When Adults Bully Children

Much attention has been given in recent years to the traits of bullying, how to identify it, and what action to take to remove, avoid or end it. Mostly we focus on bullying within peer groups, but what happens when an adult bullies a child? It seems to be the easiest aggression to ignore.  Children are left extremely vulnerable around adults who are playing by a different set of rules. I have found this article to be very helpful to identify and understand basic traits of adult bullying.  If you take a minute to read through the list you will recognize or remember people you have known. None of this is uncommon. It is however, emotionally, psychologically and physically damaging.

There was a case recently in my community where a seemingly do-good Mom went over the top in an extreme act of aggression toward a child. The great thing is that her action was contained immediately and recognized very quickly among the adults for what it was, and the harm to the child has been minimized. The traits of this mother are typical for an adult bully. She desires to appear supremely competent and capable. She volunteers excessively in the children’s school, appears at all school related events, and is actively telling others, adults and children alike, what to do, where to go, what to drink, what not to eat, what is right, what is wrong. She is self righteous and unimaginative. There is extreme efficiency in her volunteerism, but no language of compassion or kindness in her words. The busybody hard working martyr does not build deep friendships, and seeks constant recognition for her diligent extreme “giving” to the children. She doesn’t understand the way the world works in general, or how adult relationships work in the community around her, and misconstrues what she sees and hears. She punishes her own children when they bring home less than perfect grades. She has no idea she is a bully, as she is too busy focused on martyrdom. People like this can do great harm when they have access to our children.

We have seen in the news recently the UPenn case where pedophile Sandusky worked diligently to create a viable child-centric persona, using the mask of care and concern to build a world (his charity) where he had ready access to children to molest. While this case is extreme, it underscores how systematic social predators can be, and no matter how much we want to believe that everyone is good, we need to be careful about who has access to our children. We often accept volunteers into our schools and organizations too readily, without vetting them at all. Its very tricky when the volunteer is a parent, because the backbone of small communities is based on group participation, and trust.

In the past three years our school community has built an anti-bullying program, and is keeping the discussion of bullying on the table. It isn’t swept under the rug, and at the same time, kindness, compassion and respect are expected as the norm. It is discouraging when you don’t see this in the adults, but encouraging when the bullying is stopped swiftly. Recognizing the traits of bullying is the first step in addressing it.

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