Parents who don’t have effective parenting skills will often use aggression as a substitute. This is especially common with parents who don’t have good relationships or effective coping skills and use aggression to compensate for a whole range of things. Ultimately, it can lead to aggression with their kids.

When you use aggression as a parenting style, it often solves your short-term problem of controlling children. Aggressive parents can get the compliance they are looking for, at least initially. But it comes at a cost.

Aggression leads to serious problems for children and how they grow up to deal with the adult world. The aggressive parenting style too often leads kids in one of two directions in life. First, they can be a victim because that’s the role they’ve been assigned in their family. Or, second, they can be aggressive and abusive because that’s what was modeled for them by their parent.

Neither role increases the kid’s chance of developing his potential and creating a successful life.

I view the aggressive parenting style as primitive, short-sighted, and ineffective. It’s not good at developing strong, independent, and compassionate kids.

The fact is, you can’t punish your child into good behavior. Over-the-top punishments or ineffective rules just end up in a power struggle. The key is not to punish, but to give kids consequences that work. The right consequences actually motivate your child to good behavior. They put you back in control and teach your child how to problem-solve, giving your child the skills needed to be a successful adult.

Aggressive Parenting Backfires

I think it’s easy for parents today to be afraid that they won’t be able to control their children. The media, the online world, and their kids’ peers are just too great an influence. Many parents fall into the trap of using aggression and power to try to offset the power of these outside influences. Unfortunately, their aggression is a shortcut that doesn’t work in the long term.

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Parents need to be able to teach their children how to deal with these powerful influences on their own. One of the problems with aggressive parenting and harsh punishments is that when the child leaves the home, they don’t know how to behave on their own. And then they get into the kind of trouble that the parents were afraid of in the first place.

Be Authoritative, Not Authoritarian

I’ve built my reputation advocating for an authoritative parenting style. Authoritative parenting means setting limits and holding kids accountable for their behavior. At the same time, though, it encourages coaching and forgiveness when kids inevitably mess up.

Authoritative parenting is effective because it teaches kids to be independent and self-reliant and sends the message to the kid that you believe in them by having high expectations for their behavior.

With the authoritative parenting style, you encourage your child to be creative and independent, just within the limits you set. In other words, you’re not controlling your child, you’re just creating healthy boundaries within which they can grow and thrive. And you firmly but gently correct your child when they go outside the boundaries.

In contrast, bullying parents are what I would call authoritarian (as opposed to authoritative). Living in one of these households is like living in a dictatorship.

These parents use a restrictive and punishment-heavy parenting style that demands compliance with an iron-fist or with verbal intimidation. Compliance is achieved through fear of retribution, not through thoughtful consequences that allow the child to learn from their mistakes.

Don’t Use Your Parents as an Excuse for the Way You Parent

It’s a cop-out to say people inevitably parent the way they were parented. Any parent can improve their skills. I do think people can change. I’ve seen people change and transform themselves and their kids by learning effective parenting techniques.

My experience has been that when aggressive or senselessly rigid parents learn more effective parenting skills, they’re in a better position to teach their children effective ways to manage the world around them.

Work on Self-Control

I realize that many parents don’t intend to parent aggressively. Some just lose their cool and react to the situation by yelling or screaming. But yelling and screaming don’t work. If it did, I’d be out of business. You’d just be able to yell at your child and he’d change. Or you’d bring your child to my office, I’d shout at him and call him names for 45 minutes, and then he’d go home and be nice for a week.

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Oftentimes, parents react to their kids without thinking because they believe they need to get their kids under control immediately. It’s better to take a moment to think, “Wait, let me first get myself under control before I respond to my child.” If you don’t and you react emotionally to your child and lose control, you’re allowing the behavior of your child to determine how you behave rather than the other way around.

If this is you, know that you can learn skills that will allow you to stay in control with your kids.

Model the Behavior You Want From Your Kids

One final note. Kids watch their parents all the time, and we are role models whether we’re conscious of it or not. To behave boorishly, antisocially or abusively in front of children does more harm than most parents realize. Talk is cheap. We have to model appropriate behavior if we are to expect it of our children.

Related Content:
Challenging Parenting Issues: 5 of the Hardest Things Parents Face
“I’m So Exhausted”: 4 Tips to Combat Parental Burnout

Empowering Parents Podcast:
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James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation®, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

Comments (49)
  • Jono

    My kids have grown up with a primary carer who was addicted to social media and computer games. She had one very simple parenting rule: "you can do whatever you want, provided you don't make me get off my device". On the surface, the kids loved this as they could do anything they wanted. Homework, going to bed, doing basic chores, and even going to school became optional. Her hands off parenting was interspersed with angry explosions. My son was truanting and my daughter developed severe anxiety and depression.

    I was the only one who would follow through with consequences. In the eyes of the kids, this has made me look like an Authoritarian and aggressive parent. Meanwhile my wife would undermine me and tell me her off in front of the children. This frustrated me greatly, which made things even worse.

    A couple of years ago my wife decided to leave me as I couldn't earn enough money to support her lifestyle. Both children were teenagers and decided that they wanted to live full time with her. For the past 2 years they have had almost nothing to do with me, and her parenting has deteriorated.

  • Steve Burstein
    You should have seen my Father. One of my earliest memories of him was his screaming at my Mother at the top of his lungs, probably over nothing. I had Inflexible-Explosive disorder, and whenever I lost my patience with him or made a smart remark he'd rip one of myMore comic books in half or take TV away from me for a week or a month! I wouldn't absorb his advice because it was delivered in a nasty, aggressive style, and much of the language he used was above my head, precocious though I was.
  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
    Nathan butler Hi Nathan-I appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and sharing your story. I am sorry to hear about the way that your mother is treating you.  Even though I recognize how troubling these arguments are, suicide is not the answer.  Because we are a website aimed atMore helping people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we can give to those outside of a direct parenting role.  Another resource which might be more useful to you is the Youthline Helpline, which you can reach by calling 0800 376 633, 24/7. They have trained counselors who talk with kids, teens and young adults everyday about issues they are facing, and they can help you to look at your options and come up with a plan.  They also have options to communicate via text, email, and live chat which you can find on their website, https://www.youthline.co.nz/  We wish you the best going forward. Take care.
  • Monster mom
    I looked for this article because I am a parent. I'm at my wits end. I have five kids at various stages of development. I would say I have their best interest at heart and I'm not an abusive parent. But I wonder sometimes if we are bullying. I haveMore little patience for some of the behaviours I see in my kids and I shut it down... But I feel like my abruptly inserting myself into their issues... Sibling rivalry, sarcastic hurtful fights and sometimes physical... Can be seen as the opposite of what my intention is. I'm nagging, threatening and yelling when I want to see a change in Those very behaviours. I am looking for help to change direction and feel like asking for help has me admitting I'm a terrible person, harming my kids for life... These 'parenting skills' how do we find them? Where is the help for parents who struggle, who want to do it right but are so frustrated and becoming apathetic instead of engaging in deliberate mindful parenting.
    • C.M.M.

      I have done the same thing, break up fights or insults from one to the other ( I have 2 boys, 14 and 9).. They call each other names and if I interfere, my 9 y.o. would tell me to mind my own business, the 14 yo joins in and says 'this is our conversation, you cant get in the middle'. Im waiting for them to poke and eye out from throwing something at each other or rolling on the floor while the 9 yo screams for help. Guess what, Im going to put my headphones on and blast some heavy metal into my head. lol

      In all seriousness, I go through the same. It's very annoying and disruptive to hear kids argue over dumb stuff. Ive gotten to the point where if the school tells me something about them, I just tell them to do whatever they have to do about the matter, they have my support. I wont defend my kids. I'll let them learn a lesson, after all, I am no supposed to get in the middle of their dilemmas, right?

      My kids are very disrespectful to me, they call me names, I'm stupid, a retard, dumb, idiot, fat lady, old lady, ugly, 'why do you wear make up, you're ugly anyway', I've been told by my 9 yo. You name it.

      They dont like rules, love playing video games and ignoring the world. I love going out to places, travel, etc. They rather be on their phones or xbox. Im a single mom and no back up. They gang up against me and laugh when the 9 yo insults me. The power parents used to have has been taken away by the government, the 'child's best interest' rules, the control over parents over what you can and can not do. Then society judges you too if you want to correct them in your own way, you get told from psychologists that parenting is actually more complicated than you think and there's a book to figure it out, you get sucked into thinking you are not doing it right and you need help.

      I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. My mom was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was in and out of mental hospitals. All I ever remember was doctors talking about her mental stage, not to us and how to cope with it and the beatings and insults.

      It was hard to live in that house and i grew up with grudges, but I didnt want to kill myself or any other crazy thing.

      The world (mainly tv and social media)is conditioning kids to think if they dont have the picture perfect life (tv style kinda life), a bunch of followers in tictok, or are famous influencers from youtube, their life has no meaning and us adults are stupid for trying to make them study and be someone productive and not a bunch of air and empty headed kids with zero aspirations and meaningful goals.

      Dont let the world dictate your life. Kids need to learn when you mean business, and stick to your guns. Taking away things works for a while, but they stop caring. Once their behaviour escalates then it translates into detention at school and then expelling, or what we have nowadays

      We need the good ol' days to come back, we sure didnt have this issues and so much 'psychology' involved.

      • Green
        I just wanted to say thank you. I feel like a failure, and like I'm loosing my mind trying, and having no permanent solution from trying every parenting strategy. It's good to not feel so alone. Good luck with everything 💕
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      @Monster mom 

      I hear you. It can feel overwhelming when you’re trying to

      determine when you need to intervene and when it’s OK to let kids work it out

      for themselves. This is a common struggle many parents face. Falling more on

      the side of helicopter parenting doesn’t make you a terrible person. It shows

      how important it is to you that your children behave appropriately. That’s

      something we all want and strive for, even though most of us make mistakes

      along the way in how we approach that endeavor.  It may help to know that

      it’s never too late to start parenting more effectively. One article you may

      find helpful is https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/its-never-too-late-7-ways-to-start-parenting-more-effectively/. James Lehman

      also offers suggestions for determining what parents need to focus on in his

      article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/your-child-is-not-your-equal-why-you-have-to-be-the-boss/. I hope these articles

      are useful for your situation. Be sure to check back if you have any further

      questions. Take care.

  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport


    I can hear how concerned you are

    for your goddaughter, and the way that she is being treated by her dad. 

    It can be difficult for many people to figure out how to intervene in this type

    of situation, so you are not alone in this experience.  Because our site

    focuses on working directly with parents to become more effective with their

    children, we might not be the best resource for you.  Another resource

    which might be a better fit is http://www.childlinesa.org.za/, which you can call anytime at 08000 55 555.  The trained

    counselors who staff the line would be able to talk with you about what you are

    seeing with your goddaughter and her dad, and your options moving

    forward.  I understand how challenging this is for you, and I wish you all

    the best.  Take care.

  • mastik8
    JRGoodman  Kids are a roll of the dice. It's actually amazing how little control parents actually have. I've seen great kids come out of awful homes and awful kids come out of great homes. Be their friend not their parent or their parent and not their friend, spank or don'tMore spank - there just doesn't seem to be a correlation. I will say that physical discipline i.e., spanking, etc. seems to be a huge determinant of adult child and parent relationships. We seem to attempt to forgive but really and truly never forget. Also, keep in mind, that just because you survived spanking doesn't mean your child will. Rare is the child that thanks their parent for being strict. Keep in mind you experienced their childhood as an adult while they experience the same thing as a child. Even if your apology is true, to a child that has been traumatized by corporal punishment your "I'm sorry. I did the best I could" will be precious little relief. If you break someone's most precious thing telling them that you're sorry, while appreciated, won't put that item back together they way it was before. It's all damage control. Damage that cannot be reversed.
  • graham s
    my father was a narcissistic controlling and violent bully who has left me with physical and mental scars.i was pathologically terrified of him as a child.im a father of 6 myself now and it would make me sick to think any of my kids felt that way about me.im 45More now and i struggle terribly with depression because my upbringing and my fathers behaviour completely consumes me with bitterness,and anger towards him.he viciously beat me for stupid reasons.when i was 15 he dragged me out of bed at 4am by the hair and punched me and kicked me.my crime?i opened a block of cheese and didnt wrap it up again properly.at 16 he punched me hard on the face leaving a permanent scar on my lip.my crime?i opened a bag of sugar carelessly and it tore at the top.as i got older and challenged my mum about standing idly by and allowing his bullying she denied it ever happened,which just angered me,although i kept it in check.i want to just cut him out of my life.my mum has since died,and he is not my biological father.ive always wondered if that was a factor..a reminder that someone had been there before him(meaning my mum had previous intimacy with another man)as my father was very jealous and possessive of my mum.he told me my family hated me,but it was to make sure i didnt turn to anyone else for help.and even when my school guidance counsellor raised the subject he managed to spin his way out of it.he had/has a foul temper and i could possibly understand his violence if it was just a case of him losing the plot,but too much points to his actions being pre-meditated.my 15th year was living hell to the point i contemplated suicide to escape from him.
    • StephaniePeifer

      @graham s Hey Graham! I'm a 24 year old female version of you. I grew up much the same way you did. I struggle with generalized anxiety disorder and live in constant stress. I finally got out in April of this year and I decided to cut him out of my life. It's put a huge strain on my relationship with my mom. But recently my aunt, my father's sister, confronted me about why I don't speak to him. I broke down and cried and told her everything, since then she's been so kind and supportive of me cutting out her own brother. She told me if someone is toxic, sometimes you just have to. And she told me a bit about their own father- my grandfather- who was a horrible man as well.

       I have so much resentment towards my own father, and my mother too; as she stood idly as well. I don't even think she recognizes his actions as abusive. But, I've been trying to heal. The way I can see it, I can repress it and risk become a victim- as I've learned to do. This has been the case for me, as I've been in two abusive relationships. Or I could risk becoming a bully myself- which would be horrible. But I don't want either of those outcomes to occur. I want to be happy.

      We cannot control people. We can only control ourselves; our own reactions to situations and people. I choose to approach people with compassion. I choose to stand up for myself, and if someone refuses to respect my boundaries they have no place in my life. I'm lucky enough that I have an amazing support system from my friends.

      I think you should allow yourself to grieve. It sounds like you never did and it's affecting you negatively now. Allow yourself to feel that friend. Mourn your loss of childhood, because you did lose it. And it wasn't fair. Your father was overcome by fear and self-hate; pity him, see him for the fearful being he truly was. But don't allow him to control you any longer, you deserve better than that.

      I wish you the best.

  • Red
    JRGoodman I don't think you understand the concept of this article. It's not against being strict and trying to discipline your kids. That's fine. The bible is right but do remember not all parents are the same. Some use their authority for selfish reasons. They are quick to point outMore the bible verse that suits their needs but what about scriptures like Colossians 3:21? You're not suppose to provoke children to anger either or it discourages them. And I don't mean let them do whatever, no discipline, spankings, etc. What I mean is just downright attacking them or taking some small mistake and blowing it up into something big, or, very importantly, not allowing them to express their feelings. Parents need to listen too.
  • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


    I can hear how concerned you are for your grandchildren. It’s

    understandable you would want to do whatever is necessary to keep them safe.

    After all, you love and care for your grandchildren and want them to be able to

    live in a home that is safe from verbal abuse or violence. Whenever you think a

    child is at risk of harm of any kind, it’s helpful to find someone to talk

    about it. We would encourage you to call ChildHelp to talk with a specially

    trained counselor about your concerns. You can reach them 24/7 at

    1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). The counselors there can help you determine

    the best way to proceed in this situation. We wish you and your family the best

    of luck moving forward. Take care.

  • emotionalcripple

    My mother enjoyed bullying me and my sister. Every offense, no matter how trivial, warranted a slap or a spanking or some other sadistic punishment. At one point, a friend told her about making a list of good deeds she (the friend) had made for her kids: when her friendsMore accrued five good deeds (kept as tally marks on a sheet of paper) then they'd get a reward.  My mother, however, reversed it: if we got punished five times (as kept by tallies) then we'd be punished again with a spanking, a grounding, and early bedtime.  

    She was a controlling, manipulative, evil woman. I am still having to work to overcome all of the damage she did to me.

  • shireen

    I recently came across a few articles on bullying and how it affects people involved. I am a 27 year old female. I come from a conservative eastern culture. However, growing up I always felt that my parents were more severe than those of my friends. My dad a very busy job and was never a willing worker, so all he was bothered about most of his life was getting to work. I never got to spend enough time with him. My mom was mostly around to control me and my sister as children. Being a predominantly single parent, she was always very aggressive (specially when I was 10 - 18 years old). I always gave her the benefit of doubt since she was going through menopause. Until the age of 23 years, I was looked down upon and humiliated by my mother if I hang out with my friends or do anything to enjoy life outside my family environment. I was expected to enjoy life while staying indoors.... This was impossible ! I was never allowed to have guy friends, I had one boyfriend when I was 19 till 22, and I never told my parents about this guy for their fear. They always laid so much stress on personal development, education and intellectual growth, but failed to understand that a child needs the space to make mistakes if he/she has to grow in the right direction. I was never given the space to make mistakes ! One mistake, and hell would break loose.

    My mom had a difficult childhood - she lost her dad when she was 9 and her mother was not educated, or strong enough to take a stand. She was brought up by her extended family who treated her like a second class citizen till she was 22 and found a stable job. If I would disagree with my mom on anything, she would describing how people around her made her always made her life miserable since she was a child, and how I am making her life more miserable by giving her such a hard time. I was so naive and stupid, that just to end the argument, and the pain it brought, I would agree to whatever she would say. By the time I was 22 I felt suicidal and started praying to God to either end my life or take me away from home. That is when my destiny worked like magic and saved me. The fact that my parents valued education and development a lot made them finance my education to Canada, and that one decision changed my life. I was away from them for two years straight, and discovered who I was. It was not until now that I realized that I had probably been bullied all my life.

    I am 27 now, I have had an amazing boyfriend for 3 years. He taught me to be patient with my parents since they provided for me all my life and made me the person I am today. However, my parents and my sister they hate him, because he follows a different religion. My mom told me she would cutoff relations with me for the rest

    of my life if I settle down with that guy. They fail to see how nice a person he is. Unlike my parents, I never had to hide anything from my bf, he is very supportive of everything I do and very very loving and extremely patient with me. I would never trade him for anything in life.

    Was I bullied by my mom all my adult years ?

  • Shonenknife
    I learned my parenting skills from seeing what my parents did wrong, working at a daycare and watching Super Nanny. So far, it works like a charm!
  • James

    Reading this has made me think back to my childhood, (I'm 21 now). Looking back now I realised that I was raised in a very destructive household. When I was born my mum suffered from post-natal depression, also 6 weeks later her mother died, so she went through a very deep depression for a long time. When I was 6 my dad had a mild stroke, it wasn't too serious he's fine. It just messed up his memory for a few years, and he couldn't control his temper. But he used to physically beat me at times, so did my mum. It wasn't abuse as such, I was just a difficult child and they used to react in a blind rage. This has left me riddled with anxiety throughout my teens, being hard of hearing has not helped either.

    My dad would ALWAYS blame me for anything/everything that went wrong. If a radiator started leaking in his house, he will somehow try to trace it back to me, even if I was 50 miles away at the time. He's not interested in having a conversation with me unless it's to tell me to clean the house. My mum is very distant at times. If I ever try to talk to her, I'm just "distracting" her from watching coronation street or reading the newspaper. She would stop me midway through my sentence and say "Leave me alone". She is very clever with her words and she will say very nasty things to me that would hit me inside. For some reason, she has told me I would never get a girlfriend (she was in a bad mood that day). She has never, ever admitted to being wrong about anything. If she has messed something up then it's my fault somehow, or my dads'.

    I'm 21 now and I'm clearly damaged by how they both have treated me. I've never had a real relationship because I don't think I'm good enough for anyone. I'm getting more and more isolated within myself. I am absolutely desperate to get away from the both of them. All they have ever done is hurt me, physically and mentally. They make me feel as worthless as anything and I'm tired of it. I just want to stop all contact with them because they don't give me what I want.

  • Mary

    I am the youngest of six girls. My parents had a really bad marriage. I was verbally abused by both parents, my mother nonstop (I was her constant companion). I grew up believing I was one of God's mistakes. She died when I was 30. I began to build some level of self esteem. I kept my father's belittling under control. (I was the only one in Florida, my sisters in Michigan). My father's constant belittling is now constant. Two of my sisters are now in the area. One 'contributes' to the problem. At 55, I have finally decided to have as little contact with him as I can.

    I never had a real boyfriend. I was involved with a married man since age 23 for almost 30 years. It was easier.

    I also have tremendous anxiety and rarely get a break from that. I expect EVERYONE to run me down. What I feel the most is shame, anger and rage.

  • Patricia

    I'm very against bullying of any type in the schools, whether it be verbal or physical...

    Last week a mother related to me that her 12 year old daughter was a called a 'bitch' by a boy in her class, the child came home and told her mom what happened and asked her mother if it was ok to 'punch him in the face for saying that', the mother told me that she told her daughter, it was ok!!! I was totally disgusted with what she said. As far as i'm concerned two wrongs does not make a right. And we wonder why it's hard to stop bullying altogether, when you have parents out there who don't know how to teach their children about bullies , let alone they're teaching them to bully!

    I related this question to many people and I had 1 out of 5 agreed with me!


  • Cindy63
    I am 49 yrs old and was bullied by my dad all through my childhood, he would tell me I was adopted which made me cry at that point he would laugh and say "she's gonna cry,watch here it comes I see a tear" or his favorite was to tapMore my elbow during dinner so I could not get my fork to my mouth then laugh when I would cry and leave the table, his unrelenting attempts to make me cry were never ending, I don't know why he did it nor at this point do I care, what I do know is now that I am older and have spoken with other family members about this I was not crazy, it was as bad as I thought it was, I have learned it was not my fault but his own demons he needed to deal with, after moving away and getting married 26 yrs ago,I now have 2 grown girls and a wonderful granddaughter whom are a huge part of my life and I have to think how sad it is that because of the childhood issues I find it best that my parents be kept at arms length away from my kids and myself,I often feel guilty that I don't see my dad (now dying from Leukemia) very often, because to not care for someone so ill is so not like me, but for my own mental health I have to keep distance between us, as I have told my family "Dad can't give me what I want from him once he is dead, I just want him to apologize" but he is determined it never happened the way we all saw it, as a 18 yr old child I had to put conditions on what is suppose to be the one unconditional love in this world the love of a parent and that's what hurts the most
  • D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor
    To "Noldus": Thank you for taking the time to share your personal experience of having parents who bullied. It takes a lot of courage to open up about one's past and convey how difficult it was to grow up in such a household. We commend you for having the strengthMore and fortitude to be able to share your story with Empowering Parents and our readers. If you should find yourself in need of any type of local support, there is a great service available. The 2-1-1 National Helpline is designed to help people find resources in their specific area, such as help finding a job, housing or if you just need someone to talk to. You can reach 2-1-1 by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by visiting www.2-1-1.org. We wish you luck as you continue on your journey. Take care.
  • Noldus

    My father was always angry, yelling and threatening. We were not even allowed to disagree with him, no matter how small a detail. If we did, he said he would beat the crap out of us, and it was not an empty threat. Sometimes he would be furious for no reason, and later pretend that nothing had happened. Our mother tried to control every aspect of our life, and threatened us to tell our father if we did not do as she said. Privacy was never an option. We were not allowed to talk at the dinner table, and we were always told how embarrased out parents were and how ashamed over us. They often talked to us, but never with us. We were forced to agree with everything they said.

    We were three brothers, now we are just two since one of us commited suicide a few years ago. When we were younger, he started to hang out with the wrong people, doing some burglary at the local stores and such, and because they are selfish, we all moved from a small town to a big city where he found even worse company and started doing drugs and such. Why? Because our parents was hoping for anonymity in a larger city. I am now 40, and have nothing; I'm still a virgin, no friends, no education, no job and no life. My other brother is enormously obese, he can barely walk, few friends and no education, aleayd complaying about everything, stuck in dead-end job which never lasts for long, and have always plans that never leads to anything.

    In family photos, one will notice that we smile when we are very young, but after we have reached the teenage years, our faces always looks serious.

    My parents are divorced today, and even if I meet my mother now and then, I have no contact with my fahter. In his eyes, I have done nothing wrong, I'm the one who is cruel who don't have anything to do with him.

  • want to change

    Although in a very mild and non-physical way, I want to admit that I use the bullying style with my children. I couldn't be more ashamed of it, and desperately want to change it.

    I seem to keep going round in a circle where I become aware, feel extremely guilty, I apologize and promise to myself I will never act in such a way again. But somehow seem to end up doing it again. I want to break the pattern for once and for all, but I don't seem able or know how to do it.

    Can somebody please give me some advise on how to change?

    I know you probably despise me for it and think why should I bother to help such horrible person. I certainly do hate myself for it. And I agree there should be no justification for such behaviour.

    I want to stop and need help. Can somebody tell me what to do or what to read to work towards improving?

  • oliver
    My mum is generous and forgiving generally, but she always has this bite in her just waiting for the slightest provocation. It's like she has this discontent and hostility which she can't express openly, but whenever she has a chance she'll take it to take a dig at me. IfMore I talk to her, she'll quickly get impatient like I'm wasting her time, and even if she asked me a question and I help her with the answer, once my answer extends from 10seconds to the minute mark she'll tell me she's not a captive audience. If I say something and abbreviate a word or don't pronounce every word she'll point it out and then take the issue one or two steps further like it was some major faux pas or embarassment- despite the fact it is always just me and her at home, no one else is present. These are all little things, but it's the tone that kills me. How can you talk down to, treat your son like that? I never answer back or react despite being well into adulthood. The thing is, I don't talk much with her, so these instances when she's getting hot tempered with me for talking more than the time needed to answer a question are really the only times I interact with her. I just walk away and if I don't dwell on it I find I can be normal with her after only an hour or two, but everytime she does this to me it hurts me, and I know that one day I'm probably going to react to it. I love my mum, and she worked hard by herself to get me to good schools, but when stuff like this happens it makes me think I can't live with her or spend any appreciable time with her at home. Like I said, I do have this love for her which comes from appreciation of what she's done, but she doesn't verbalise her love or show it physically and neither do I, it's just an assumed unspoken truth, but considering she's not an openly warm or loving person, I feel it's even more important she doesn't use this tone when she talks to me, becauase quite literally the way she talks to me is the only interaction I have with her and the negativity just makes me feel like it's wounding my soul to be in such a relationship.
  • Nick

    I was bullied mercilessly by my mother. I am 57 years old and I still expect the worst. I enjoy tremendous anxiety and rarely get a break from that.

    Somehow I was able to raise two daughters that feel good about themselves. They have never been struck or emotionally abused and they are turning out great so far.

    I started out parenting them they way I was parented - which i thought was effective. But I could not deal with my young daughters being afraid of me so I knew I had to change my ways. And I did. Now my teenage daughters are doing well in school and socially and I am a very proud parent!

    But I still expect no one to like or accept me and that's every day.

  • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor
    To 'hermom': It’s a tough situation when your child is being bullied, and even more so when the bully is her parent. We recommend taking a proactive role with your daughter around her visits with her dad. Talk about situations she may encounter, and make a plan forMore what she can do that will make her feel comfortable. Depending on your daughter’s age, it might be helpful to role play and practice these scenarios with her. Of course, if you are concerned for your daughter’s safety while she is visiting her dad, we encourage you to look into local supports to help you both deal with that. A good place to start is www.211.org. 211 is an informational service that can help to connect you with resources in your area. You can also reach them by calling 1 (800) 273-6222. I am including a link to an article on bullying you might find useful. Although this article focuses more on peer-to-peer bullying in a school setting, I think you might be able to find some helpful information as well: Is Your Child Being Bullied? 9 Steps You Can Take as a Parent. Good luck to you and your daughter as you continue to work through this; we know this isn’t easy.
  • hermom
    So what do you do when your child has visitation with a bullying parent? How do you help her cope without becoming a victim or a bully? I see my daughter's self-esteem deflating and depression setting in and can definitely see her taking on a victim role. OfMore course her bullying dad doesn't see a problem.
  • recovering

    I was abused by my family. From these stories shared here, I can relate to them all, but I relate most to Shan.

    It took me decades of my life before it dawned on me that I had been abused and bullied by family.

  • stepmum
    Women are bullies too. My 12 year old stepdaughter is dealing with a smear campaign brought about by her 36 year old mother...who is married to a 20 year old guy. She is aggressive and rude to everyone. And she had been arrested for assaulting her exMore now my husband in front of the kids.
  • A Son
    Thank you for your thoughts. I wish my father had known how to parent better if only so he could be more involved in my life. He was aggressive in his inability to communicate well or meet my emotional needs.
  • Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

    Dear ‘dee115e’:

    Your daughter certainly has had a terrible experience. No one deserves to be bullied. It’s important that these types of threats and bullying incidents are brought to the schools attention when they happen at school. In some cases parents do contact police and/or seek legal counsel. Refer to this web site for more answers on what steps to take and how to get support: http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adults/default.aspx Stop Bullying Now. We wish your family the best.

  • dee1153
    I need some help in dealing with this. My daughter has been relentlessly bullied by a girl in her middle school. I found a post on this girl's Facebook page in which she said that her dad told her to trick my daughter into the school bathroom and "beat herMore ass and then walk out like nothing happened." It's evident that this dad will not respond to any kind of reasoning, so I haven't contacted him. I feel like I need police intervention. Can I press charges against this man? The school has done everything they can to protect my daughter. This, IMO, has gone far beyond classic bullying to something much more serious.
  • Shan
    My older brother was a bully who was encouraged by my parents- they knew it was happening and they joined in indirectly- telling how stupid I was, always camparing me to my older brother, ridiculing and making fun of me, putting me down whenever there were other people- always blamingMore me when things went wrong. As for my brother he was the eldest, intelligent and approved by everyone-everything he did and said was right-he was great. My parents put me through hell along with my brother- bullying isn't about low self esteem-it's about high estemm, pride and arrogance- that's how my bro felt- I still remember the sniggers and sneers, and hurtful remarks. I'm 39 but still have trouble forgetting the past- I have forgiven my brother and my father- but it's hard to do so for my mother- she puts me down now to control me- this is the way of the world I suppose. I used to suffer from a whole range of emotional problems and have failed at everything I have done with no real friends. I don't want children-which is a good thing as I don't think I could handle them. Anyway, with alternative healing methods like reiki, spiritual healing, angel healing and pranic healing I am learning to let go of the hurt, humiliation and resentment from the past so that I can forgive everyone and forget. I do this b ecause to move on in life I need to let go and heal. From our past hurts we can learn how to become wonderful care considerate people!
  • Lynn

    My mother is a controlling parent to this day. She is a daughter's nightmare -- not terribly reliable, very aggressive, hostile, distant, and judgmental. At the same time, she's able to camouflage some of her actions so that they appear reasonable and well intentioned. It's very painful. I keep praying that a small dog like Toto will come and pull the curtain away from my mother and will come so that more people will be comfortable speaking up. At best, I think she lives more out of a sad way to live and raise kids rather than making any choices of her own. Thanks to those who wrote in earlier.

    Thanks to those who wrote in earlier.

  • macmoon
    my mom used physical force and verbal abuse to keep us in line. i'm her first born of three, and her only daughter. i'm grown and married now, with a family of my own. my mother may no longer use physical force, but she still uses herMore words and tone to intimidate me into submission, as if i was still a young child. it drives her crazy that i no longer fear her so now she has become more hostile towards me, even in public. i can't tell you how many tears i've cried because of her venomous tongue, almost preferring the physical abuse. at least the sting of a slap goes away. but the scars in my heart and soul, forever live in my nightmares. i've stopped interacting with her all together. i've accepted that she can't give me what i need. i'm still working on forgiving myself for my high expectations of her. after all, she is only human.
  • Carole Banks, MSW, Parental Support Line Advisor

    Dear 'victimized':

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It is a reflection of how abusive parenting can have a lasting effect on kids. It can be hard to have clear thinking around your mother’s interactions to you, to realize that she was the problem and not you. Kids naturally assume, “There must be something wrong with me or my Mom would love me more.” The truth is that your Mom had some emotional problems and was limited in what she could offer you. I’m not excusing her. I’m suggesting that realizing that she was limited in what she could offer you as a parent might help you change any anger to grief then understanding. It is very sad for kids when this happens. You deserved better.

  • victimized
    I am the only boy in my family. My Mother bullied me from age 10 onward. My father was never around, and she would abuse me physically, emotionally and verbally. To this day I have trouble opening up to anybody because I feel if my own mother couldMore hurt me so much, what will anybody else do to me. I think a controlling mother is worse than a controlling father because you just expect mothers to be more understanding and at least listen to you.
  • Sean
    My mother bullied myself and my brother while spoiling our sister. My dad was out getting drunk all the time when we were kids, when he was home and sober he was also very aggressive and you'd be scared to open your mouth. My mother's abuse was much worse though:More physical - she'd beat us with a wooden spoon and slap our faces; emotional - she'd break down in tears and it would be our fault, she would constantly threaten to leave with our sister leaving us with our useless drunkard of a father. The worst thing was probably the lies, anything she ever did she'd deny it happened, I remember coming home from school I was probably about 7 or 8 and she'd been through my diary. She was screaming in my face that it was all lies, she didn't care what she said or did to us so long as we were too scared to question her. I remember her grunting in my face saying I was a pig when I was very small, there is no reason for this other than pure cruelty and if I ever tried to raise this she'd deny it. [ ] totally destroyed my confidence and broke my will and even now I bet she has no conscience at all about it.
  • uncleduke316

    As usual the women are getting off the hook. I haven't seen ONE POST from someone dealing with an aggressive, bullying mother and passive aggressive father. my relatives have described my mother as a bully when they were kids and she has 8/10 of the signs of s controlling parent. my dad was screwed over by his mother and his father was emotionally distant because he didn't want to deal with her crap.

    can we hear from the other side? it's different when the bully is your mother because women know how to manipulate relationships.

    we also see this on tv:

    marie ramano on everybody loves raymond, rosanne, malcolm in the middle. when it's the WOMAN we call it "empowerment". it's the natural result of the society the left wingers have created since the seventies.

  • The MOM

    It is not always the father who is the bully. I grew up with a very controlling single mother. Thus, this had turned me into a controlling mother. I didn't understand the difference between keeping your children under control versus bullying them to stay under control. God bless my new husband who has taught me that for the past 16 yrs, I had actually been bullying my children to behave. I am extremely, extremely blessed that none of my 3 children are bullies. They have "good" friends at school and at home. Their teachers rave about how well-behaved they are, respectful in class, and are always willing to help another student or faculty. I have recently apologized to my children for my years of reiiculous behavior, and that from now on, I will not act that way. However, I will still not let them get away with misbehaving. Just because I will be nicer, doesn't mean I will become their doormat.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Middle child

    My father died last week. Funny, I had been hoping for a LONG time that he would just drop dead. He finally did that very thing. I'm 45 years old, and I have only come to realize in the last few years how much of a bully my father actually was. I chose not to have children myself because I could not stand the thought of raising a child as I had been treated. I love my mother very much, and begrudge her NOTHING in my care of her. But I'm more glad than I can say that my father never needed me to care for him in his later years. Because I would NOT have been his caregiver.

    He actually bullied pretty much everyone in his life, both my older sister and my younger brother. But also my mother, his friends, his sister, and his own mother. I believe that he learned this behavior from his own father. After his death, I learned from his friends that he was often a bully to them as well.

    I sincerely believe that if this behavior is not stopped, and early on in a person's life, it will slowly destroy or warp all relationships around that person. This is a very sad and destructive way to live.

  • older sister
    I have been saddened recently by seeing the way in which my own brother treats his middle boy, aged 15. He is different with him and seems to take out his own problems on this young person. This involves physical hitting. They are on the other sideMore of the world to me and I fear for my nephew's development. I feel that this is made worse by my brother drinking too much. My elderly mother who visited with me, is also sad about this as we are very fond of our nephew/grandson and we are worried about the lasting effects this will have on him. I am not sure what to do.
  • justagram
    I've been trying for 14 yrs. to stop my son-in-law from treating his oldest son in a mentally abusive, demeaning and humiliating manner. Nothing has worked. My daughter did, at one point, determine that family counseling would be sought -- but never followed through because it was determinedMore that it was "the child's problem". I've been very close to the family all these years and have assisted in the care of all 4 of their sons. It is devastating to me to see the effects of this in their now 18 yr. old son. He has lost himself -- his behavior is that of his father's in all of his personal dealings. He takes on his persona as a way, I guess, of finally gaining his approval -- but is then put down for acting just like his father. My daughter is aware of all this, but chooses to sugarcoat it to maintain their "happy family image" and is turning against me for trying to help my grandson. Any help you can offer?
  • Stop the Bullying cycle
    I wish more fathers who were bullied as a child by their own father would learn that their repeating the abusiveness that bullying displays is unhealthy for their father/son relationship. It will diminish that bond faster than they think. Children , especially sons, need their fathers throughout their childhoodMore and adolescence as a good role model and guidance to become a good man. If they are being bullied by thier own father, which brings mental, emotional, and psychological problems to the child, it will only alienate them from their father as they grow up. Those fathers will see that they actually need their children the older they get, so they better pay attention to the way they treat them, in order to hold onto them later in life, instead of pushing them away. It is unhealthy and harmful to the male child to not get the 'attention, approval, and affection' from their father, resulting in a good understanding of being loved by him.
  • Beth Cecil
    Thanks Dr Lehman for the tools I needed to help my 8 year old who has learned, from his father, aggression and power that there is another way to be. What a difference it makes for all of us!
  • Jenny Kozlowski
    I sat behind a guy like this (the man yelling at his wife and kids in Pt. I of this post) at my son's hockey match last week. I actually moved.
  • Janine in Boulder
    Bullying is wrong, period. Especially parents should think twice before they bully their kids.
  • Michelle
    This sounds like my son. It’s sad because he grew up in a home where his father (who I divorced when he was 14) bullied him. I’ve tried to talk to my son but he doesn’t hear me. I’m going to send him this article.
  • Working on it
    James, thank you. My father was this type of guy, but with a lot of work, I've become a different kind of dad. Not perfect, but definitely respectful of my wife and kids.
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