground who pushes their smaller classmates around. Bullies are hostile strangers and acquaintances we interact with. Rarely, or never, does it cross our mind that bullies can live within our homes too.
It has been said that the ‘least identifiable bullying is often accidental’1. Often, we only see what we want to see, and as parents, it’s hard to admit that even though we mean well, our actions can cause our children pain. Last year the theme of the 3rd Parenting Academy was on Compassionate Discipline where we’re able to focus on the differences between discipline and abuse. Technically, by deliberately being abusive, one already is bullying. However, aside from the long-time controversial debate on discipline and punishment, parents can be just as guilty of being the greatest bullies of their children in a variety of ways. Sometimes, we are not even aware that we are already being a bully.
Can you identify, which among the Parent-Bully Checklist items you are guilty of?
How many of the items above have you tried on your child?
If your answer is 20 or more, congratulations! You are, without a doubt, a parent-bully! Should you identify with 15 to 19 items, you’re still a bully. How about 10 to 14? Still a bully. And just to be clear, for those who said 5 and below? Yes, you’re also still a bully.
Honestly, in one way or another, we are all guilty of being bullies. But the more important questions are: why, how much and how often do we do it? Are we even aware that we are doing these? How does it make us feel? Are we willing to change? We might be doing just one of those 25 items, but if we do it often enough, the effect could still be grave.
For the children, how many of the checklist items have you experienced or have been a recipient of while growing up? Is it 10? 15? Again, honestly, it doesn’t really make much difference. What matters most is that you’ve been bullied and that the perpetrator is the person/s whom you trust more than anyone else in this world. Bullying by a parent goes beyond mere physical pain. Just as what Doc Honey often says,
“…when the child is often rejected or hurt by his/her parents, the child shall eventually be convinced that he/she is not worthy of being loved”.
After all, how can he/she believe in his/her worth when the very person/s who should provide him/her with unconditional love and support are the ones who are taking his/her hope away.
Children who suffer bullying from their parents and haven’t had the chance to resolve their emotional baggages, often continue to bear the effects of these issues as they grow older, which include but not limited to…
- Low self-esteem
- Problematic relationship with significant others
- Bullying their friends and classmates
- Bullying their own kids
- Have trust issues
- Identity issues
- Fear of failure
- Aggressive behavior
- Self-destructive behaviors
They are also more likely to cope with their situation and growing emotional pain through alcohol and drug use.
In mindful parenting, we cannot say for a fact that all these troubles will go away. Mindful parenting is definitely much more nuanced than just ceaseless provision of love by a parent to a child. However, it could greatly contribute to our children having a better overall well-being. In mindful parenting, it is the awareness and the intentions that make all the difference. To make our home a solid ship so that our children will have all the strength that they need should they find themselves face-to-face with the bullies of the outside world.
1Hyken, R. (2017). How Bully Parents Erode Kids’ Self-Esteem and Create Long-Lasting Damage. Online Source: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2017-07-13/how-bully-parents-erode-kids-self-esteem-and-create-long-lasting-damage
2Rizvi, S.F. & Najam, N. (2014). Parental Psychological Abuse toward children and Mental Health Problems in adolescence. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences. Online Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3998989/