Let’s begin talking about how not to raise spoiled brats by listing the top seven methods that do create lazy, selfish, narcissistic, arrogant, entitled, bullying tyrants. The underlying attitude that creates demanding, abusive bullies is the false idea that if children are never thwarted or forced to do what they don’t want to, they’ll be more creative and happy, and their self-esteem will be higher.  This attitude is very prevalent among the helping professions; especially therapists and teachers.

What I say may anger people who think in black-while, all-none terms.  Those people think that the only choices are total freedom and praise, or beatings and total repression.  How silly to think that way.

My top seven attitudes, approaches, techniques, methods to create willful, domineering brats and teenagers are:

  1. Always give them everything they want and give them control of every decision.  Teach them that if they don’t get what they desperately want at the moment, they’ll never be happy.  Never force them to do what you want.  Always try to get them to understand that you’re right, so they’ll willingly do what you want them to.  Don’t act until they give you permission.
  2. Never correct them or say, “No.”  Help them think they’re sensitive, weak and fragile.  Be afraid that if their feelings are hurt, they’ll never get over it.
  3. Never show displeasure or tell them that they failed to meet your expectations.  Always tell them that their efforts are good enough; no matter how pathetic the results.
  4. Always tell them that they should succeed instantly or that what they can’t do easily isn’t important.  Tell them that hard work and struggle aren’t important.  Blame everything that they don’t like on other people (bad friends, bad teachers, bad schools, bad society), not on their insufficient or mediocre effort.  Always tell them that the world is supposed to be fair and to make them happy.
  5. Be afraid that if they’re unhappy or angry, they won’t love you.  Always try to be their confidant and best friend.  Give in to their fits and temper tantrums in order to get them to stop.   Train them that you’ll give them whatever they want if they throw fits in public.
  6. Always excuse their bad behavior because they’re “cute” or “creative.”  Always excuse them from chores because it’s no fun for them.
  7. Instead of calmly applying consequences whether they like it or not, always let them misbehave without correction or consequences.  Hold your tongue or repeatedly tell them not to do something, but don’t actually do anything effective until you can’t stand it anymore and you throw a fit.  Never smack their bottoms or grab them to make your point or to let them know that sometimes they will do what you want, no matter what – even though that’s the only thing that will get them to do what you want.

If you start these approaches when they’re infants, you can create manipulative, demanding teenage bullies who think they’re entitled to everything they want and you’re supposed to provide it.  They’re the kind of children who may be living at home when they’re 40.  Will you wonder why, deep down, you don’t like them any more than they like you?

Of course, don’t go to the other extreme and beat them into submission.

Don’t give in to guilt when you thwart them with your, hopefully, high expectations.  Don’t give in to coddling and wishful thinking when they try to wear you down.

Think of the qualities you want them to develop and give them many opportunities to practice.  Here are nine, for example:

  1. Will, self-mastery, courage and discipline.
  2. Emphasis on action and seeking solutions instead of blame.
  3. Grit – determination, dedication, drive, commitment and focus.
  4. Persistence, perseverance, patience, endurance and tenacity.
  5. Resilience, flexibility and humor.
  6. Comfort in change, ambiguity and the unknown.
  7. Heroism in the face of discouragement, so you’ll treat obstacles like speed bumps.
  8. Taking calculated risks and making the most of opportunities and luck.
  9. Learning from great models, heroes, mentors and coaches.

Without your guidance and discipline, they won’t magically develop those qualities when they’re 25.

Stand up and say that you do know better.  Don’t give in to bullies; especially when you love them.

See:  How Not to Raise Spoiled Brats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8g8wbgKKcs

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Suppose your toxic parents want you to forgive them for the way they treated you years ago.  They sound sincere and they say that they need you to nurse them now that their health is failing.  They don’t have enough money to live well so you should support them like they once supported you.  Also, they need your help to deal with a health-care bureaucracy they don’t understand. Can you forgive them and do what they want?

Forgiveness is a loaded word. To most people, especially toxic ones, forgiveness means not only you opening your heart to them, but also you giving them what they want.  At the very least it means increased relationship and, usually, endless arguing and debating, endless servitude.

But, suppose also that, trying to help them, you’ve bounced between anger and feeling guilty.  Suppose that the last ten times you’ve forgiven them and tried to be a dutiful child, you’ve gotten entangled in painful interactions.  Every time you get close, they try to control you and you feel angry again.  They don’t listen to your needs; they think their need to have you help them is more important than your values of independence and freedom.

Forgive them and move far away – physically, mentally and emotionally. What I mean by that is:

  1. Forgive them, have compassion for their struggles, and also stop thinking about them – about 2 minutes a week might be okay.  Forgiveness means that you don’t replay all the old incidents; you don’t get angry; you don’t try to justify yourself in your eyes or theirs; they occupy very little of your mental and emotional space.
  2. Get far away physically so there are no more incidents that will trigger you again.  End contact by telephone, email, social networks.
  3. Test the relatives and acquaintances.  Who begs you to relieve them of the burden of taking care of your needy parents?  Who tries to twist your arm so that you take care of those toxic parents?  Who tries to convince you that you still owe those toxic bullies loyalty and duty?
  4. You don’t have to confront your toxic parents.  You can simply tell them the way it is for you – calmly, firmly; no debates, no arguments, no justifications, no asking for their approval or permission.  Don’t waste your time in further confrontations.
  5. When they pursue you, keep your distance.  Don’t engage.  Of course they won’t respect your desires and boundaries.  They’ve always known what’s right.  Disappear again.

Think of your personal space as a target with a bull’s eye and many concentric circles going out from the center.  The more toxic people are, the further away from the center of your life you move them.  Every time someone pollutes your environment, for whatever reason, move them at least one circle further away from you; or more if they did something you particularly don’t like.

If someone apologizes, do not move them closer.  Watch their behavior.  How long before they revert to the old harassment, bullying or abuse?  Keep moving them further away.

What if they don’t want you to forgive them?  They just want you to forget what happened and do what they want and need now.

What if they’re angry at you for what they claim you did?  What if they want you to apologize to them before they’ll forgive you?

In what circle do you want to put your toxic parents? You’re in charge of your personal space.  “Because I want to” is more than sufficient reason for placing them in any particular circle and moving them closer or further away.  At what circle do you drop them off your map?

I’d also take the same approach with toxic friends, extended family and adult children.

It’s your life; take charge of it.  Be the hero of your life.

Many situations are examined in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids.”

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Nowadays, even young children talk back, roll their eyes, are sassy and snarky, and demand to know why before doing what parents want.  These kids act as if they can set all the standards, know everything and are entitled to express their thoughts and feelings in any way they want about anything. Many parents think this is their toughest disciplinary problem.  Many parents want to know why this behavior has trickled down from teenagers through tweens to children.  Is this behavior the result of the bad influence of the media – television, movies, internet – or their peers?  If so, these parents think, how can we control what children are exposed to?

These parents are looking for their solution in the wrong place.  These parents want to change the whole world so that the world sets the behavioral standards they want for their children.  These parents are looking outside themselves for the answer to what they see as a problem, when the answer lies within them.

Some hidden assumptions of the parents I’ve seen are:

I disagree with all of those assumptions. The problem is the well-meaning parents who won’t set the boundaries, limitations and standards, despite the difficulties.

It’s really simple, although not necessarily easyAnd it’s not a new difficulty.  We parents must:

The sooner we start, the easier it will be.  However, even if they’re a year from leaving home, start this minute.  Don’t let them think that the best way to get things from people they need (us) is to be nasty to them.

I’m not talking about becoming a bully, a “Tiger Mom.”  I am suggesting that we stand up to our responsibility to set standards that will help kids succeed in the world.

For some examples, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” available fastest from this web site.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

Harry defended himself by saying that he was following rules he’d heard in training: to increase teamwork, bring people together often; review production in your group often so you can keep people on track; give immediate feedback in public so everyone can learn from one person’s mistakes. But Harry is a micromanager.  Instead of making things better, he made them worse. He created frustration and dissention and stifled his staff’s initiative.

To read the rest of this article from the Philadelphia Business Journal, see: Micromanagers just don’t know when to let up http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/print-edition/2010/10/29/micromanagers-just-dont-know-when-to.html

Micromanagers rarely have enough time for the important tasks.  They’re too busy managing the minutiae.  Of course, good managers make sure important tasks are done right.  But micromanagers think everything is a priority.  They can’t distinguish between what’s crucial for them to be doing with their own hands and what’s a waste of their time.  They’re usually nit-picking perfectionists with all-or-none thinking.

Micromanaging is usually driven by narcissism and fear.  Harry thought he was the only one who knew how to do things right.  He was afraid that if he let others forge ahead, they’d fail and his career would be derailed.  Also, he was afraid that if he gave his staff freedom, someone might outshine him.

Breaking the micromanaging habit is difficult.  Typically, as in Harry’s case, understanding when and why he developed the habit didn’t change his behavior.

But there was a way Harry’s manager could eliminate the high cost of Harry’s addiction to low attitudes.  She could help him change his behavior.

All tactics are situational.  Expert coaching and consulting can help you create and implement a plan that fits you and your organization.

Harry defended himself by saying that he was following rules he’d heard in training: to increase 

teamwork, bring people together often; review production in your group often so you can keep people on

track; give immediate feedback in public so everyone can learn from one person’s mistakes.

Post #156 – BulliesBeGoneBlog Stop Bullies: Ignore Their Excuses, Justifications http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2011/02/28/stop-bullies-ignore-their-excuses-justifications/

Post #194 – BulliesBeGoneBlog Stop workplace bullies who beat you up with the rules http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2011/10/12/stop-workplace-bullies-who-beat-you-up-with-the-rules/

But Harry is a micromanager.  Instead of making things better, he made them worse. He created frustration

and dissention and stifled his staff’s initiative.

Post #190 – BulliesBeGoneBlog Be wary of these business animals http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2011/09/27/be-wary-of-these-business-animals/

Read more

To read the rest of this article from the Philadelphia Business Journal, see: Micromanagers just don’t know when to let up http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/print-edition/2010/10/29/micromanagers-just-dont-know-when-to.htm

l

Micromanagers rarely have enough time for the important tasks.  They’re too busy managing the minutiae.

Of course, good managers make sure important tasks are done right.  But micromanagers think everything is

a priority.  They can’t distinguish between what’s crucial for them to be doing with their own hands and

what’s a waste of their time.  They’re usually nit-picking perfectionists with all-or-none thinking.

Post #14 – BulliesBeGoneBlog Top ten ways to create a hostile workplace http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2008/02/26/top-ten-ways-to-create-a-hostile-workplace/

Post #114 – BulliesBeGoneBlog Self-Bullying Perfectionism Can Ruin Your Life http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2010/04/12/self-bullying-perfectionism-can-ruin-your-life/

Micromanaging is usually driven by narcissism and fear.  Harry thought he was the only one who knew how

to do things right.  He was afraid that if he let others forge ahead, they’d fail and his career would be

derailed.  Also, he was afraid that if he gave his staff freedom, someone might outshine him.

Post #52 – BulliesBeGoneBlog 7 Signs of narcissistic control-freaks http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2009/02/05/7-signs-of-narcissistic-control-freaks/

Post #19 – BulliesBeGoneBlog Stop verbal abuse by a know-it-all-boss http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2008/03/19/stop-verbal-abuse-by-a-know-it-all-boss/

Post #117 – BulliesBeGoneBlog Stop Bullies at Work: Control Freaks http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2010/05/04/stop-bullies-at-work-control-freaks/

Breaking the micromanaging habit is difficult.  Typically, as in Harry’s case, understanding when and why

he developed the habit didn’t change his behavior.

Post #198 – BulliesBeGoneBlog Micromanagement is a double-edged sword http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2011/10/26/micromanagement-is-a-double-edged-sword/

Post #88 – BulliesBeGoneBlog Stop Bullies: Will Knowing Why Bullies Keep Abusing Us Help Us Stop Them? http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2009/10/04/stop-bullies-will-knowing-why-bullies-keep-abusing-us-help-us

-stop-them/

But there was a way Harry’s manager could eliminate the high cost of Harry’s addiction to low attitudes.

She could help him change his behavior.

BulliesBeGone Books and CDs http://www.bulliesbegone.com/products.html

All tactics are situational.  Expert coaching and consulting can help you create and implement a plan

that fits you and your organization.

Post #63 – BulliesBeGoneBlog Workplace Bullying and Harassment: Recognize Common Techniques Bullies Use http://www.bulliesbegoneblog.com/2009/03/25/workplace-bullying-and-harassment-recognize-common-techniques

-bullies-use/

BulliesBeGone Hire Ben http://www.bulliesbegone.com/hire_ben.html

Many children are raised with a set of rules such as: “Don’t make anyone uncomfortable.  Don’t hurt people’s feelings.  Don’t upset anyone.  Don’t be disagreeable.  Don’t argue.  Be polite.  Be nice.  Follow the Golden Rule.  Make everyone like you.”  But those are not effective rules for adults in the real-world. Of course, we know why we teach children those values.  Who wants to raise hostile, nasty, argumentative, vicious, abusive bullies?

I’m not encouraging bullies to be nastier.  I’m talking with nice, decent adults who are being harassed, tormented, controlled, abused and bullied, and yet who hesitate to speak up or to protect and defend themselves effectively because they don’t want to break those childhood rules.

Mary is a typical example.  She held her tongue in public when her toxic mother abused her.  She held her tongue when relatives criticized, mocked and demeaned her.  She held her tongue when friends told her what she should do to be the good friend they wanted.

She held her tongue but she built up huge resentment that eventually exploded.

With friends and a few relatives, either she’d get in a fight so she could be righteously angry, blame them and never talk to them again or she’d nurse a cold fury until she felt justified in simply cutting them off completely without explanation.

With her parents, she’d explode and tell them off.  Then she’d feel guilty for being so mean and she’d come back groveling and apologizing.  Nevertheless, she still felt she was the one who’d been wronged and she resented the price her toxic parents made her pay for forgiving her outburst.

With strangers, she sat quietly and never shared what she thought or what she was interested in.  She didn’t want to make them uncomfortable and she was afraid of hurting their feelings or raising a subject that would be contentious.  Most people thought she wasn’t very bright.

Mary was also a master of self-bullying. She’d flagellate herself with self-doubt and self-questioning.  She’d obsess on every slight taken or given and always end up blaming herself.  And she’d judge herself as guilty, no matter what they’d done to her.  She was never perfect.  Her anxiety, stress and negative self-talk led to sleeplessness, loss of confidence and self-esteem, and to depression.

Mary had two underlying and interlocking problems:

  1. The set of rules that made “not upsetting people” her most important value, no matter what.
  2. Having only all-or-none responses of holding back totally or exploding.  In a sense, she could remain at zero mph or she could go 100 mph, but she didn’t know how to go 30-60 mph.

The solution to the first problem required that Mary examine, as an adult, the rules she’d accepted all-or-none when she was a child.  Children do think in black-or-white but adults have more experience and wisdom.  Mary could see the kernel of value in her old rules, even though her parents had used them to control her all her life.

But as an adult, she could see where those rules were insufficient and what changes were necessary:

  • She felt the pain of all the times she’d made those rules the most important ones instead of protecting herself.  She could now see situations in which speaking up or pushing back verbally in order to defend herself were more important values.
  • She could see the difference between people sharing their tastes and opinions, versus having an angry exchange with someone trying to convert her to their “absolutely right” way of seeing things.
  • She could also see which subjects she simply didn’t want to discuss with which people.
  • One of the most compelling moments was when she saw which people she did want to disagree with, whether or not they were uncomfortable or had hurt feelings, because to be “nice” to them would have violated her most important values.  In fact, she reached a point where making a few people, like her toxic mother, uncomfortable or angry was a sign that Mary was on the right track.

She changed her old, out-dated and ineffective beliefs to new, effective ones, encapsulated in the phrase, “Not hurting people’s feelings is a much lower priority than protecting myself or being myself.  I’ll speak what I think and say what I want in the nicest, firmest way and if they don’t like it, it’s their problem.  That way I’ll test whether I want to allow them to be on my Isle of Song.

That simple change gave her a rush of peace, freedom and energyShe felt powerful enough to create the life she wanted, which was more important that not making anyone uncomfortable.  She now had the will and determination to learn how to be skillful in protecting herself.

How she learned to respond clearly, simply, kindly and firmly from 30-60 mph will be the subject of another article.

Expert coaching by phone or Skype helps.  We can design a plan that fits you and your situation.  And build your will and skill to carry it out effectively.

We’ve talked about the first two important steps to stop bullying, abusive spouses:

  1. The first step toward freedom is to use experts’ checklists to recognize and label our spouses’ behavior as “bullying” and our demanding, controlling, narcissistic, abusive spouses as “bullies,” in order to generate our own power.  We may use that power to re-enter fights with renewed vigor and a new sense that we’re right.
  2. The second step toward our bright future is to ask our inner expert.  We ask ourselves, not if they’re bullying, but if we don’t like what they do.  We know what we like and don’t like; we know how much we like or hate it; we know what we’re willing to compromise about or put up with and what we’re not.  Begin with our judgment and act on that judgment.  Since we know what we want, we don’t have to change bullies or get them to agree or get their permission.  We simply test them to see if they’ll act the way we want.

Each step in the sequence gives us more inner power, strength and courage to do what we need to do; to stand firm on the standards of behavior we’ll allow on our island.

There’s a third step in which we take charge of our personal space and our future.

Yes, when we label them as bullies we stop forgiving, excusing, accepting justifications; we stop begging, appeasing, bribing; we stop thinking that reasons, logic, unconditional love, forgiveness or the Golden Rule will cure them; we stop hoping and pretending that they’ll suddenly see themselves as we see them and they’ll change; we stop negative self-talk and self-bullying.  Instead, we fight to protect our emotions and spirits from further destruction.

But many bullies, especially stealthy, covert, manipulative, controlling bullies, love to fight.  They win when they keep us engaged in fighting because they’ll never give in.  For us, it’s a fight for our souls; for them it’s a fight to the death.

Here are two examples of women with demanding, bullying, abusive, controlling, philandering husbands who made that third step and then chose different tactics.

For years, Maria and Jean had tried everything they could think of to change their husbands.  They’d tried every expert method, every friend’s advice, every magic trick, every way they could think of to become perfect wives, every form of therapy but their husbands hadn’t changed.  Well, maybe those spouses had become little more tricky in their justifications.  But their spouses didn’t change their behavior.

Through personalized coaching, both women reached the point of saying, “That’s enough!”  Actually something deep within both of them shifted completely.  They were released from the need for debates, arguments and therapy; from reasons excuses and justifications; from fighting about who was right about their husbands’ behavior.

You know how you can bend a paper clip back and forth many times and you can still make it hold paper.  But one bend too many and it snaps, and you can’t ever glue it back together again.  It’s broken irreversibly.  That’s what happened.  They snapped.  The need to keep trying had snapped.  That’s enough! They were done.

That happened to Maria and Jean.  They were done with hoping their husbands would change, they were done with looking for exactly the right words to say or with trying to be good enough to deserve good treatment; they were done with debating, arguing and therapy.

They were now acting on their own gut standards and for the benefit of their hearts and souls.  That’s real power.  Gone were their begging doubt, hesitation, self-questioning, negative, self-bullying self-talk, insecurity, lack of confidence and low self-esteem.

Now they focused on behavior – and they took different paths that fit each of them.

Jean said, “I’ve gotten divorce papers.  If you behave in that rotten way, I’ll file them.  But if you behave in the nice way I want, I’ll hold off until the kids grow up and leave home.  Then we’ll see what we’ll see.  If you’re nice for a while but fall back into the old patterns, I’ll immediately file; no more chances.” Her study is included in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” available fastest from this web site.

Maria took a different path.  She felt that her husband’s behavior was way over the top and he was setting a bad example for their son.  Also, if she stayed, she’d be setting a bad example for her daughter.  So she divorced him.

Both of their husbands tried to continue debating and arguing, citing experts and friends and family, who asked if the wives had done enough, if maybe they’d tried more or if maybe they fixed what was wrong with them, the men would finally change.

Both Maria and Jean had the same answer from their guts.  “Those thoughts, ideas and possibilities don’t matter anymore.  I’m done.  I’ve had enough.  I’m not wasting my time in talk anymore.  I love him but I’m done with him.  It’s over.  Maybe I’ll find love somewhere else.”

They both felt a surge of power, confidence and esteem at having acted based on their opinions, gut feelings and desires.  Both had taken charge of their personal spaces and their futures. Both worked hard to make their choice as good as possible for their children.  Both were successful.

The hardest part for Maria was to deal with friends and family who, for their own personal reasons, tried to convince her of what they wanted her to do.  They wanted to judge and debate in order to convince her that what they thought was, indeed, right.  She finally had to tell them that the subject was off limits.  They’d already expressed their opinions.  Now, if they wanted to be with her, they had to stop.

The key to both successful lives was in following the internal shift – the gut that said, “That’s enough!”

Notice, that’s the same step the most successful people take when they have toxic parents, toxic children or toxic relatives.

Of course I have to explain what I mean by that stark statement.  I use the words “power” and “empowerment” to refer to different ideas.  You may have other words to describe the difference.  The difference is much more important than the particular words used.  Power has gotten a bad reputation but I want to bring it back as one of the essentials in life. Most people I meet say they want to be empowered in the sense that they want other people to listen to them, respect what they ask for and act toward them in decent, respectful ways.  What I hear is a sense of being given something – respect, civility, being taken seriously.  Notice that there’s no common form of the word that allows us to take empowerment whether or not the other person wants to give it to you.

Maybe a good example of what I object to in this use of the word empowerment was captured in a commercial for Hummers that lasted for only a short time.  It showed an upscale young woman with her 4-5 year-old son having fun at what looked like a public playground.  Suddenly a large, coarse, crude looking woman was there with her large, crude, coarse 4-5 year-old child.  The bully shoved the upscale child aside and took over the slide they both wanted to use.  The upscale mom glared at the other mother, who glared right back.  The upscale child looked crushed and did nothing.

The upscale mom was fuming but said and did nothing.  Instead, as the next scene showed, she bought a new Hummer and was happily driving with her child as the voice over intoned that she now felt “empowered.”

Nothing like a new Hummer to make you feel empowered.  Even though she never said or did anything to protect her child and help him get his turn on the slide.

Power’s bad reputation is because of the many misuses of power that we’re all aware of.  A seemingly logical mistake was to think that since power can be misused and “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” any power is dangerous and bad.

Power is neutral.  Power is the engine that moves us through life.  Power is as necessary as an engine is.  We all know what it’s like trying to motivate or depend on a person who has little or no engine.

Without an engine, nothing is possible.  With a great engine we can get somewhere.  And with a great engine, we must also have a great steering wheel and brakes.  As Spiderman’s uncle said to him, “With great power comes great responsibility.

Unlike empowerment, power is ours for the taking.  We must take power over ourselves and over our personal space.  Freedom isn’t free.  No one can give you freedom and liberty.  They must be fought for and won by each individual.

What does this have to do with taunting, teasing, harassing, bullying and abuse?

When we take power over our inner world, we can also take charge of our outer world.  If we ask bullies to stop but they don’t, we don’t have to beg them, we don’t become victims while we’re waiting for laws, policies and programs to be enacted in order to empower us; we act from our own personal power.

Of course, I don’t mean for us to become murdering vigilantes.  But I do mean for us to act skillfully to protect ourselves and to stop bullies.  We don’t go buy a Hummer to feel good.  We do something to rectify the situation in which there’s bullying or abuse.

Empowerment that’s given, gives shallow and hollow confidence and self-esteem.  Confidence and self-esteem are real and deep when they’re forged by standing up courageously, powerfully and skillfully to challenging situations.

Relentless bullies are predators.  They see weak people as easy targets; they become bolder in their attacks.  They see strong people as difficult or dangerous to them and they go looking for easier targets.

Take power over yourself – discipline and train yourself.  Take power over your personal space – decide who you’ll allow on your islandTake power over your present and future.

Many people still feel like children when their parents boss, belittle, criticize, demean, blame, shame, bully, abuse and guilt-trip them.  The now-adult children still feel afraid, just like they did years ago. Angry, hostile, harassing, taunting parents still elicit the most primitive responses from their adult children – fight, flight or freeze.

How can these adult children free themselves from uncivil, impolite, nasty, manipulative or toxic parents who trample their boundaries?

The first step is always inner change.

Grown children need to mature into adults; to free ourselves from our childhood rules expectations and roles, from our fears and guilts.  In many ways it’s like shedding our old skin and growing one that fits better, or going into a cocoon and emerging as a butterfly.  It’s also just as natural.

We must make up our adult minds and hearts about what we will allow in our personal space.  Will we allow anyone to treat us like a child or simply treat us badly, or will be allow only our parents?  If our answer is “yes,” then we’ll probably be bullied, abused and terrorized by toxic parents for the rest of our lives.

That is a life choice many people make.  If we make it as an adult, not only as a beaten and submissive child, then it’s our choice and we get to live with it.

Many cultures consider that duty, obligation, respect and catering to parents – even vicious, abusive, bullies – as the most important duty of a good child.  It’s often called “filial piety.”  The principle is that we owe them our lives and must pay that debt as long as we live.  If we’re lucky, our children will pay their debt to us in the same way.  Some cultures have been organized around filial piety for thousands of years; it works and is self perpetuating.

However, the negative, bullying, abusive self-talk can corrode our spirit, sap our strength, ruin our focus and destroy our courage.  Looking at ourselves with demanding, toxic parents’ hostile eyes and talking to ourselves with their critical, perfectionistic, never-pleased voices can be demoralizing and debilitating.  Constant repetition of all our imperfections, mistakes, faults, failures and character flaws can lead us down a path toward isolation, depression and suicide.  Don’t go there.

In many ways, the Enlightenment in the West broke with that old tradition of filial piety championed a new way of being in the world.

As adults, we have the freedom and responsibility to make a different choice.  We have the moral right, permission and strength to stand against our parents and other people’s commandments.  We may and can and must choose for ourselves.

We can choose not to look over our shoulders and bow to our ancestors in fear and obedience.  Instead we can look ahead to our descendents with hope.  We can focus on taking care of our physical and spiritual children more than our parents.

The old way was to ask authorities, ask “What’s right?”  Now, we say, “That’s for us to decide.  We will follow the call of our Spirit, not the roles, beliefs and ideas we accepted when we were children.”  Of course, the Enlightenment’s way has its own downsides, but I’d rather have its upsides.

Maturing requires us to stand our Spirit’s ground, especially with our parents and extended family.  The longer we endure what we think of as mistreatment, the more our Spirits will shrivel and die, day-by-day. We must say some form of, “I love you but I’ll allow you in my space only if you treat me like I want to be treated, like you’d treat a person whose affections you’re trying to win.  I’m an adult; treat me nicely, kindly, respectfully and with fear that you might anger me.”

Often, we hold back because of our fears – fear of offending a moral code, fear of the condemnation of the “elders,” fear that we must think they’re evil, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of going too far, fear of our bullying parent’s power and retaliation, fear of being on our own emotionally even if we’re already married and have our own children.  We hold back because of the Golden Rule.  We hold back because we accept their excuses and justifications.

If we hold back, their bullying and abuse will continue and escalate.  If we still try to beg, bribe, please and appease them in order to get them to treat us decently, they’ll keep thinking they’re right and safe in continuing to beat us into submission.  We’ll get what we’re willing to tolerate.

Instead, break the game.  We don’t have to be perfect before they have to change how they act.  We’re not mature until we simply tell them what we want and have rewards if they’re nice and consequences if they continue abusing us.

Many people think that before they act they should do psychoanalysis until their fear is gone.  That’s a seductive trap, especially because it means they don’t have to act.  That way makes us think we’re weak and cowardly – it fills us with anxiety, stress and self-recrimination; we lose confidence and self-esteem; we’re more easily subject to physical ailments; we isolate ourselves and become depressed.

Speaking up and acting to make our words real is the way of courage; it builds strength, confidence and power.  Those fine qualities are developed only by overcoming fear and strong challenges.  Don’t wait until we’re “ready” to act in a way that’s perfect.  Act now; act next time.  We don’t have to be perfect the first time. If we go too far or not far enough, accept no blame, shame or guilt.  Simply adjust so we get closer to the way we want next time…and the time after…and the time after.  There will be more “time after’s.”

Some parents will finally see the consequences of losing contact with us; they’ll change their behavior.  Some won’t.  They also have free will and choice.

We’re not mature until we make an adult decision about what we’ll allow in our personal space and then back up that decision with rewards and consequences.

Of course the predicament is the same for parents with abusive children, or even worse since the children can deny their parents contact with the grandchildren

Remember, all tactics depend on the situation – the people and the circumstances.  We must plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.  With expert coaching and consulting, we can become strong and skilled enough to overcome our fears and hesitations, and parents who won’t treat us right.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” contains the case studies of Carrie, Kathy, Doug, Jake and Ralph taking charge of themselves and stopping bullying parents and extended family members.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

Do we have to decide that a bully is bad, evil and unredeemable in order to stop them or get them out of our lives?  Do we have to be judgmental in order to act – to kick someone out of school, to divorce someone, to sever a relationship, to put someone in prison? Many people think they’d have to be much too judgmental and punitive in order to act.  After all, we don’t know the heart of someone since we can’t really walk in their shoes, and we don’t know who can be transformed or redeemed.

But is that way of looking at bullies true or useful?

Do we have to wait until we’re sure that a bully is evil and unredeemable before we can act?  Is it wrong to be so judgmental about a person’s character?  Can we say that our standards are so much better when someone else has such different ones?

I think that those are the wrong questions.  They’re not questions that will help us; instead they get us into unanswerable philosophic discussions.

I think more useful questions are: “What actions from whom are we willing to have in our environment?  What are we willing to do to remove people who act in ways that are painful, demeaning, denigrating, abusive and bullying?”

By using these criteria about actions, we’re not making any judgment about the person’s character or identity – are they good or bad, are they evil?  We’re not hallucinating about the possibility of their rehabilitation and redemption in the future.  We’re simply deciding what behavior we’ll accept in our personal environment. Doesn’t that change things?  What happens to the hesitation, stress and anxiety in trying to figure out what’s the “Right” thing to do?  What happens to the fear and worry about misjudging someone?

It’s not a matter of being judgmental; it’s simply a matter of choosing how to live in our personal space.  Once we choose our personal standards, we can pay attention to other people’s actions; not their reasons, excuses or justifications; not their character, true identity or the state of their soul; not some grandiose judgment about whose culture is superior.

If or when bullies change their behavior, we can decide how many times we have to see them act decently or over how long a span before we give them more chances to get close.  Or maybe, we’ll never let them get close again.

We’re not required to share time and space with anyone now, no matter what our previous relationship was or how much they want to see us now.  Their desire to date us doesn’t alter our freedom to say, “Not interested.  Go be happy somewhere else.”

We don’t have to have good, logical reasons.  We don’t have to figure out what the “Right” action is.  We don’t have to justify our decisions.  We can just be with the people we feel like because we want to.

It’s not a judgment about them; it’s about how compatible we feel or the dangers and risks we want to take or just because “We wanna or we don’t wanna.”  And we get total control over these choices because it’s about us; not them.  There are no outside rules or social codes that force us to do what we’re not comfortable with.

So keep it simple.  No great philosophical questions; no questions about character, identity or future possibilities, no questions about good or evil, no questions about future possibilities of redemption: only questions about the behavior we want in our personal environment or the behavior we won’t tolerate.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules and simply take charge of our personal choices.  We can become strong and skilled enough to resist being coerced by bullies into doing what we don’t want.  We can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of adults getting over their early training and creating the environment and life they want.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

Sometimes toxic parents think they have us over a barrel even after we’ve grown up, gotten physically and financially independent, and started our own family.  They count on our loyalty to some ideal of “family” no matter how badly they treated and still treat us.  They count on our self-bullying and guilt.  They count on us still trying to jump through their hoops to win their love and approval...  They count on our fear that they’ll manipulate the rest of the family into thinking we’re ungrateful and bad.  And they often count on our enduring the verbal and emotional abuse so we can inherit our share of their fortune. Of course, I’m talking about those toxic parents who are still blaming everything on us and abusing us because “It’s your fault” or “You are selfish, ungrateful and don’t deserve any better” or “It’s your duty to do what they want in their old age.”  They’re the toxic parents who know our every weakness and sensitivity, and still poke them hard when they want too; still find fault with every little thing we do; still compare us unfavorably to someone else or to their standards; still criticize, belittle and harass us and our spouse and our children in public or they’re the sneaky ones who criticize, demean and denigrate us in private but pretend they love us in public so everyone thinks they’re wonderful, loving parents.

Of course, we’ve tried everything we can think of, but the negativity, harassment, criticism, blame, shame, bullying and abuse haven’t stopped.  We’ve tried to do exactly what they want, but it’s never enough.  We’ve apologized and pleaded with them to stop, but that just makes them act nastier.  We’ve gotten angry and threatened not to see them, but they broke down in such tears of distress we felt guilty or they blamed on us even more or they acted nice for a few minutes but, when we relaxed, they attacked us more about something different they didn’t like.

So what can we do now?

  1. For the sake of peace and quiet in the whole family, we could keep trying to endure the abuse while begging them to stop.  After all, we never know; if we only kept trying, if we only did enough, they might change.  Also, they might leave us in the will.  And it’d be our fault if we quit too soon.  Many people fly low until they have children and see their toxic parents either criticizing and emotionally abusing their children or belittling and criticizing them while being sweet to the grandchildren.
  2. We might continue objecting and arguing; enduring our frustration and anger.  Usually this tactic repeats endlessly and often spirals out of control.  Relentlessly toxic parents won’t admit they’re wrong and give up.  Eventually they’ll escalate and cut us out of the will.
  3. We might try withdrawing for a while; not seeing them, telling them we won’t return emails and calls, and then carrying through.  People usually shift from the first two tactics to this one when they see the effect of their toxic parents on their own children.  This tactic sometimes convinces nasty, mean, bullying parents that they’d better change their ways or they’ll lose contact with their grandchildren.  But the relentlessly toxic parents don’t care.  They’re sure they’re fine and they’re sure they’ll win if they push hard enough, like they’ve always won in the past.  So they don’t change and we go back to arguing or we give up or we finally respond more firmly.
  4. The next step is to withdraw for a long time, maybe forever – no contact.  It’s sad but we have to protect the family we’re creating from our own predatory parents.  It’s usually both scary and very exciting.  Most people, despite any guilt they feel, also feel a huge surge of relief, as if a giant weight or a fire-breathing dragon has been removed from their shoulders.  Our spouse and children may celebrate.  Get out of town, go on a vacation, turn the phones and email off.

What to expect and how to respond?

  1. They’ll attack when we withdraw.  Expect them to make angry calls and send hostile emails.  Save these on an external drive or a cheap recorder before deleting them.  They want to engage us, so do not engage endlessly and fruitlessly; no return calls or emails, no hateful or vindictive responses.  We’ve only gotten to this point because they haven’t changed after many approaches and warnings.  We might have to change our phone numbers to unlisted ones and change our email addresses.
  2. They’ll rally the extended family.  Prepare by making cue cards of what to say; no excuses or justifications.  Just tell the family what you said and did, and what you plan.  Ask them not to intervene.  Tell them we’d like to see them but only if our toxic parents are not present.  We’re sorry they’re caught in the middle but that’s life.  They do have to choose who to believe and what behavior to support.  Be prepared to withdraw from anyone who attacks or interferes.
  3. They’ll disinherit us.  When they can’t manipulate us through love, blame, shame and guilt, they’ll try greed.  If we don’t do what our toxic parents want right now, they’ll cut us out of the will.  Don’t be a slave to greed; it’s a deadly sin.  If we want to have a bully-free family life, we’ll have to make it on our own.  The real benefit is not merely ending the brutality, it’s the strength of character and the skills we gain when we make decisions for ourselves and chart our own course in the world.  We’ll end the negativity, stress, anxiety and depression usually caused by toxic parents.  We’ll develop the strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience we all need to make wonderful lives.  We’ll be able to express our passion and joy without cringing, waiting for the next blow to fall.
  4. We’ll have an empty space in our lives.  Even more than the empty physical space we’ll now have at the times when we used to get together with our toxic parents, we’ll have a huge mental and emotional space.  How many hours have we wasted thinking about our parents, worrying about the next episode, dreading what might happen next, agonizing over what to do.  We don’t have to do that any more.  Of course, being weaned from an old habit takes a little time.  We must be gentle with ourselves.  Focus on the freedom we now have.  Now we can think about the things we want to think about; not about pain and suffering, not about past failures.  Now we have space to bring into our lives people who will be part of the tribe of our heart and spirit.
  5. Our children will wonder why.  Tell the kids in a way that’s age appropriate.  Are we protecting them from the verbal abuse of their toxic grandparents or from lies that paint us as bad people?  They’ll want to know what’s going to stay the same.  Will they have fun, celebrate holidays, get presents, have extended family?

The most important lessons we offer our children are not through books and lectures.  Those are important, but the most important ones are the ones they see in our behavior when we’re models of behavior we want them to learn.

Be a model for them of someone who protects himself and them from anyone who would target them, even someone who’s close by blood.  Being close by behavior counts more than blood.  Show them not to be victimized even by blood relations.

Show them to how to be the hero of their lives.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.  We can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules to endure whatever bullying and abuse our toxic parents dish out simply because they’re our parents.  We can become strong and skilled enough to stop bullies in their tracks – even if those bullies are blood relatives. “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of children and adults getting over their early training and freeing themselves from toxic relationships.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

Posted
AuthorBen Leichtling
24 CommentsPost a comment

At every presentation for teachers wanting to stop school bullying, I get asked, “Is bullying normal?When I look at child development, I see that we’re born demanding.  We must demand that our parents feed and change us when we want, not merely when they feel like getting around to it, not at their convenience or pleasure.  As babies, the more strong and tough, the more determined and persevering we are, the better our chances of getting what we need. Therefore, drive, determination, will and perseverance are normal. Asserting our needs and fighting for ourselves are normal.  Grit – perseverance, endurance and resolve – is normal.  All these are normal and desirable qualities.

I think of drive, determination, will and grit as part of our engines.  Without strong engines we’ll never get anywhere.  With strong engines, we have a chance of making wonderful lives.

As we grow, our parents are supposed to teach us how to get what we want or need using methods other than bullying or abuse; using peaceful methods that are more considerate of other people.  Indeed, most of us do learn to ask nice and to use the magic words (“please,” “thank you”).

As we grow, our parents are supposed to keep reminding us to think about how little Johnny or Jane feel when we don’t share or when we take their toys or when we whack them physically or verbally.  And eventually, especially when we feel the pain of being harassed, bullied and abused ourselves, we understand how the other person feels when we bully them.  And we stop bullying in order to get what we want.

If these methods are reinforced and rewarded at home – if we see compassion, empathy and negotiation successfully used within our families, successfully used by our families when dealing with outsiders like clerks, cops and strangers, successfully used on the streets by our peers and their parents – we’re likely to learn these techniques.

But we, individually and as a society, do not admire drive, determination, will and grit without limits.  We do not admire barbariansWe don’t want to raise brutes, thugs and bullies who grab whatever they want and crush everyone in the way.

We will not take our freedom by subjugating or enslaving other people.  We do not admire bullies or tyrants.  We know that if we teach only drive, determination, will and grit, if we preach only Darwinian Survival of the Mightiest we are in danger of creating barbarians.

Therefore, it’s also normal in our society for us to learn not to use harassment, threats, bullying and abuse to get what we want. Compassion, concern, caring, empathy and respect are normal in our society; they’re part of our steering wheels.  We, individually and as a society, value these qualities.

Children are born with drive, determination, will and grit; we teach them compassion, concern, caring, empathy and respect.  A car with a strong engine but a lousy steering wheel will take us no where good.  Examples of societies that lack a good steering wheel are obvious; our own failures are glaring.

At the same time, we do not admire compassion, concern, caring and empathy without limits.  People with these qualities, but with no drive, determination, will and grit won’t survive in the real-world.  They’ll be too weak, afraid and dependent.  Typically, they’ll lack confidence and have low self-esteem but have a veneer of self-righteousness, arrogance and entitlement.

We don’t want our children to become adults dependent on handouts from us or a “Big Brother” government.  We don’t want them to become so dependent on comforts, self-indulgence and entitlements that they won’t fight for their national, political or individual liberty.  We certainly don’t want our kids to become weak, wimpy citizens still sponging off us as adults because the world is too harsh, cruel or difficulty for them.

We want bullies to have more compassion, concern, caring, empathy and respect for their targets.

We want our children to have more drive, determination, will, grit and skill so they’ll be strong and smart enough to stop bullies.  And we want the responsible adults to protect them.  We don’t want to subject our children to continued bullying because we’re overwhelmed with sympathy for the bullies who we assume must be bullied at home and on the street.

Personally I want to make sure my children and grandchildren have wonderful engines.  Then I’ll teach good steering wheels.  And I look at each and ask, “What does that person need more of?”

To function most effectively, we need both strong engines and good steering wheels.  We need the cluster of drive, determination, will and grit, and we also need the cluster of compassion, concern, caring, empathy and respect.

There are many examples of children and adults stopping bullies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids.”  Or call me for coaching at 877-8BULLIES (877-828-5543).

 

Sometimes we need to replay the horrible things that people did to us – whether it was once or repeatedly, whether they were the perpetrators or they stood by or even colluded and ignored the abuse and our pain.  Sometime we need to get angry and vent and imagine all the ways we could retaliate and extract vengeance and justice.  Sometimes we blame ourselves, wishing we could finally win their love and undo the hurt.  During those times we typically say, “It’s not fair.  Why me?  Why don’t they understand and appreciate me?  What did I do wrong?” But in the end, whatever the specifics of our situations, we all know where we have to get to if we’re going to make the rest of our lives worth living.

By whatever process we use successfully, through whatever pain we have to endure, after we stop the harassment, bullying, abuse and torment inflicted upon us, we have two choices – to let our lives be destroyed by the rotten people who abused us or to move on somehow, to create families and lives worth living.

I’m not minimizing the damage and the pain or the time it may take, but throughout history, we see the same pattern in response to individual and cultural or societal horrors.  Some people’s spirits are destroyed by what was done to them.  Other people stay alive and vital.

Examples are all around of famous individuals who turned their backs on the perpetrators and moved on – Maya Angelou and Winston Churchill easily come to mind.  There are also inspiring examples known only to our families.  We must keep our eyes focused on the light at the end of the tunnel of pain – the light that reminds us to keep moving ahead despite the temporary discouragement, depression and despair. What keeps most people stuck in the abyss of pain for years; long after they’re physically and fiscally capable of separating?  Mostly, it’s a combination of:

  • Wanting the perpetrators to acknowledge what they did and to apologize or beg for our forgiveness.  Or wanting vindication and revenge.
  • Wanting the bullies to give us the love or money we desperately desire and deserve.  We waste hours trying to figure out how to say and do the right things so that we’ll finally win the love and respect we want.
  • We don’t know how to stop replaying the pain, which triggers emotional hell and reinforces the connection to the past.

There may be other desires that keep us enmeshed with the perpetrators or with our memories of past abuse but, in order to get free, we don’t need an exhaustive list or even to know the specific one that keeps us trapped.

Real predators – real bullies, abusers, perpetrators – no matter what their reasons and excuses, do not change.  Staying enmeshed in a dance of pain and anger only leads to spiritual death.  On this path, there is no rebirth; there is no new life.

We recognize someone still trapped in the pain and victim talk, not ready to move on when we hear them:

The results of this self-bullying victim talk are clear – stress, anxiety, self-doubt, guilt, shame, panic, low self-confidence and self-esteem; huge overreactions as if everything is a matter of life or death; a life ruled by the past, time wasted circling around the carcass of the past, chewing over the gristle of every past and present episode of abuse. The light at the end of the tunnel is when our spirits rise and make us indomitable and invulnerable, determined and indefatigable; when:

  • We won’t be weighed down by the baggage of the past.  We don’t have to please the perpetrators or excuse or justify our behavior to our abusers and we also don’t have to rebel any more just to prove that we’re independent.  We stop sacrificing ourselves for further flagellation and spurning.
  • The voices of the past become irrelevant; we now make decisions directed by our own spirits.
  • We won’t be at the mercy of external events, especially the past.  Instead we’ll create our own futures, no matter what.

This is the goal of all the talk, catharsis, coaching.  We become our original, fiery selves – strong, brave and determined – and now skilled adults.

In this new state, the fear of failure or success is gone.  We no longer view the world through the lens of “deserve, justify, punish or forgive.”  The emotional motivation cycle – endless self-criticism and self analysis, and then criticism of the criticism, and then criticism of the criticism of the criticism – of the old victim side of us is gone.

We no longer have overwhelming emotional reactions to whatever happens.  Mistakes are no longer life threatening.  Failing at something is no longer a portent of a bleak future.  Doing something wrong no longer consigns us to hell forever.

We ride through these ups and downs, buoyed by certain knowledge that we’ll keep plugging along, doing what we can, following our Heart’s Desire.

From here we can easily recognize other people who are still in the old place – underneath their franticness and self-flagellation, they look and sound like victims, not willing to do whatever it takes to protect themselves; attracting old and new predators.  Predators also recognize easy targets.

From here we can see how boring the victim personality is.  It’s all about their pain and problems, as if that’s really who they are.  They’re still trying to squeeze love or justification from a stone.  They still want to interact with scavengers.

In our new space, we’re interested and interesting, excited and exciting.  We focus on what feeds our spirits; not on endless cud-chewing and psychoanalysis.  We leave the predators behind and seek the families of our hearts and spirits.

The process of leaving the old, victim place usually includes many instantaneous epiphanies, as well as the time necessary to develop new habits through many ups and downs.  But that’s merely a process to leave the old and to be completely comfortable in the new.

When we live in a state of inner freedom, we don’t forget the pain.  We remember that abuse all our lives.  We hold that memory sacred – but we don’t use the pain to motivate ourselves, we convert it to a source of strength and courage to create a new life, a life that’s built on the ashes of childhood dreams destroyed.

As reported by Reid Epstein in Newsday, New York teenager, Denise Finkel has sued Facebook for $3 million because, she claims, it carried a fictitious Facebook chat group to bully, ostracize, ridicule, abuse and disgrace her.  The lawsuit states that former high school classmates, Michael Dauber, Jeffrey Schwartz, Leah Herz, and Melinda Danowitz created the chat room in which they falsely claimed that she had “inappropriate conduct with animals,” and had AIDS, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases. I want to focus on two related areas that I think are more important in the long run.

Of course there will be a lot of furor over whether any or all of the accused four did it and whether Facebook is liable for content that’s not obviously pornographic.  Did Finkel complain to Facebook and did Facebook turn a deaf ear to Finkel’s complaints?  And are the four people guilty as accused?

The first area that I think is more important in the long run is the ongoing effort to make new laws in response to new crimes, especially using new technology.  The natural way that we make new laws begins when some people commit acts not specifically covered under the old laws that have terrible consequences.  We respond by specifically labeling those new actions as crimes, and attach what we feel are appropriate criminal penalties.  Then we see, by trial-and-error, where to draw better lines.  The legal system is inevitably slow, inefficient and never perfect.

Given the increasing number of lives ruined by cyber bullying, emotional harassment and abuse, especially in schools, and the number of suicides stimulated by cyber bullying, I think that our society will make laws specifically stating that false and malicious statements and postings, in addition to pornography, are illegal.  I don’t think we’ll hold carriers like Facebook, MySpace, etc. liable for their postings.  But I think we’ll hold them liable for ignoring complaints about specific chat groups and postings that they continue to carry.

Many states and school districts, including Kansas, Oregon and California are considering such laws to protect children and teenagers from cyber bullying.

One stumbling block in making such laws is where to draw the lines and the hidden assumption that cyberbullying laws can and should be made “just right” for all situations – never too lax, never too harsh.  But the letter of the laws can never cover all situations with “just right” justice.  We always depend on human wisdom in the law’s application to specific situations.  That’s just the way it is – for better or for worse.

And I think that in this area, safety should triumph over cyber freedom.

The second area that I think is more important in the long run is parenting for the specific situations involving our kids and teenagers.  Our job is to monitor our children:

  1. Do they look like they’re having a hard time (maybe being attacked by cyberbullies)?  How can we help them stop bullying on their own or do we need to intervene?
  2. Are they witnessing cyber bullying and are they struggling to know whether or how to intervene?
  3. Are they cyber bullies?  How do we stop them and help them develop the character to make amends and do better next time?
  4. Should they even be on MySpace or Facebook or any social networking sites?  What else would be a better use of their time and energy?

And of course there are no easy answers.  No one is really dumb enough to think there are easy solutions.

There are no safe environments.  Schools and the real world have never been safe.  Schools and social networks are testing grounds for the real world.  And the real world is not and should not be safe.  Facing risks and danger helps us develop good sense, good character and the qualities necessary to survive.  Imagine growing up on a farm, in a wilderness village or in the middle ages.  Not safe.  I grew up in New York City.  Not safe.  Millennia ago we had to learn what a saber-toothed tiger’s foot prints looked like and how long ago they were left.  The world still requires survival skills, even if different ones.

Our job as parents is to teach our children the skills and grit to survive in whichever jungle or battleground they live, and to protect them when they’re over-matched.

For practical, real-world tactics designed to stop school bullies and bullying, please see “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids.”  Individualized coaching can design action plans to fit your specific situation.  Also, the strong and clear voice of an outside speaker can empower principals, teachers and other students to stop bullying and abuse.

There are many methods that even well-meaning parents use to raise spoiled brats instead of wonderful, creative, well-behaved, civil, strong children.  The fundamental factor in raising arrogant, selfish, nasty brats is their parents’ consistency in attitudes, approach and actions. The underlying attitude that creates demanding, bullying tyrants is that if children are never thwarted or forced to do what they don’t want to, they’ll be more creative and happy, and their self-esteem will be higher.  This attitude is very prevalent among the helping professions; especially therapists and teachers.

What I say will anger people who think in black-while, all-none.  Those are people who think that the only choices are total freedom and praise, or total repression and beatings.  How silly to think that way.

What do you see other people doing to train their children badly?

My top 10 attitudes, approaches, techniques to create willful, domineering brats and teenagers are:

  1. Never correct them or say, “No.”  Help them think they’re sensitive, weak and fragile.  Be afraid that if their feelings are hurt, they’ll never get over it.
  2. Always give them everything they desire.  Don’t teach them that they might not get what they desperately want at the moment and that they can still be happy.  Give them control of every decision.  Never force them to do what you want.  Instead, always try to get them to understand that you’re right so they’ll willingly do what you want them to.
  3. Never show displeasure or tell them that they failed to meet your high expectations.  Always tell them that their efforts are always good enough; no matter how good or pathetic the results.
  4. Always tell them that they should succeed instantly or that what they can’t do, isn’t important.  Also, tell them that hard work and struggle aren’t important.  Blame everything that they don’t like on other people (bad friends, bad teachers, bad schools, bad society), not on their insufficient or mediocre effort.  Always tell them that the world is supposed to be fair and make them happy.
  5. Always let them misbehave without correction or consequences, instead of calmly applying consequences whether they like it or not.  Hold your tongue or repeatedly tell them not to do something, but don’t actually do anything effective until you can’t stand it anymore and you throw a fit.
  6. Always give in to their fits and temper tantrums in order to get them to stop.   Train them that you’ll give them whatever they want if they throw fits in public.
  7. Always excuse their bad behavior because they’re “cute” or “creative.”
  8. Always allow them to avoid chores or helping out because it’s no fun for them.
  9. Be afraid that if they’re angry, they won’t love you.  Always try to be their confidant and best friend.
  10. Never smack their bottoms or grab them to make your point or to let them know that sometimes they will do what you want, no matter what.

To raise spoiled brats, consistently give in to them and excuse their bad behavior.  Of course that doesn’t prepare them to succeed in the real-world they’ll face as adults.

If you start these approaches with infants, you can create manipulative, demanding teenage bullies who think that they’re entitled to everything they want and you’re supposed to provide it.  They’re the kind of children who may be living at home when they’re 40.  And you’ll wonder why, deep down, you don’t like them any more than they like you.

But don’t go to the other extreme and beat them into submission.

Think of the qualities you want them to develop and make sure they have many opportunities to practice these qualities.  For example:

  • Will, self-mastery, courage and discipline.
  • High energy, emphasis on action and seeking solutions instead of blame.
  • Grit, determination, dedication, drive, commitment and focus.
  • Persistence, perseverance, patience, endurance and tenacity.
  • Resilience, flexibility and humor.
  • Comfort in ambiguity and productive inconsistency.
  • Heroism in the face of discouragement so you’ll treat obstacles like speed bumps.
  • Learning from great models, heroes, mentors and coaches.
  • Taking calculated risks and making the most of opportunities and luck.

Without your guidance and discipline, they won’t magically develop those qualities when they’re 25.

You’ll find examples in my books and CDs of case studies, “How to Stop Bullies in their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids.”  Of course, coaching can help you design tactics that fit your specific situation.

Posted
AuthorBen Leichtling
13 CommentsPost a comment

The success of Mahatma Gandhi and non-violent protest or non-violent resistance is often cited as absolute proof that such non-violent methods can defeat oppression and stop bullies.  That idea is often linked to the assertions that the world was a simpler place back when people came together face to face, a small group of committed people can change the world and there’s nothing we can’t accomplish. As much as I almost always try non-violent techniques first, I disagree strongly.  You’re better off thinking of non-violent protest as a method, a strategy or a tactic; not as a philosophy.

Let’s examine non-violent protest as if its truth as a philosophy can be tested against history.

Gandhi-ji was successful against the British and I wouldn’t argue that any other tactic he could have employed would have succeeded.  But his success only proves that in that particular circumstance, lead by that unique individual spirit, the tactic of non-violent protest was successful in getting the British to leave India.  Do you think that non-violent resistance would have been effective in India in 1857?  Or that it would help the Indian people now against Pakistan (or vice versa) or against the Muslim terrorists who recent launched their attacks in Mumbai?

I remember Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement.   I was actually in Chicago when he led the march and rally.  Do you think he would have succeeded in leading a march in Chicago in 1920 or New York in the 1830’s (read about the mass atrocities and killings during the riots there)?  Do you think the movement would have succeeded integrating schools in the South without the Federal troops willing to shoot?

Gandhi and Dr. King were in the right places at the right times for the methods they chose.  Would either have even gotten obituaries in the newspapers if they tried non-violent protest in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Bosnia, Rwanda or Darfur, or against the Ayatollah or Sadam Hussein, just to name a few?

The wisdom and lessons of history are clear, whether we like them or not.  They’re found in the great literature of the world, as well as in the facts we know:

  • The world was never a simpler place.  Try living your life on a self-sufficient farm, especially when the locusts or drought or flood or fire comes.  Or when a conquering horde comes over the hill to kill all the men and take the women and children into slavery.  That was dealing with problems face to face.  Remember in the Iliad what happened to mighty Hector’s wife and son.  No unemployment insurance, retirement funds or welfare.
  • A small group of people can change the world.  Usually that’s what has happened, whether they start a Renaissance or a dictatorship or they’re called the Founding Fathers or Mothers.
  • Although there are many things we’ve accomplished through science and technology in the physical, material world, there are many things we can’t accomplish in the organic, living world.  We will never have world peace.  We will never have a global society that encourages and makes possible everyone’s individual freedom.  Power is a reality of human nature, not freedom (as much as we Americans value it).  Protecting me and mine against you and yours, or people grabbing what they want is a reality of human nature.
  • In response to a question about peaceful, non-violent protest being effective when facing Chinese soldiers with machine guns, the Dali Lama said, about two years ago, that had we stood there and prayed and chanted and reasoned, they simply would have shot us all.  Similarly, the Quakers in Pennsylvania were barred from holding office because their peaceful methods did not protect the colonists they served from Indian attacks.
  • History shows that, for the most part, those who succeed practicing non-violence live in caves, deserts, misty mountains or monasteries.  Usually, they live on practically nothing or are supported and taken care of by people who brave the world in which violence is a probability.  For example, Gandhi could live poor and politically active because, in part, he was supported by the efforts and money of one of the richest women in India.

To think that we can have sustainable world peace is to indulge in childhood, magical thinking – very 60’s and 70’s.

So what can we do?  Keep working at it; be strong, skillful and resilient in your efforts; think strategically, being right isn’t enough.

Start with your personal world.  Deal effectively and individually with the bullies you find, whether they be face to face or cyberbullies, bullies at work, home or school.  Help make laws against those behaviors, but if you want society or the government to actively guarantee security, you will create Big Brother and you won’t like the consequences.

Think of non-violent protest and reasoning as initial tactics to employ.  Sometimes they’ll be effective.  Bullies will show you if non-violent protest enough to stop them.  But if non-violent resistance doesn’t stop a bully, you have to be more clever and firm.  History actually shows that usually the best way to prepare for peace is to be strong enough to wage war successfully, despite the seductively catchy bumper sticker to the contrary.  Remember, no method succeeds everywhere and every when.

Prepare yourself to be ecstatic and joyful in the world the way it is, whether you decide to change it or not.  That joy and ecstasy are signs of the saints.  As much as the world is full of all the awful things we can think of, it’s also full of beauty, grace, love and nobility.  Fill yourself with joy in the face of the full range of life.

If you can’t be happy until the world is totally peaceful and all the problems are solved, you’ll have a lousy life.  That would be a waste of your potential for wonder, awe and joy, as well as for effecting change … even knowing that change won’t last beyond your life span.