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 happens when the bully happens to be your own spouse? You’d normally expect differently of a grown adult, but adults have their problems too—and sometimes they take it out on their kids.
Parents who bully their children may engage in name calling, putdowns, 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 toward getting the cycle of madness to stop.
1. Step in Right Away If Necessary
fIf 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 relationship.
2. Build Up Your Child Whenever and Wherever You Can
A child suffering from bullying at home can experience serious symptoms of depression, anxiety, and a wide variety of problems later in life.
Get the child into a safe and quiet place if you can, or find them at a more opportune time when you can be alone with them.
Tell them that their other parent is going through some difficult
Whenever you have the opportunity, give this child some extra TLC (total love and care). Find as many reasons to compliment them. Take them out on special outings. Have deep conversations with your child and let him/her know that you are there to listen… always.
3. Confront Your Spouse
Telling your partner how you feel in the heat of the moment is probably not going to do much. It’s best you divert your child away from your spouse and defuse the situation.
Even if you tell them at a later time that their bullying is negatively impacting the home, it probably won’t go over so well. You’ve got to be more subtle about it. Be vulnerable, and not overly accusatory.
Pick a better time when the two of you can be alone, and they aren’t feeling worked up or agitated. Tell them lovingly that you’re concerned about their health, and that their anger and frustration are probably eating them alive. Again, be vulnerable, not accusatory.
Share how you are hurting when you see your child being bullied.
Share your hopes, dreams, and visions for your child…which assumably involved a healthy home, a bright future, and a supportive, loving environment.
4. Create a Plan
Share your willingness to help your partner through whatever they need to stop bullying, whether it’s therapy, a program, a job change, or anything else.
Avoid using ultimatums about leaving the home unless you genuinely feel things have hit rock bottom. Even if you do, unless a treatment strategy is part of the plan, things probably won’t change for good.
Bullying can come in many forms, physical and verbal. Regardless of whether it’s either one (or both) going on, you’ll need to support your child while gently confronting your spouse.
Don’t expect that one meeting about the topic will fix the situation for good—you may need to talk to them several times.
If things persist despite your tactful efforts, you may want to suggest family counseling for guidance and support.