The Bullying Parent: Why Aggressive Parenting Doesn’t Work (Part I)

Posted February 8, 2008 by

Steve Anderson–Legacy Parenting Company president, diehard Patriots fan and father– tells us the real reason why the Super Bowl was sad, and James Lehman weighs in.

Steve: “As I sat there in the last row of section 410 watching the hungry Giants defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLI, my attention was split between the game and the family of four sitting in front of us. The father was probably close to 50 years old, and had he been with buddies he would have been just a normal obnoxious fan. But this was different: he had his two grade school age kids sitting between him and his wife as he stood screaming, swearing and throwing a fit after every play or call that didn’t go his team’s way. At one point he almost instigated a fight with a younger man sitting next to him. When his wife asked him to stop, he leaned over in front of their young kids and harshly let her know she was way out of line. At one point during the game, the NFL recognized wounded Iraq War veterans who were in attendance. Most in the crowd stood and applauded these Americans who were wounded and disabled serving our country. This man chose to sit and worry about his team. I’m not sure if he even recognized what was going on around him. In the end, his team won and he kissed his kids, hugged his wife and celebrated the victory he’s waited so long for. Not even realizing that his family had lost, big time. “

James: Steve, this is sad. This father wants to do the right thing and bring his family to the game, but can’t let them have a good time. One way of looking at this is by examining how this father uses aggression as a way to manage his kids. The way I see this situation is that the father was just using a primitive parenting style. This doesn’t lead to the kids learning how to express themselves or solve problems. You can never take a risk around a dad like that, because he’s going to slam you. Kids with parents like that go underground and become fear-ridden and act out explosively.

For the purpose of this blog post, I’m not going to evaluate whether this behavior crosses the line into abuse, other than to say there’s no excuse for abuse. It never helps, and always hurts. I think it’s easy for parents today to be afraid that they won’t be able to control their children because of all the powerful influences that those children have focused on them through the media and peer pressure. Many parents fall into the trap of using aggression and power to try to offset the power of the media and peer pressure. It’s a shortcut, and unfortunately, it’s a shortcut that doesn’t work in the long term.

Parents need to be able to develop the skills to teach their children the skill base necessary for those kids to learn to deal with those powerful influences on their own. When you just repress children, the belief is that generally when the repression is removed, they don’t know how to behave on their own, and often get into the kind of trouble that the parents were afraid of in the first place.

(Check back on Monday for Pt. II of “Aggressive Parenting” by James…)


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  1. Wendy Hatcher (Edit) Report

    I also lived in a household before that was ruled by a jerk! He always undermined my authority with our children, and I still to this day don’t understand why! Why do people not see that all they are doing is hurting the children and (especially) their mother/father by not treating them with respect (As we would all like our children to treat us)?!? If children model our behavior as much as it is said, than why would we treat their other parent like dirt or UNDERMIND THEIR AUTHORITY when we know what will come next?!? No matter how stupid my ex husband acted in this manner, or no matter how dumb my new husband acts in disciplining our son sometimes, I NEVER call them out in front of the child! We all make mistakes, and causing further ones to come from it is just stupid on our parts! Thank God I have been blessed this time with a man that is very sensible, and NEVER questions my discipline in front of my son now! We’re not perfect, but we try to tweak our imperfections in private.
    Thank you.

  2. Beth Cecil (Edit) Report

    I lived with a man like this and our three children have learned his modeled behavior as well as myself. Since my divorce we have all worked very hard to devictimize ourselves and express ourselves in much more safe ways. Dr Lehman’s tools have been instrumental in fixing our behavior. What a difference love and respect make in finding happiness in being a mother rather than aggression and power!



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