This post is dedicated to my two most recent biggest fans, you know who you are ūüėȬ†, whose incessant barrage of vitriol, lies, and ignorance has inspired me to explore the interesting connection between adult bullies and the effect they have on their children. Ladies, I wear your hate like war paint and I pray that your brilliant daughters will choose to ignore these lessons you’re teaching them.

Raise your hand if you’ve had (or currently have) a social account on Cafemom.com.

Cafemom is like Facebook and MySpace for moms of all varieties, and if you’ve been on there you’ve seen the “mommy wars.” You know, those polarized arguments between breast vs bottle feeding; co-sleeping vs sleep training; vax vs non-vax; homeschool vs public school; theist vs atheist … it’s all on there … politics too, of course. I met a few mothers on Cafemom whom I’m still friends with now, but we’ve all pared down on our exposure to the volatile exchanges that exists there. If you’ve been there, then you know exactly what I’m talking about when I speak about adult bullying. What is adult bullying? It’s the same thing you get from child bullies just from someone who’s taller.

3 ways parents are enabling childhood bullies

If you google “bullying” you’ll come up with a whole host anti-bullying websites geared towards teaching kids how to spot bullies and neutralize them. These websites serve as a way for parents and schools to work¬†towards mitigating bullying in schools – which includes cyber-bulling. Cyber-bullying “includes:

  • mean text messages or emails,
  • rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites,
  • and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles,” according to www.stopbullying.gov.
3 ways parents are enabling childhood bullies Are parents the bad examples that child bullies are following?

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I’ve noticed that adults¬†on the Internet are VERY quick to react and judge others when something bad (whether in fact or perceived) happens to another child. The most immediate example that comes to mind is the incident where the boy fell into the gorilla habitat at the zoo in Cincinnati. Remember that story? The Internet blew up with people¬†shaming the mother who “allowed” her child to fall into the gorilla habitat. And you might even think that people¬†are justified in doing this, because the¬†child’s safety was at risk, to one degree or another. Or how about the boy who was killed by an alligator at Disney World? Deputies came back and called that an accident as well, but that didn’t stop the clanging noise coming from parent shamers on the Internet.

The media has a strong tendency towards sensationalizing news stories in order to increase ratings, so it makes me wonder how much of these stories are actually true.

Nobullying.com published an article recently pointing out that adult bullying is on the rise. They describe an adult bully this way, “A Bullying adult is, in essence a kid that never grew up, otherwise a grossly immature adult, an adult with a criminal mind.” Adult bullying generally manifests in the same manner that childhood bullying manifests, and the Internet has made it a piece of cake for adults to do this to each other.

Parents who bully each other over parenting decisions, mistakes, and even accidents that happen tend to paint themselves as some form of social justice warrior. They think they’re doing society a favor¬†by calling “bad parents” to the carpet. (As side note, I recommend seeing the movie Bad Moms – don’t go if the f-bomb offends you, but the underlying message of the movie is phenomenal). ¬†It’s as if these parent shamers are suggesting that they must be better parents simply because some bad thing didn’t happen to their kid.

If you’ve been on the receiving end of this, you know what an emotional roller coaster it can be. Not only are you dealing with your family situation, mistakes, and sometimes even traumatic accidents – trying to pick up the broken pieces and put them back together, the parent shamer acts just like a bully does by kicking ¬†you when you’re down; it’s neither civil nor a good example for their own children.

Riddle me this, Batman – if it’s bullying when kids are mean to one another, why is it social justice when adults do it?

This doesn’t even seem to be a healthy way to deal with a problem. Let’s take the child who fell into the Gorilla pen. That child likely needs healing of his own, so the media dragging his picture out every ten minutes isn’t going to help him. The parents also need to assess what happened, where they went wrong, and how they can fix it moving forward. Staying stuck on a past event not only keeps someone in a depressed state, but it offers no way to fix what happened which requires moving on. What about the parents whose child was killed by an alligator? How many of you parents reading this have made a contingency plan and trained your children to respond to an alligator attack? Unless you live in the Bayou of¬†Louisiana, I’m guessing not many of you. Simply put, there are simply situations and scenarios that you don’t plan for – things happen that you don’t believe¬†would happen, or can’t imagine would happen; we’ve all done it. It’s easy to judge a person’s life in 20/20 hindsight, but the truth is we all have to live in foresight, which is muddied.

Bullies and manipulators share some interesting traits

The tactics of bullies remind me very much of tactics used by manipulators. Manipulators are more than just people trying to influence one another – there is a level of maliciousness to their manipulation that entails these three motives.

  1. The need to advance one’s own agenda even in spite of any cost to others.
  2. The need to feel powerful and superior to their victims – this sometimes, ironically, stems from their own self-esteem issues.
  3. The need to feel in control.

Manipulators also don’t ever hear a correct or acceptable answer. You can never do right in their eyes even if you do what they want you to do, so why engage them?

Moreover, what is it that we want to teach our own kids about dealing with the consequences of their decisions, mistakes, and accidents? Do we want to teach them to dwell on what a bad person they are, how much worse it could have been, and that they should beat themselves up for it before others do it? Teaching our kids to accept consequences and grow from their choices is one thing; teaching them to dwell on their decisions, mistakes, and accidents forbids them from growing. Parent shamers and adult bullies are only sending the message that dwelling on the past is the only hope for your future. At the end of the day, they are only trying to bring you down.

So ask yourself these questions:

Where have you seen adult bullying take place? Social media, in the workplace, a play date for your kids or your children’s school? Have you experienced adult bullying? Were you the bully or the victim? Do you think adult bullying is a problem? Is this a double standard when raising our kids? If we want to teach our kids to not be bullies, can we do that successfully if we participate in bullying others?

Further Reading:

How to Develop a School Culture That Helps Curb Bullying
Accidental Criminals: Why New Mexico Needs Mens Rea (criminal intent) Reform