Most parents would empathize for their child if they were getting picked on at school. But what happens when your kid is getting picked on at home? And what if that bully isn’t a sibling, it’s actually your own spouse? How do you stop it from happening?
“I haven’t seen much written about this topic and yet I see it in my practice all the time,” says Michael Anthony-Nalepa, licensed psychotherapist and founder of The Psychology of Bullying course at Antioch University, the first such course in the country. “It can be a very challenging situation to deal with.”
Parents who bully their children may engage in name-calling, put-downs, or even physical abuse. A pattern of behavior where your spouse becomes your child’s bully can be deeply painful and disturb the sense of peace in your home. Here are a few steps to stop a bullying spouse and remedy the situation.
1. Step in Right Away If Necessary
If your spouse is actively hitting your child, you’ll need to make a difficult move and step in to protect them.
The debate about spanking as a repercussion is ongoing, although it is illegal in some countries. But it’s universally accepted that aggressive, abusive, and repetitive hitting that leaves behind physical injury is unacceptable. If this type of dangerous abuse is going on, you may need to call 911 and/or Child Protective Services. Don’t be afraid about losing your child to a foster home—many times CPS will do an assessment and initiate a service plan for the family, rather than removing the child from the home.
Of course, this will certainly pit you against your spouse, but if your child is in danger you need to take steps to protect them. It could be that you too are wrapped up in a cycle of abuse or codependency, and need to take steps to heal your own relationship.