You’ve heard it a hundred times, “A great manager can motivate anyone.” Hogwash.

The fact is some slackers simply don’t care and are beyond motivation.  And it’s a waste of your limited time and energy to keep trying.  If you’re sick and tired and stressed out because you’ve accepted responsibility for motivating slackers, prepare for the inevitable effects of continued frustration and emotional pain.  You’ll be exhausted, burn out and get physically ill.

Unfortunately, managers often find themselves pressured to motivate everyone.  And both they and their bosses may see these managers as failures when they can’t pull it off.  It’s time to give them a break.

To read the rest of this article from the Business First of Louisville, see: Don’t stress out trying to motivate slackers http://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/stories/2007/05/28/editorial3.html

Many slackers are like teenagers who don’t want to take out the trash or clean their rooms.  They pretend they’re not responsible or don’t know how.  They act as if there’s a debate going on between them and their managers, and they don’t have to do the work unless they like the bribe.  Slackers are sneaky, manipulative bullies.

Motivating your employees is an important part of being a good manger.  It’s also important to recognize the ones who can’t be motivated, so you don’t waste time trying to do the undoable.

If they’re not performing, let them know immediately and link consequences and rewards to performanceYou can’t make them happy enough to work hardIf they don’t respond to praise or fear with increased productivity, let them look for a job where they’ll be appreciated for slacking.  Or, maybe, a termination will change their slacker attitude.

You’re not looking for people who require constant motivation and micromanagement.  You’re looking for people who come to you inspired and eager to face challenges, who take responsibility and who succeed.

Keeping a slacker forces good performers to pick up that slack.  You’re simply spreading the stress around so you don’t have to bear the whole burden.  That’s a poor reward for a good performer.  It’s as if you’re saying, “I can count on you so I’m going to give you a bonus of extra work.  We’re going to continue paying that underperforming slacker while you carry their slack in addition to the two jobs you already do.”

The most dismal cases are in organizations that promote slackers to management or allow slacking managers to stay.  That spreads slacking over a wider territory.

In the real world it’s everyone’s job, including a president or CEO, to motivate his supervisors that he’s worth keeping.  Why should it be up to your managers to motivate the slackers on your payroll?  Slackers should be working hard to motivate you to keep them.

Slackers create the same symptoms.  Performance decreases.  Behavior sinks to the lowest level tolerated.  Narcissists, incompetent, lazy, gossip, back-stabbing, manipulation, hostility, crankiness, meeting sabotage, negativity, relentless criticism, whining, complaining, cliques, turf control, toxic feuds, harassment, bullying and abuse thrive.  Power hungry bullies take power.

Don’t waste your valuable people time on slackers.  You won’t make things better being a peacemakerBegging, bribery, endless praise, appeasement, endless ‘second chances,’ unconditional love and the Golden Rule usually encourage more harassment, bullying and abuse.  Stop emotional bullies and stop bullying.

High standards protect everyone from unprofessional behavior.  You can learn to eliminate the high cost of low attitudes, behavior and performance.

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

You’ve seen the sign, or some variation of it: “Clean up your mess.  Your mom doesn’t work here.”  It’s an obvious reminder to the slobs among us that they’re a real problem. But there’s a flip side to this problem: the office “mom” – male or female – who cleans up after the slobs.  That may sound like a good thing, but office moms create their own set of problems.

Office moms come in two flavors; those who clean up the physical debris left by others and “e-moms” who try to clean up other people’s emotional garbage.

To read the rest of this article from the Cincinnati Business Journal, see: Office moms, slobs, princesses stir up distracting soap opera http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/stories/2007/06/25/smallb5.html

There are people who leave physical messes and people who leave emotional messes like hot-tempered, hostile staff no one wants to tangle with and bosses who want go-fers to take care of their personal, menial chores.

The fact is some people are lazy, uncaring and irresponsibleThey act like overgrown children or arrogant princes/princesses expecting to be waited on.  You have to decide which values matter most.  Is it leaving people alone, because of politeness or fear, or setting and enforcing communal standards of behavior, despite resistance?

If you ignore slobs, resentment will grow among staffers who get stuck cleaning up other people’s messes.  Weak staff will also want slob privileges.  Resentment will destroy productivity.

Volunteer office moms clean up other people’s physical messes.  Acting out of courtesy or martyrdom, office moms appear to be benevolent.  But even if they’re happy cleaning up after others, there’s an insidious side effect that can cost more than the immediate benefits.

When someone caters to grown “children,” the latter tend to remain children.  Lack of responsibility about break rooms usually leads to lack of responsibility about team effort.  It spreads to messy, worthless paperwork and incomplete projects.

The most insidious and destructive side of the slob-mom equation are people who dump emotional garbage around the office (e-slobs) and their partners, e-moms, who listen sympathetically and try to clean up the messes.  E-slobs continually vent their hurt, frustration, complaining and criticism.  They want support for personal agendas.

One variant of e-slobs are bosses who want emotional voids filled by endless praise and unconditional love.  They often create loyalty tests for you to prove your love.  For example, they’ll demand that you miss important family events in order to wait on them over trivial matters.

E-moms encourage melodrama and make feelings more important than productivity.

Of course, you want your staff to care about one another, but e-moms and e-slobs take a tremendous toll on overall productivity.  You need to intervene quickly if you have a slob team.

E-moms, e-slobs and princesses create the same symptoms.  Performance decreases.  Behavior sinks to the lowest level tolerated.  Narcissists, incompetent, lazy, gossip, back-stabbing, manipulation, hostility, crankiness, meeting sabotage, negativity, relentless criticism, whining, complaining, cliques, turf control, toxic feuds, harassment, bullying and abuse thrive.  Power hungry bullies take power.

Don’t be a slob or dependent boss who needs an office mom.  Don’t look for a warm, soft, friendly shoulder on which to cry at work.  And don’t waste work time on melodrama.  Handle your feelings on your own time.

On the flip side; don’t be an office mom.  You won’t make things better being a peacemakerBegging, bribery, endless praise, appeasement, endless ‘second chances,’ unconditional love and the Golden Rule usually encourage more harassment, bullying and abuse.  Stop emotional bullies and stop bullying.

Work is about work, not soap opera.  Stick to that agenda and you’ll be better off.

High standards protect everyone from unprofessional behavior.  You can learn to eliminate the high cost of low attitudes, behavior and performance.

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

In a previous article, “Best Methods to Stop Bullying in Schools,” I came out strongly against principals, teachers and school programs that focused only on stopping bullies by understanding, education, compassion, forgiveness and therapy of bullies, without any effective effort to stop the bullying.  They had no strong and firm consequences for harassment, taunting, teasing or physical abuse; or for any of the forms of bullying – overt, covert, verbal, emotional, physical and cyberbullying. Some commentators challenged my views – they insisted that changing the attitudes of bullies should be the major goal of educators and they quoted the parables of the Prodigal Son and the Golden Rule.

These well-meaning commentators, using the parable of the Prodigal Son, said that our hearts should go out to the poor bullies.  They imagined these abusive predators as having horrible childhoods that caused them to turn to bullying to gain control and power, and to boost their confidence and self-esteem.  Just like the Prodigal Son, bullies don’t know any better.

These commentators seemed to think that, just like the Prodigal Son, saving the bully is more important than the feelings of the targets. They think the bully was more of a victim of his upbringing than the people he was victimizing.  They seemed to think that we had an either-or-choice: to focus on understanding, love and forgiveness in an effort to educate bullies or to punish them, make them feel bad and drive them further into anti-social ways of acting.

Therefore, they claimed that all efforts should be directed at educating and rehabilitating bullies.

I disagree.  The choice between educating bullies or protecting targets is a false choice.  I think we must use both approaches and in a specific sequence:

  1. Stop bullies in their tracks with swift, firm, strong consequences for bullying.
  2. With compassion; educate, therapeutize and rehabilitate bullies.

Then, we’ll see which bullies rapidly change their behavior and which will remain narcissistic bullies.

I do not think the one – the bully or Prodigal Son – is more important than the many – the targets of bullying and abuse. I prefer Mr. Spock’s judgment, from the original Star Trek, “Never sacrifice the many for the sake on the one.”  I’d rather protect the many targets of bullying so they’re not converted into victims.  I worry first about the many precious psyches of the targets before I worry about the few damaged psyches of the bullies.  First, create a safe environment for the targets.  Then rehabilitate the bullies, if possible.

Begging, appeasement and the Golden Rule do not stop relentless bullies.

The better analogy is the abusive husband and the battered wife – or vice versa. Would those commentators, who have such tremendous sympathy for bullies, tell battered women to:

We protect the targets.  We remove the bully.  We don’t let the target be subjected to repeated victimization while we get swayed by our sympathy for the abuse we think the batterer must have had when he was a child.

I think that, in general, the first step in changing the behavior of bullies is to have strong consequences.  Then education, compassion and therapy have a chance.  But at least, during that time targets are protected and safe.

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.

Single mom Joan didn’t know what to do.  Her teenage daughter, Mindy, was often so nasty to her that Joan would shake with rage, and cry with pain and frustration. Sometimes, Mindy would call Joan names, tell her how much she hated her, tell her that she was ruining her life, tell her to get out of her room and leave her alone, and demand that she never ask about school.  Even when Joan cooked Mindy’s favorite meals, Mindy would grab and gulp, and never say “Please” or “Thank you.”  Over the phone, Mindy would vent and yell at her mother.

Joan admitted that Mindy had always been that way and she’d always let her get away with it.  Sometimes Mindy was sweet, but then, for no apparent reason, she’d blow up and verbally attack her mother.

Joan could never bring herself to do anything “nasty” to her daughter no matter how negative she was.

What could Joan do to stop her daughter’s bullying?

First, we established that there was nothing really wrong or crazy about Mindy.  She had good self-control with everyone else and was always polite.  Next, we established that Joan wasn’t doing anything bad to Mindy.  Joan was simply Mindy’s punching bag.

Joan had told Mindy how much her behavior hurt. Joan had tried to bribe Mindy and she pleaded with her daughter to stop, but she never took effective action.  She never punished her or imposed serious consequencesJoan might threaten, but then she’d always relentMindy might apologize, but then she’d soon repeat her behavior.  Joan thought she might be letting Mindy get away with being abusive because she felt guilty that Mindy didn’t have a father.

Joan’s reasons for letting Mindy bully her were typical. Joan:

When Mindy went to college, Joan thought her daughter’s behavior would finally change.  But she was wrong.  On the phone, Mindy berated Joan even more.  When Mindy came home for Thanksgiving, she treated her mother even worse.  When Joan suggested that Mindy seek help just in case Mindy was feeling more pressure and stress, and taking it out on her mother, Mindy exploded.

By the time we talked before Mindy’s Christmas break, Joan was desperate.  She felt beaten beyond endurance and she didn’t think she could take much more.  She realized that her own daughter was toxic to her.

By then, Joan was willing to try a new approach:

  • Open a previously unassailable belief system to new data. Joan removed her old definition of “nasty” and replaced it with one that labeled her as being nasty to herself and to the person she hoped Mindy would become, if she continued to let Mindy act nasty to her.
  • Describe the new tactics. Joan would demand the “magic words” again, just like we do when little kids ask for anything.  Mindy would have to say, “Please,” and “Thank you” or she wouldn’t get anything.  Demanding and bullying would no longer be rewarded.
  • Demand high standards of behavior from everyone, especially, from our beloved children. Joan would not let her daughter harass, bully or abuse her; that behavior was no longer acceptable. She wanted Mindy to learn that we must treat best, the people we’re closest to and depend on most.
  • Don’t debate, argue or try to reason extensively about what’s fair or right. She’d simply state how she saw it, what she’d do and then do it cheerfully.
  • Have effective consequences for nasty behavior. Joan would let Mindy show her what consequences were enough, by how much it took for Mindy to change.  The first time Mindy yelled at her over the phone, Joan calmly said, I won’t allow anyone to talk to me that way,” and she hung up.  Despite her fears, she didn’t call back.  Mindy called a few hours later and said, “Don’t you love me?”  Then she started yelling at Joan for not calling back.  Joan said, “I love you so much, I won’t let you talk to me like that.”  And she calmly hung up again.
  • Be sweet, firm and cheerful as we apply consequences.
  • Read “cue cards.” Stay firm and calm by pulling out cue cards we’ve prepared and simply read them as we apply consequences.
  • “If you want something from me, make it enjoyable for me.” When Mindy was nasty, demanding her mother take her to the mall, Joan said, “I won’t be bullied, but I might drive you if you make me like going with you.”  Mindy said, “I won’t suck up to you.”  Joan sweetly responded, “Then I won’t take you,” and she turned cheerfully and left the room.
  • Be open to bribery. When Mindy was nasty at Christmas, Joan read a cue card she’d made, “Be nice to me, you may want something from me, like a Christmas present.”  Mindy said, “That’s bribery!”  Joan sweetly replied, “Yes.  I’m glad you understand.  I work hard for my money and I spend it only on people who are nice to me.”
  • Have them act like a guest in our home. Before spring break, Joan told Mindy that she’d packed up all of Mindy’s things into boxes she put in the garage.  She was converting Mindy’s room into a guest bedroom.  Mindy was welcome to come back as long as she behaved like a nice guest in Joan’s home.  Mindy was furious and began to yell, but Joan hung up.  Mindy later called back and said she’d act like a guest.  Joan was delighted and cheerfully said, “I’m so happy.  I hoped you would.  That’s the kind of relationship I want to have with you.  But you should also have a back-up plan just in case you forget, because I’ll only allow good guests to stay.  Three weeks is a long time and you may forget what the standards are and need to have somewhere else to go.”

Pushing the boundaries.

  • Joan expected Mindy to resist because Mindy had always been able to beat her mother into submission.  She’d still think she could do the same.
  • Joan was prepared and steadfast; she expected Mindy to be nice for a while, then to push the boundaries again.  She was right.  But this time, when Mindy pushed back a little, Joan immediately and sweetly imposed a consequence.

By the next summer, Mindy was treating Joan well.  She was polite, civil and sweet.  Joan was glad to have Mindy stay as a guest that summer, as long as Mindy had a job.  Joan didn’t collect any money, but she knew that if Mindy got lonely and bored, she’d probably slide back to her old, nasty habits.

When should we start requiring good behavior? How about, as soon as we can?  Of course we respond kindly to angry babies.  Of course, the process of teaching them new ways of getting what they want is initially very slow and speeds up the older they get.  So it’s really our good sense and close observation of each individual child’s growth and development that must guide us.

But the goal is always clear.  “We ask for what we want.  But we’ll get what we’re willing to put up with.”

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.

Cindy was up again at 2 AM, infuriated at her mother and her older sister.  They were so mean and cruel.  What they’d said and done hurt so much.  It was like she was a child again, subjected to their verbal beatings.  The more she thought of what they had done, the angrier she became.  She couldn’t stop her racing mind from obsessing on what they’d said. She linked the episode yesterday afternoon to the thousands of times she’d felt the same pain and frustration.  She wanted to beat them, even kill them, or never see them again.  But they were her family and she thought she couldn’t talk back or leave them.  She felt frustrated and stuck.

As the rage took her over, guilt and shame started growing.  How could she feel that hateful about her family?  Maybe they really were trying to help her?  The more she tried to get back to sleep, the more she jumped back and forth between rage and guilt.  She hadn’t seemed to make any progress in becoming a better, more spiritual person.

Cindy is stuck in “The Emotional Motivation Cycle.” The episode yesterday was like the key that started her emotional motivational engine.  And the more she thought about it, the faster ands hotter the engine went.

This cycle can be triggered by external events like Cindy’s mother and sister attacking her, or by thoughts and memories of previous episodes of harassment, blame or put-downs.  Once triggered the cycle repeats and builds in intensity and speed until we are taken over by it.  At 2 AM, in a half-sleep state we are most vulnerable to simply watching it run, as if on its own, and take over our minds and bodies.

Stages of typical cycles are:

  1. Hurt, Pain --> Frustration --> Anger --> Self-Bullying (Blame, shame guilt) --> Frustration -->
  2. Fear --> Run, Freeze --> Self-Bullying (Blame, shame guilt) --> Frustration --> Anger, Fear -->

Of course, the crucial question for each of us is, “What are the repeating stages in our cycle?”  We probably know exactly which thoughts, memories and words will follow in which sequence because we’ve done it to ourselves so many times.

Notice the stage in which we indulge in self-bullying: negative self-talk, blame, shame and guilt; loss of confidence and self-esteem; even suicidal thoughts.

What’s the Purpose of the Cycle? The purpose of the cycle is not really to make us feel angry and bad, even though it inevitably does.  The purpose is to motivate ourselves to make effective action.  Feeling is a tool; make us feel bad enough and we’ll finally break out of the iceberg that traps us and do something so they can’t hurt us again.

The purpose might seem to be to change the behavior of the bullies, but I think a better way of thinking about it is that its purpose is to goad us so that we simply won’t have bullies and their harassment, abuse, nastiness and bullying on our “Isle of Song.”

We may or may not be able to change their behavior.  We must accept that they have free will and they may not stop their toxic behavior.  All we can do is have effective consequences for their behavior and not put ourselves in harm’s way.  If they won’t change, we can’t allow them on our Isle of Song.  We won’t accept their control of us even or especially when they’re righteousWe won’t be slaves, scapegoats or whipping boys/girls.

The major downsides to the Emotional Motivation Cycle method of self-motivation are that:

  1. It can make us too depressed to act.  We make ourselves feel like we did when we were children; all our strength, energy, adult wisdom, determination and skill are sucked out of us, and we feel helpless and hopeless again, like we did when we were children.
  2. If we wait until we’re enraged, we’ll explode and do something ineffective that we’ll regret.  We’ll go too far and then repeat the cycle with emphasis on the self-flagellation.  Or our oppressors will change the subject and use our over-reaction to attack us on a different front.

Two responses, often championed in self-help literature, do not work:

  1. Stop thinking about it.  However, ignoring the insistent call of our spirit is not effective, and who would want it to be?  Our spirit wants us to do something effective; to stop bullying on our Isle of Song.  Nothing less will satisfy our spirit.  Why should we settle for less?
  2. Become more spiritual, understanding, forgiving – act like the Golden Rule requires.  The assumption here is that our unconditional love and perfection will convert bullies and they’ll stop abusing us.  Or we’ll get into heaven faster. That’s simply not true for real-world bullies.  Our spirit knows that also; that’s why it won’t stop bringing us back to the problem.

Instead, I recommend:

  1. At 2 AM, wake up so we can be mentally, emotionally and spiritually strong, not weak.  Get out of bed, eat a little chocolate, shower if you need and plan what to do to act effectively.
  2. Connect with our spirit’s call and pledge to answer it.
  3. Connect with our spirit’s strength, courage and determination.
  4. Then we can coach that inner voice to help us by giving us the necessary strength, courage and determination, and by helping create an effective plan.

But what if the bullies won’t like us or will think badly of us? Who cares what jerks and sociopaths think – just stop them from abusing and harming us?  We don’t owe toxic parents or relatives anything, even if they fed us when we were children.  Good behavior is the price for admission to our Isle; blood, especially bad blood, doesn’t get them on our Isle.  Maybe we can even measure our success by how unhappy they are?

Often, the desire to protect our children from obvious, blatant rotten behavior motivates us to break the cycle and stop the abuse.

We can train ourselves to respond to our spirit when the situation is merely an irritation or frustration.  We can develop good habits that function naturally, automatically, easily.  The more we start listening to our inner voice, the more we’ll respond effectively in the moment of an assault or at the first self-hating thought.

You’ll find many examples of these responses in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” 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.

 

 

Marie couldn’t run a productive meeting.  Even after leadership training to fix the problem, her teams’ meetings lost focus, ran way over their scheduled times and repeatedly became time-wasters. She couldn’t see why she had these problems.  She’d prepared ahead, the meetings had agendas, she solicited input and she always sought consensus.  So what was wrong?

The reason was clear to an outside observer.  She had saboteurs on each of her two teams and she didn’t know how to deal with them.  Their negativity was destroying morale, teamwork and productivity.

To read the rest of this article from the Philadelphia Business Journal, see: Beware meeting saboteurs who can derail effectiveness http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/stories/2009/05/25/smallb3.html

Toxic, manipulative, meeting saboteurs steal everyone’s time, prevent industrious co-workers from meeting their deadlines and increase frustration and tension in the office.  They’re negative, control-freaksBecause of these saboteurs, many coworkers dread coming to work.  Conflict-avoidant managers and coworkers create space for these bullies to flourish.

Marie agreed with my diagnoses, but didn’t know what she could do to stop the sneaky, manipulative bullying.  She didn’t want to be an autocratic, know-it-all manager and unilaterally make decisions.  So, she always scheduled additional meetings at which she hoped the teams could reach consensus and move ahead.

Also she couldn’t imagine how to change the bullies’ attitudes and abuse legally.  She had already dropped hints to both of them, but they hadn’t altered their behavior.

Neither Larry nor Harry thought of himself as a bully or a saboteur, but these terms crystallized Marie’s resolve to stop their behavior, no matter what it took.  She shifted from feeling helpless to being angry and determined.

Then we developed an effective plan that fit the culture of her company.

Learn what you can do to eliminate the high cost of their low attitudes.

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

Inefficient technology and operational systems can suck the energy out of a company.  Bottomless-pit projects are interminable, yielding few benefits from more effort thrown at them.  They’re the subjects of fruitless, time-wasting meetings. But fixing them is child’s play compared to stopping the human “vampires” who suck the energy out of those around them at work.  Unfortunately these narcissistic, bullying energy vampires are all too common.  If you ignore them, they’ll destroy productivity and morale.

Here are a few examples to be on the watch for in your workplace:

To read the rest of this article from the Phoenix Business Journal, see: Stop office ‘energy vampires’ before they suck you dry http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2009/07/20/story18.html

Toxic, manipulative energy vampires steal everyone’s time, prevent industrious co-workers from meeting their deadlines and increase frustration and tension in the office.  They’re negative, control-freaksBecause of these vampires, many coworkers dread coming to workConflict-avoidant managers and coworkers create space for these bullies to flourish.

Even worse, we tend to waste even more coworker time talking about the latest incident, or we take our frustration, grumpiness and anger out on our teammates.  Also, we take our frustration home and waste precious family time venting about the energy vampires.

Interacting with them leaves coworkers feeling drained, as the vampires suck the energy out of those around them, drop by drop.

Learn what you can do to eliminate the high cost of their low attitudes.

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

Some people think that fear and anger are always bad.  Some people think that fear and anger can’t help stop bullies. I disagree.

When used and directed appropriately, fear and anger can help us stop bullies in all areas of life – abusive, violent, demeaning spouses; sneaky, manipulative, toxic parents or adult children; taunting, teasing, harassing, predatory school bullies; dangerous and deadly gangs; bullying bosses or coworkers; or even our worry and anxiety about something general and more amorphous like a poor economy and no savings, no insurance and a huge mortgage payments for a house beyond our means.

Fear

  • Fear is a normal feeling we have in order to warn ourselves of danger.  It's our way of telling ourselves to get ready, mobilize ourselves and take precautions - there might be a saber-toothed tiger lurking down the trail.
  • In these situations, the purpose of fear is to alert and energize us to make our best and most thoughtful responses to the danger.
  • If we let fear grow so big that we’re panicked into fight, flight or freeze, or into our favorite childhood response, we won’t respond effectively.  We'll go overboard.  We'll start begging or we'll run and hide.  And then we’ll bully ourselves with negative self-talk, guilt, shame, perfectionism, remorse and recriminations because we over-reacted and made a mess of things.
  • Our childhood responses were useful when we were growing up.  After all, we did survive; we did live to become adults.  But those over-the-top responses are no longer effective enough; they’re the down-side of allowing our fear to overwhelm us before we respond.
  • The key to success is to act when our warning fear is small so we can engage our brain in planning how to respond.

Anger

  • Anger is simply our effort to mobilize ourselves, to get us in gear to respond, to give us enough strength and power to act effectively.  Most people need some amount of anger when they’re small children in order to get the big people to listen.  Anger is simply motivational energy.
  • But if we let anger build up too much we’ll blow up and kill someone.  Just like the case for fear, our childhood responses were useful when we were growing up.  After all, we did survive; we did live to become adults.  But those over-the-top responses are no longer effective enough; they’re the down-side of allowing our anger to overwhelm us before we respond.
  • The key to success is to act when our energizing anger is small so we can engage our brain in planning how to respond.
  • If we start acting when our anger is merely irritation or frustration, we can engage our brains to develop smart, effective action.  If we wait too long, we’ll make ourselves much too angry; we’ll turn to rage.  We’ll explode and create a bigger mess.  Or we’ll repress ourselves totally and live with those terrible consequences, such as depression and low confidence and self-esteem.

Maybe a good analogy is that if doing nothing is like going zero mph and blowing up is going 100 mph, we need to train ourselves to start acting at 10-40 mph, and to learn skills in that range so we can act effectively.  When we were children, most people didn’t get enough practice of how to act in that range.  As adults, many people still haven’t learned how to act effectively in that range.

Of course, if we respond early and effectively to our hesitation, irritation and frustration in stopping bullies, we can respond more effectively.  Fear and anger are simply warnings (like smoke detectors) and fuel for our engines so we can get to where we want to be.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with those signals or with that fuel.  As long as we act before we’re at their mercy.

Of course, our tactics will be different when we stop bullies in different situations.  But once our energy, courage, determination and power are hooked up to our brains, we have a much better chance of success than if we’re overcome by fear or anger.

We can even learn to respond effectively to the worry, fear and anger that are common at 2 AM when our “Monkey Minds” jump around uncontrollably.

What if our fear or anger seems to become overwhelming instantly and we feel out of control?  Actually, you’ll find it’s not instantaneous; it just seems that way because we’ve practiced soften. For some techniques to overcome worry, fear and anger, see the case studies in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up,” available fastest from this web site.

 

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.

 

 

Friendly, upbeat, helpful co-workers can ease the burden of difficult, stressful projects.  But what can you do about chronically cranky co-workers who make you wish for a snow day or a hurricane? Joe is one of these toxic bullies. He’s the scourge of his office.  It’s hard to tell if he’s unaware of his co-workers’ dismay when they see him or if he enjoys inflicting pain and abuse, and getting his way because they’re afraid of him.  He’s always negative, always angry, always complaining.  He rants about “stupid” co-workers who’ve offended him.  He vents about the “idiots” who run the company and the country.  In any season, the weather’s always rotten.  He “bah, humbugs” any warmth offered him.  He’ll never be satisfied.

To read the rest of this article from the Orlando Business Journal, see: Don’t let continually cranky co-workers ruin your day

Faced with a chronically cranky co-worker, most people try to minimize the pain by:

Unfortunately, these tactics rarely work.  However, there are many tactics you can use to eliminate the high cost of his bullying and low attitudes.

I avoid in-depth psychoanalysis of continually cranky co-workers.  I assume they know the carnage they cause around them.  For them, education is rarely the answerThe answer is simply stopping them.

Of course, it’s much harder to deal with a cranky boss.  Or to look in the mirror and realize that people run for cover when you come over to vent.

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. 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

Being judgmental has gotten a bad name and for good reasons. Our whole world has experienced the horror wrought by people who felt superior and righteous in destroying other people they thought were inferior or even non-human.  Also, in our personal lives, we’ve experienced the damage done by arrogant, righteous spouses, parents, relatives and others who always knew best and felt entitled to taunt, tease, harass, bully and abuse us or to cast us out.

However, it’s a mistake to use these examples of righteous people with poor judgment as proof that:

  1. The process of making judgments is bad.  It’s not.  It’s necessary.
  2. We should accept all perspectives and ways of living in the world as equal or as equally valid.  They’re not.

But that’s all abstract.  The real questions are whether we need to be more or less judgmental and which of our judgments are worth keeping and how.  Take the quick quiz.

Before you take the quick quiz, see “Being Judgmental” as having four parts:

  1. Discerning; making judgments, estimating what the consequences of some action will be, deciding what we like and what we don’t like.
  2. Deciding which ways of behaving are acceptable in our personal space.
  3. Making these boundaries in our personal lives stick.
  4. Getting righteous, indignant or angry when people do what we think is wrong or dumb, or when they don’t do what we think is right or good or best.

Understanding this process, we can now take the quick quiz to help us decide whether you’re being bullied and whether to be more or less judgmental and in which areas of our lives:

  1. Do you ignore early warning signs and get stuck in situations that are painful?  Do you distrust your own judgment?
  2. Do other people often tell you what’s right or what you should do?  Do you need to act more on your own judgment and listen less to other people?
  3. Do you feel like other people or one other person runs your life or decides what you can or cannot do?  Do you accept harassment and bullying?
  4. Does someone else have more control over your time, money, friends or activities?  Do you try to understand, compromise or give in but they don’t?  Are you anxious, stressed or afraid of what they might do?
  5. Do you need to get angry before you act?  Do you often feel guilty or ashamed afterward?
  6. Do people ignore, laugh, argue or avoid what you want when you insist that they act in certain ways in your personal space?  ?
  7. Do people trample over your boundaries?  Do they get away with not changing?  Do you let them stay in your life?  Do they wear you down?  Is life an endless struggle?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions – if you feel bossed and controlled, if you get taken advantage of, if you’re the one who almost always gives in or tries to make peace, if you rarely get your way, if you have to justify everything you do or ask permission before you can do anything – then you’re not protecting yourself enough, you’re not being judgmental enough and you’re not acting based on what you know in your heart-of-hearts to be true.

If you answered “yes,” to most of these questions, you need to act firmly, courageously, strongly and skillfully on your own judgments.  You need to build your confidence and self-esteem.  You need to take power over your own actions, whether the other person likes it or not.

Many people ask, “But how do I know if I’m right or fair or normal in what I want?  How can I demand what I want when I’m not sure I deserve it or if I might be selfish?”

That way of thinking leads us no where.  That way of thinking puts us under the control of someone else who thinks they know better than we do.  There’s no chance for happiness down that path – only submission.

The path that has a chance of yielding happiness and joy and fulfillment is the path of being discerning, of having more and better judgments, and of making our judgments stick in our lives.

Getting angry, righteous and indignant are motivation strategies.  We typically generate those feelings to get ourselves angry enough to act.  The problem with that method of motivation is contained in “The Emotional Motivation Cycle” (See “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up).  This method usually isn’t effective long-term.

Instead, a better method is shown in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks.”  Trust the signals from our guts when they’re just at the level of irritation or frustration, and use the effective five-step process.  When we act based on that level of emotion, we’ll make better plans and carry them out more effectively.

That doesn’t tell us how to accomplish what we need; that doesn’t tell us how to get free from oppression we’ve previously accepted, but that tells us that we must.  All plans and tactics must be designed to fit us and our specific situation.  That’s why we need expert coaching and, maybe, legal advice.  But now we know the direction we must set in our lives.

Many bullies succeed in getting what they want by being angry.  Even if they don’t hit physically, they beat their targets verbally, mentally and emotionally.  And the threat of physical violence makes other people give in.  These bullies have enough control that they haven’t been arrested and sent to prison.  That’s why I think of their anger as a tactic. I’ve coached many of these bullies through the stage of anger management to finally ending anger and creating a different way of Being in the world.

But let’s focus here on what the spouses of these bullies can do in order to have bully-free lives.

For many of these bullies anger is a whole way of life.  Their rage is a tactic operating 24/7.  No matter what’s going on, no matter what we do to try to please them, they always find something to be angry about.  Any moment of peace is just the calm before the storm.

However these bullies got that way – and there are only a small number of typical scenarios – they mastered the use of anger years ago so it feels natural, like that’s who they are, like it’s their identity. They love “revving their engines.” They feel strong and powerful when they’re angry.  They always find good reasons and excuses to be angry, they always find people who are wrong and dumb in the news of the world or in their personal lives.  And they always focus on what’s wrong or dumb, and respond to it by getting angry and enraged.

If something in the moment isn’t worth getting angry about, they think of bad things that happened or that might happen so they can get angry.  Then they “kick the dog” – whoever happens to be around and does or says something wrong, or does or says nothing and that’s what’s wrong.  You or the kids think you’re having an innocent conversation when suddenly you’re attacked for being dumb, stupid, ignorant, wrong, insulting – or simply breathing.

The attack escalates into a listing of all your faults – which loser in the family you’re just like, you’ll always be a loser, you’re lucky to be alive and with them because you’d fail without them.  Their anger is never their fault; you’re always to blame.  Even if they don’t brutally beat you and the kids, the verbal and emotional abuse takes its toll.

Victims feel blame, shame and guilt.  Victims suffer anxiety, fear, frustration, panic and terror.  They lose self-confidence and self-esteem. They feel like they have to be perfect in order to deserve good treatment.  They feel isolated and helpless.  Targeted children often grow up with negative self-talk and self-doubt; they often move on to self-mutilation or rage and revenge of their own.  They often grow up playing out the roles of bully or victim in their marriages.

Seven tips to keep anger out of your personal space:

  1. Don’t be an understanding therapist. Your understanding, forgiveness, unconditional love and the Golden Rule won’t change or cure them.  And you’re not being paid as a therapist.  Those approaches simply prolong the behavior and the typical cycle of anger and rage, followed by guilt and remorse, followed by promises and good behavior temporarily, followed by the next episode of angry and rage.  Or the typical escalating spiral of anger, rage and self-righteous justification.  The reason the bullying continues is not that those bullies haven’t been loved enough; it’s that the behavior is a success strategy.  It’s never been stopped with strong enough consequences that the bully has enough reason to learn a new way of Being in the world.
  2. Don’t minimize, excuse or accept justifications. See anger as a choice.  If you accept that anger is a normal or appropriate response to what they’re angry at, if you accept that anger or any emotion is too big to manage (e.g., that they’re in the grips of something bigger than themselves) them you’re right back to “the devil made me do it.”  That’s the same excuse, even though the modern words for “the devil” are heredity, brain chemistry, what their parents did to them, how they never learned better.
  3. The best thing you can do to help both of you is to have consequences that matter. That’s the only way to stimulate change.
  4. Face your fears. Don’t be defeated by defeat.  Protect yourself.  Be a good parent and model for yourself and your children.  Emotional control – control of moods, attitudes and actions – and focus of attention are the first things we all must learn.  These bullies haven’t learned.  Lack of success in this area gets big, painful consequences.
  5. Make your space anger-free. You and the children are targets, not victims.  Their anger is not your fault.  Dedicate yourself to protecting yourself and the children.  Decide that only behavior counts, not psychoanalysis.  Clear your space.  Don’t give an infinite number of second chances.  Either they leave or you and the kids leave, depending on the circumstances.
  6. Promises no longer count. The lesson for your children is that when we’re very young, we get by on a lot of promises and potential, but when we become older than about 10, only performance counts.  Let these bullies learn to practice changing on other people’s bodies.  How much time do you need before you become convinced that they’ve faced a lot of potential triggers and mastered a different way of dealing with them?  A year?  Two?  Three?  Forever?  Do this because you want and need to in order to have a chance at the happiness you want, in order to have a chance to find people who treat you the way you want.
  7. Be smart and tactical. Of course, the longer you’ve known them, the harder it will be.  Dump angry jerks on the first date; don’t hook up with them.  Get legal advice.  Get help and support.  Get witnesses.  Don’t listen to people who want you to be a more understanding therapist.  File for divorce.  Get custody of the children.  Get the police on your side.

Post #176 – How to Know if You’re Bullied and Abused

Men aren’t the only angry bullies.  We all know about angry, vicious women on dates or in marriage.  There are clichés about venomous wives and mothers-in-law because there are so many.  Everything I’ve said applies to them also.

Many people still have friends that use anger to control interactions.

At work, angry, bullying bosses and co-workers are also clichés because there are so many.  Anger often succeeds at work.  Both the feeling of power and the success at making people do what bullies want function as aphrodisiacs.  And the addiction must be fed.

Be strong nside.  Ask for what you want.  You’ll get what you’re willing to put up with.  So only put up with good behavior.

All tactics are situational so expert coaching is required.  We’ll have to go into the details of specific situations in order to design tactics that fit you and the other people involved.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of people commanding themselves, stopping bullying and getting free.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

During the typical arguing and fighting leading up to deciding to divorce and during the divorce process itself, what should and shouldn’t you tell the kids?  When you think there’s still a chance to salvage the marriage, should you tell them nothing is wrong so they don’t worry?  Should you re-assure them that you and your spouse will be together forever?  In a nasty divorce, should you tell them what a rat your soon-to-be ex-spouse really is?  How can you protect the kids from being scarred and totally messed up later? Whatever you decide, you must deal with each child and situation as unique and design your answer to deal with each child’s questions in an age appropriate way.  And keep adjusting as they grow older.

Think of the process as your needing to peel layers off the children’s concerns.  One concern will lead to another or maybe you’ll return to a previous one.  Saying something one time will not be enough.  You’ll have to return to some issues, depending on the individual, many times.  But don’t make a problem where the child isn’t.

You’ll think very differently if the divorce is amicable or if it’s a nasty, vicious, vindictive power-struggle to the death.  In one case, you’ll probably say “We” a lot while in the other you’ll probably say “I” a lot,.

If it’s an ugly situation, don’t pretend that your ex is perfect.  Be truthful and distinguish between what behavior the kids can count on and what’s just your opinion.  Always ask them to check things out for themselves; like little scientists.  Help them think of reasonable tests; who keeps promises, who’s on time, who are they afraid of, who can they rely on, who blames, shames and guilt-trips?

Some guidelines, not rigid rules:

  1. Don’t allow the “Big Lie.” When the children sense that there’s frustration and tension that sometimes boils over into anger, bullying, abuse or violence don’t deny their kid-radar.  Don’t tell them everything’s fine and that they’re wrong.  The most important verification they need is that they’re sensing and seeing reality.  They must know that there is trouble and that they can sense it.  For example, “Yes, you’re very smart, you can sense what’s going on and your radar is accurate.  That skill will help you the rest of your life.  Sometimes, I don’t tell you what’s happening or why, because I want to keep it private or maybe you’re too young to understand yet or I don’t want to upset you unduly.  But I want you to ask me if you worry about anything.”
  2. The most important assurance they need is that they can be fine. For example, “I know this can be scary and hard and you’ll have lots of questions.  Over time, I’ll answer them as best I can as we work out our new living arrangements.  But the most important thing is that you dedicate yourselves to having great lives.  Never let anything get in the way of that.  No matter how scared or upset you might get, overcome it.  Make sure that you’ll look back on this tough time as just a speed bump in your lives.  Make sure that you’re not bothered much by it.  Your parents’ fights have nothing to do with you.  You’re not the cause of them.  You’re fine.  We just don’t get along.  Your job is to grow up and get independent and find someone you will get along with.  And that this tough time isn’t a big deal in your life.”
  3. Help them overcome uncertainty, insecurity, anxiety, fear and panic. Assure them that you’ll always care for them and take care of them, in whatever way you can.  For example, “We’ll figure out how to be together and be safe and have good times.  I’ll always see that you have the things and the opportunities you really need.  It’s always hard when we’re in a transition or in limbo waiting to see what will happen and you don’t have control.  Your job is to focus on what’s most important for you right now and that’s not the emotional turmoil you’re living in.  The turmoil isn’t your doing.  Your job is to take charge of what you have control over; your moods and attitudes and efforts, which means school.  Make this turmoil as small and colorless in your life as you can.  Don’t step into it; stay outside of it.  This is good training for you in mental and emotional-control.  These are the number one skills you need to learn in order to be successful later in life.”
  4. Help them deal with mean, nasty kids who taunt, harass or cut them out. For example, begin with developing their inner strength, “Not having as much money as we did or having some other kids act mean because your parents are divorcing is not really important.  You can be invulnerable.  You may feel like you need to be liked or be friends with those kids now, but when you’re out of school, with 70 years of life ahead of you, you won’t care what those kids think.  You won’t want to be friends with those kids.  More important, you’ll see that they’re acting like jerks and you’ll decide never to care what jerks think.  You’ll have the freedom to go anywhere and be with anyone so, of course, you’ll choose to be with people who love and like you, appreciate and respect you, and who treat you better.”  Follow up by making sure the school principal stops this bullying.
  5. Some other questions they might have are: Are all marriages doomed, will I choose the wrong person just like you did, will we kids be split up, can I stay at the same school, will my other parent move far away so I never see them again, whose fault is it, do I have to take sides, will I still have grandparents, will I still get birthday and Christmas presents, can I use guilt or my temper tantrums to manipulate you, will I still have to brush my teeth?  Don’t give into them or give them everything they want because you feel guilty, want them to like you more or think their lives are too hard.
  6. Don’t use your kids as your best friends, confidants or therapists. Don’t use them to comfort yourself or as pawns in a vicious struggle.  They’re your kids; they’re not adults or lovers.  Take your emotional pain and baggage somewhere else.  You have to be a responsible adult, no matter how difficult that is.  If you can’t, you should consider making safer arrangements for them.  For example, “This is too painful for me to talk about.  Sometimes I get tired and stressed out, and I blow up or lose it.  I don’t mean to.  When I’m like that, don’t take anything I say seriously.  Suggest that I need a time out.   Your job, children, is to look away and focus on your own tasks so you can have great lives as you grow up.  No matter how hard it is, you have to focus on school and getting skills so you can take care of yourselves when you’re adults.  That’s what’s important.  Your future is what’s most important to me.”

The big message is about the wonderful future they can have.  The big message is that they can/should/must decide to let this roll off their backs.  Even though it’s happening to them, they can be resilient. They can move beyond it and create wonderful lives for themselves.

We adults make a mistake if we worry that when bad things happen, the children are automatically guaranteed to have huge problems later in life.  Looking at them as too fragile and helpless to resist the effects of a difficulty, divorce or trauma is like giving them a terrible thought virus.  It’s easy for them to catch that virus.

Actually, our responsibility is to protect them from that too common virus.  For example, they might tend to worry that since a classmate is so traumatized because their parents are divorcing they’ll be messed up also.  You might say, “No.  You’re strong and wise and brave and you have me to keep reminding you that you’ll be fine.  Stop bullying yourselfTake power over yourself.  So choose to be fine; dedicate and discipline yourself.  Choose to be successful, no matter what.  That’s my wish for you.”

Tell them stories about ancestors or great people who overcame the same or even worse situations in childhood.  For example, “Don’t be victims of what happens to you.  Be one of the ‘Invulnerables.’  Did you know that a study of 400 great people born in the 19th and early 20th centuries found that most of these people had absolutely horrible childhoods?  Yet they were not destroyed by what had happened; they were invulnerable.  They became much stronger.  They had great lives – including wonderful marriages.  You too, my beloved children, can choose that path for yourselves.  Please do.”

Since all tactics are situational, you’ll need expert coaching rather than just guidelines.  We’ll have to go into the details of specific situations in order to design tactics that fit you and the other people involved.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” have many examples of kids growing up under very difficult situations and learning to take command of themselves.  For 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).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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James Jones, the Florida father who boarded a school bus to protect his 13 year-old daughter from school bullies, has been raked through the media for his over-reaction.  He’s apologized profusely that he threatened the bullies and the bus driver who hadn’t stopped the bullying. The episode was captured by the bus surveillance camera.  No doubt about what he did.  The case will wind its way through the courts.  No doubt he should have been more active in contacting the school instead of boarding the bus.  He admits it.

But I think the discussion has focused on the wrong aspect of the situation; on his over-reaction.

The more important aspect is whether there was indeed bullying and, if there was,

  • How come the school principal was unaware?
  • How come the driver didn’t report it?
  • How come the videotapes weren’t scoured to see if there was evidence for the alleged bullying?
  • How come the principal didn’t talk to kids on the school bus about acceptable behavior at the beginning of the year?
  • How come none of the witnesses were willing to come forward, knowing that the principal and teachers would protect them?

A possible answer to these questions might be that there was never any bad behavior on the school bus.  But that would be surprising.  What was your experience on the school bus?  Ask your friends.

Jones, of Lake Mary, Florida, and his wife claim that their daughter, who has cerebral palsy, had been called names and pushed around.  They also claim that they had complained to Seminole County school administrators in the past, but nothing had been done to help their daughter.  Jones told deputies that boys placed an open condom on his daughter's head, smacked her on the back of her head, twisted her ear and shouted rude comments at her.

The response of the school administrators is the usual, “We didn’t know; they never contacted us.”  They focused on Mr. Jones’s over-reaction instead of on the alleged bullying on the bus.  “Changing the focus” is a typical tactic of bullies and people trying to gloss over their failure to respond effectively.

We don’t know the facts.  School bus tapes haven’t been scanned.  Complaints to the school officials by the Joneses haven’t been documented. However, I’m suggesting that in too many cases, school administrators are not proactive in creating an environment in which:

  • Every kid knows that bullying is wrong and won’t be tolerated.
  • Adults are monitoring areas in which most bullying occurs.
  • Every child (every potential witness) knows what to do and that their reports will be confidential and they’ll be protected.

The huge outcry in support of Mr. Jones demonstrates the lurking fear that all parents have: principals, teachers and staff too often look the other way and don’t actively protect our children.  There’s the lurking fear that our child will be the next bullying-caused suicide.  We empathize with Mr. Jones’ frustration and anger.

I’d be more likely to believe the school principal if he or she stood next to Mr. Jones on nationwide television and said things like, “Yes, Mr. Jones over-reacted, but we won’t tolerate bullying anywhere at school, we’re reviewing tapes to see if there was bullying, we’re questioning the driver, we’re instituting a strong program to educate all teachers, staff and kids that we won’t tolerate bullying.  We’ll get the facts in this specific case.”

I disagree with the supposed experts who say that parents shouldn’t intervene, even if the targeted children can’t protect themselves, for example, because the number of bullies is overwhelming or because the child has cerebral palsy and can’t protect herself, like Mr. Jones’ daughter.

I think we simply have to know how to intervene more skillfully so that, when necessary, we know how to force inactive, lazy or reluctant principals to act.  For example, if the Joneses had been more skillful in documenting their complaints to the school, if they really did, there would be a clear paper trail of every interaction with the school administrators, including administrators’ signatures on minutes of every conversation and the Joneses would have copies.  Individualized coaching is crucial to developing this skill.

More important than psychologists’ claims that “when [parents] jump in and [intervene], it helps the kids actually feel worse because they feel less control, they feel like they can't handle themselves and they feel defenseless without the bodyguard there,” is that when children actually are overwhelmed or helpless, they know that they’re protected by responsible adults.  They can learn to protect themselves better as they grow more independent.

Mr. Jones’ daughter was helpless to defend herself.  The stress, anxiety and fear are greater because she wasn’t protected. Let’s focus on the real problem; bullying on the bus, near the lockers, on the playgrounds, in the bathrooms, in the hallways, in the cafeteria and everywhere else bullies feel safe to attack their targets.

You can see or listen to “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” for many examples of how to stop bullies.

Let’s analyze a worst-case scenario for loving, caring parents. You were pretty good parents but one of your children has turned out toxic – not a psychopath but someone who acts like she (or he) hates you.

It’s not your fault, but she blames you for not giving her everything she wanted or wants now, she’ll be sweet one moment and then abusive, vicious and hateful the next, she harasses and bullies you relentlessly when she wants something; she tries to involve the rest of the family in her schemes and feuds.  Or her boyfriend or husband hates you and she goes along with it and it gets worse every year.  And they’re narcissistic losers; they barely have enough money and you know that they’ll leech off you forever if you let them.

It breaks your heart, but finally you realize that you can’t help by giving them what they can’t earn themselves.  They’ll bleed you dry and still blame their problems on you.  They’ll bully and abuse you forever if you let them.  So you expect to live your whole life with the emotional pain of knowing that, despite your best efforts, you planted a bad seed.  But at least you can distance yourself physically and monetarily.

But that’s not the worst-case.  The worst-case is when that toxic child has children.  Your daughter has let you play with your grandchild, let you grow to love him and vice versa.  Of course he loves you; you’re the sane rock in his life.  He’s safe around you – no craziness, no yelling and screaming, no lies and broken promises, and no anxiety, brutality or manipulation of his affections like in his interactions with his mother and father.  You treat him with loving kindness and he can trust what you say.  When he’s with you he’s not stressed out; not blamed, guilty and abused for everything he does wrong.

The worst-case is when your daughter starts blackmailing you emotionally.  She won’t let you see your grandchild unless you play her games and give her everything she wants.  She raises the ante every day.  You know she lies to your grandchild about you and why he doesn’t see you.  It’s worse if she’s divorced because then you get jerked around and thrust in the middle by her ex-spouse and his family.

You love your grandson.  He’s important to you, you’re important to him and you hope you can be a lifeline to help him make a better life than the chaos he’s growing up in.  But no matter what you do, it’ll be wrong and your daughter will blame and abuse you.  There will be days when you want to run away, leave no forwarding address, change your names and fingerprints, get new social security numbers and telephones.  But you won’t because of the hope you can help your grandson.

What can you do to stop the bullying and extricate yourself from a horrible situation?

  • Usually there’s little you can do legally.  It’s hard to exercise “grandparents rights” if your daughter or her spouse won’t let you.  You can consult a lawyer and learn to document enough evidence to show delinquency and neglect so you can get custody, but that’s a faint hope.
  • You have to make one of the hardest decisions for anyone; how much will you sacrifice in order to get any time with your grandson?  Realize that no matter what you decide, your heart will be broken thousands of times until he’s independent and maybe even for your whole life.  Recognize also that nothing you do will change your daughter – this pain and violence to your spirit will go on as long as she has any control over your grandson.  Understand that she will trample any boundaries you think you’ve set.
  • There is no magic bullet that will cure her.  You won’t bring her to her senses, help her to act reasonably and consistently, make her to keep her promises, convert her to see that the child is better off with you or get her away from a controlling husband.  Even if you act reasonably, she won’t.  You’ll never understand why she does what she does; she’s selfish, nasty and changeable from moment to moment.  You’ll be embroiled in her painful games and anger as long as she controls your grandson.  Each episode will rip you apart.
  • Suppose you choose to get as much time with your grandson as you can; what are the best things you can do to help him?  Most people choose this path.  After all, how can we give up, turn our backs and live with our broken hearts?
  • In a loving couple, most grandparents differ over how much time and money they’re willing pay and how much pain they can stand for the privilege of seeing their grandchild.  Love each other and keep working with that difference, knowing that both your hearts are broken anew every day.  Don’t let this drive a wedge between you.
  • Plant seeds in your grandchild He sees the truth but he’s told by his parents that his vision is wrong.  He needs to learn to trust his vision.  He needs you to tell him that what he sees about his home and parents is true.  He’s not crazy – he didn’t do anything to deserve it; it’s not his fault; it’s just the way it is.  That won’t confuse him; that’ll reinforce his confidence and self-esteem.  He needs to know who’s jerking all of you around and the price you all have to pay as long as he’s in their clutches.
  • Collude with him to lie to his parents.  Strong children – survivors – sense what they need to do in order to stay safe in a chaotic and hostile world.  For example; he can’t say he’s having too much fun with you; that he loves you too much; that he’d rather be with you.  He already knows what he has to hide.
  • Make a safe place for his heart and his favorite stuff.  With you, he can dream big and not get his dreams crushed or used against him.  Keep your promises consistently.  Let him express his frustration and anger.  Anger is better than apathy or depression.  You can express your helplessness.  At your home, don’t let him use the tactics he sees at your daughter’s home.  Appeal to his better nature.  Be very gentle with correction and discipline; he gets yelled at enough at home.
  • Prepare him emotionally and spiritually for the future.  The more he can ignore his crazy parents, the better.  Keep a spark alive in him that by biding his time, one day he’ll get free.  He has to stop the bully in his head.  When he’s 18 (to pick a number) he can leave and make his own way.  Remind him of all the great and wonderful people who escaped from cages and prisons.  He owes your toxic daughter, his mother, absolutely nothing.
  • Prepare him economically for the future.  For him to live free he must plan to become monetarily independent.  Depending on his brains and talents, he has to develop a marketable skill, even if his parents don’t like it and he has to do it in secret.  Help him do that now and when he leaves home.
  • You’re unique – make up your tactics as you go along.  Get support to vent and help to plan.

Many children are too weak to overcome their toxic parenting.  But there are always some who are invulnerable to horrible circumstances, some who keep that spark alive and get free from the cage or prison they’ve been trapped in.

Your heart insists that you try to help your grandchildren.  For clear examples, read in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” the studies of how Kathy, Doug, Jake and Carrie got away from manipulative or toxic parents.  Also, see the example of teenage Stacy bullying her mother.

In almost all cases where the child flies free, they never look back and neither do their grandparents.  If they or you look back, you’ll be turned into pillars of salt.

Endure the pain because of the hope.  Good luck.

Self-bullies wallow in perfectionism, self-doubt, self-questioning, blame, shame, guilt and negative self-talk.  Real self-bullies run themselves down and beat themselves up in almost every area of life.  But even people who don’t use self-bullying tactics normally will condemn themselves if one of their children turns out incompetent or toxic. A hundred fifty years ago, the fad was to think that if children turned out bad – weak, lazy, apathetic, unkind or uncaring – they had made bad choices; it was the child’s fault.  But as Richard Friedman points out in his article in the New York Times, “Accepting That Good Parents May Plant Bad Seeds,” the recent fad has been to blame the parents.

We’ve grown up thinking, “there are no bad children, only bad parents.”  Therefore, when one child turns out bad, parents will vent their frustration and pain on themselves by continually asking, “What did we do wrong?  What did we do to deserve this?

After all, if we know who’s to blame and what they did wrong, we’ll be able to figure out how to fix it.  That’s not true, but what else can we do?

Even though you didn’t do anything particularly heinous to that child – no physical, sexual or emotional abuse, brutality or torture – therapists usually reinforce your responsibility and guilt by blaming some mistakes you made; you weren’t 100% consistent, one or both of you weren’t around enough; you didn’t give the nasty, needy child enough love, toys or enough discipline.

Of course, surly, rotten, loser children also reinforce this attitude; it’s easy for them to blame parents in order to take themselves off the hook.  You’ll hear these now-adults complain, “It’s your fault, if only you gave me more stuff or love when I was younger; if only you give me the stuff I want now, I’d be fine.”

But after giving time after time, at some points parents have to look in the mirror and say, “It’s not our fault.  We didn’t do everything that child wanted, but we didn’t do anything particularly bad.  He or she still acts like he’s entitled to everything he wants.  That child is simply angry and maybe hates us.  Maybe he or she is just a weak or bad seed.  If we continue giving, he’ll suck every drop of blood from us and drag us down, all the while complaining that it’s our fault.”

So when do parents decide, “that’s enough!  We have to protect ourselves from this toxic person, our beloved child, who will poison us if we allow him to.”

I am saying that there are children who grow up nasty, surly, rotten and toxic, and it wasn’t your fault; you didn’t do anything to deserve it.  Whichever bandwagon of explanations you jump on – they have a defective gene combination (they were born sick mentally or defective emotionally) or they choose to be the way they are – the effect is the same.

No matter how much you love them or give them, no matter how much you beat yourself up, no matter how much you feel guilty because you don’t like them, you won’t be able to rehabilitate them.

People do not have an unlimited potential to change and develop by any methods we know or will know.  Instead, while you’re trying to reason with them or rehabilitate them, these toxic predators will take everything you have and eat you alive.

So stop beating yourselves up; stop wallowing in self-doubt and self-flagellation.  Give up shame and guilt; they’ll only prevent you from doing what you need to do.  Of course, we’re less sure that it wasn’t our fault if an only child is the bad seed.  If other children turned out well, we can see more easily how that toxic child turned out the way he did on his own.

Once we start questioning ourselves, our imperfections, negative self-talk, self-hatred and self-loathing will keep us stuck; weak and easy prey.  We won’t have the strength, courage and perseverance to stop toxic children.

Face the problem thoughtfully and carefully, just like you’d face any other situation in which someone is trying to take everything you have and harass, abuse and torture you in the process.  Of course this is different because your heart will be broken endlessly, anxiety and depression will become constant companions and the selfish, hate-filled and hateful child will continue blaming on you.

Plan tactics that fit you and your situation; know your limits and what you’re capable of doing.  Take your emotional tie and the unending pain into account when you plan tactics.  Get help to keep you strong, courageous and persevering.

I know that’s not a specific list of “the seven steps that are guaranteed to make everything fine.”  There are no guarantees of success.

But there is the wisdom that has been clear since the beginning of recorded history.  The first and necessary step is to see clearly.  Then become the one of you who has the grit, resilience and skill to stop a predator; even a predator you love.  Only then will you be able to carry out an effective plan successfully.  Anything less and that beloved predator will ravage you.

For a clear example, read in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” the study of how Paula slowly succeeded with her teenage daughter, Stacy,

This is about the opposite side of the coin from the toxic parents and grandparents that many people have experienced. One of the saddest cries for help I hear is from nice, kindly, well-meaning grandparents whose daughters have given in to their controlling husbands.  Their daughters don’t come to visit and don’t bring the grandchildren, they schedule visits and cancel at the last minute, the daughters and sons-in-law won’t allow the grandchildren to receive presents, the sons-in-law blame the grandparents because everything they do offends them and the daughters take his side and become verbally abusive in every attack.

The poor grandparents try everything, but no matter what they do they’re blamed.  When they try to point out what’s happening, their daughters attack them.  According to the daughters, the grandparents are completely at fault.  Their husbands are reasonable and correct.  The grandparents are blamed for what they do and blamed for what they don’t do.

The grandparents see their daughters isolated from their former friends and families, not allowed access to computers and not allowed to have cars.  And yet, their daughters accept that treatment and defend their husbands.  They see their daughters harassed, bullied and abused but don’t know what they can do to stop it.  The frustration and helplessness are agonizing.

What can you do for now? I’m sorry, but there isn’t much you can do.  Until your daughters are ready to get away from their controlling husbands, there isn’t anything you can do.

If you ever see fresh and obvious evidence of battering or beating, or obvious evidence of child neglect or abandonment you can report that.  But be sure that’s what it is.  You don’t want to get identified as a person who “cries wolf.”  Of course you’ll get blamed, but you get blamed for everything anyway.

You might offer to take the grandchildren on trips without their grandparents.  But beyond that, there’s not much you can do for now.  Since your daughters aren’t minors, they’re entitled to live their own lives, no matter how horrible we think they are.

Stop self-bullying I’m talking to grandparents who were decent parents.  I’m not talking to negative, controlling, toxic, abusive bullies.  Don’t wallow in blaming yourself or trying to identify the specific incidents of bad parenting that led your daughters to accept their husband’s abuse and to hate you.  It’s not your fault.  Every one of us didn’t like some of the things our parents did and most of us got over it.  Probably, your daughters were fine before they met the sons-in-law.  Your daughters have chosen a different path for now. Stop the negativity and bullying self-talk.  That destroys self-esteem and leads to depression.  That won’t make you behave good enough or the right way to finally please your daughters and their husbands.  Forgive yourself when you’re provoked and lash back.

Plan for the future Keep writing to your grandchildren, keep sending gifts to them and keep a record.  Someday, you may have an opportunity to show them the truth.  Try to hold your tongue quiet and don’t engage in arguments about who’s right or how badly your daughters treat you.  You might say, “I know you look at it that way.  That’s your privilege.  But there’s another side.”  Don’t explain the other side; simply state it.

Allow your daughters to create distance.  Accept the treatment for now and hope and pray for the future.  You don’t want to push your daughters further into their husbands’ control because they don’t want to face your, “I told you so.”

Go have a wonderful life in all other areas.  Keep your focus on the rest of life as best you can.  I know that’s hard but that’s what you’ve been given.  It’s like the weather; snow and sun, drought and hurricanes.  And you don’t get to choose.

An article by Hillary Stout in the New York Times, “For Some Parents, Shouting is the New Spanking,” focuses on the damage to children done by parents’ shouting and, therefore, the need for parents to control their tempers. Although I agree that a steady diet of shouting and bullying isn’t a good way for well-meaning, devoted parents to act, the experts in the article miss the real source of the problem and, therefore, the real solution.

Those experts point out that the proper way to be a good parent is “never spank their children,” “friend our teenagers,” “spend hours teaching our elementary-school offspring how to understand their feelings,” “reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3” and “have a good interaction based on reason.”

I disagree with their basic assumptions about good parenting and their solution that parents should control their tempers.

Of course, repeated sarcasm, criticism, beatings and abuse are bad parenting.  I’m talking here to frustrated, well-meaning, devoted parents; not abusive bullies.

Good parenting sometimes involves spanking, has nothing to do with “friending,” is not focused on teaching children to merely understand their feelings and is not usually about good interactions based on reason.  Reason is only a small part of being an effective parent, especially when the children are young.

Children are exquisitely adept at knowing your true limitations and which buttons to push.  It’s a survival skill for them.  They know exactly how many times you’ll yell before you act.  They distinguish between yelling and threatening that won’t be followed up, and the “Mom” or “Dad” look and voice that means you will act.  And they perform a precise calculus based on how much they’ll get the next time versus a punishment and your guilt this time.  They know when they can get unreasonable and stubborn, and win.  They also know that if you blow up and yell now, they’ll win later.

Winning those battles won’t increase their self-esteem.  Pushing their parents around will make them insecure.

What leads to repeated shouting is frustration.  Those parents have so limited their allowed responses that they’re no longer effective – the kids know that they don’t have to do what the parents want and nothing serious will happen.  Those parents have taught their children to be stubborn and unreasonable in order to win.  See the case study of Paula as she stops being bullied by her daughter Stacy in "How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks."

Those parents’ lack of creativity and effectiveness increases their frustration until they blow up and shout.  Then those parents feel guilty, apologize, give the kids more power and set in motion the next cycle of not getting listened to leading to more frustration and further shouting.

The solution is for parents to take charge and be parents – speak and act straight.  Decide – as age, stage and specific kid appropriate – what decisions you make and when the child simply must obey, and what decisions the kid gets to make and within what limits.  In your areas, it’s nice if the child understands your needs and reasons, but you’ll never convince a two or sixteen year-old by reasoning that your way is best and they should be happy not getting what they want.

Sometimes you must be firm about your sense of urgency, which is not matched by theirs.  Sometimes, your needs and wishes must be taken into account.  You’re not their slave or servant all the time.  They don’t get what they want every time.  More important than helping them understand their feelings is teaching them how to deal effectively when they’re feeling demanding or angry or frustrated or needy.

And some kids seem to want to be punished sometimes.  Really, they do.  And they feel much better afterward.  When you’ve gone through the sequence of reminding and timeout without effect, a spank is sometimes the best thing to do.

Your frustration and shouting is a message to you that you’re not being effective.  You need to do more than merely learn the latest technique; you need to change the limits you place on yourself.  That will open up other ways to making them do what you need when you’re under pressure.

Good parenting means that you can say, “Here’s the way it is.  I need to move fast and I insist that you do the same.”  Or “You don’t vote on this decision and we’ll talk about it later.”  Of course, you will talk about it later.  Or “I’m not taking you there today.  I need to unwind right now over a latte.  I love you.  Now go read and leave me alone for a while.”  Of course, most of the time we devoted parents will take them to places they want to go.

Don’t reason more than once with a five year-old who doesn’t want to brush her teeth, “You’re making a bad decision,” as those experts suggest.  Simply say, “In our family, we brush our teeth, so you will.”

It’s not, as those experts say, that “Yelling parents reflect a complete inability to express themselves in any meaningful, thoughtful, useful or constructive way.”  It’s that yelling parents aren’t allowing themselves to express the right thought, which is that “I, the parent, am drawing the line here and you will do what I want.  I have good reasons.  I hope you understand now and I know you’ll understand later.  But even if you don’t understand, you will do what I want now.”

In addition to what I learned professionally, we have six, now-grown children who taught me that well-meaning parents yell when they’re irritable, anxious, pressured, overwhelmed and frustrated because they don’t know how else to make things work for them

"Energy Vampires" are bullies at work.  They’ll suck your motivation and drive, and destroy morale and productivity.  But because they’re usually not recognized and labeled as bullies, they’re allowed to flourish. Rather than give a wordy description, let’s identify and label some common examples of their bullying:

Rather than give a wordy description, let’s identify and label some common examples of their bullying:

  • The Know-It-All.  He’s right about everything – what the president should do to solve everything, why our sports teams lose, why kids are worse today, what’s wrong with our education, health, and legal system, why the ocean is blue.  Arguing with him is a waste of time and most people have stopped trying.  But just hearing his voice gets you too frustrated and angry to get back to work.
  • The Angry Victim.  Her life stinks because everyone picks on her or “the system” is a mess and doesn’t adjust itself to her needs.  She’s indignant if you dare to disagree or if you’re not sympathetic or helpful enough.  If you don’t give her all the credit she wants, you’ll pay.  Since she goes on and on about co-workers and bosses who are jerks, you know she’ll run you down to everyone if you don’t please her.  There’s no reasoning with her; she’s too angry to see anyone else’s side of things.  So you try to be invisible or walk on eggshells.  Of course, you’re too scared to be productive or creative.
  • The Blackmailer.  He won’t give you the reports or data he’s supposed to unless you listen to him babble for an hour.  You’d better listen or he’ll bad-mouth you publically as unfriendly and not-a-team-player.  He won’t send things electronically; he insists on lengthy personal contact.  By the time you’ve told four friends his latest antics, you’ve wasted half a day.
  • The Mousy Victim.  She’s hurt and weepy, but tries to put on a brave face.  Everything anyone says or does hurts her feelings; she’s a genius at taking things the wrong way.  Her hyper-sensitivity has rallied everyone to come to her defense and cater to her every whim.  She creates a continual soap opera revolving around her hurt feelings.  Everyone must take their precious time and energy to salve her feelings and bring her identified persecutor into line.  The result is another day focused on melodrama instead of work.
  • The Loud-Mouthed Bigot.  He frequently makes sexist, racist and other intolerant and vicious remarks about co-workers and anyone else who attracts his attention.  He’s more interested in broadcasting his opinions and winning arguments than in getting work done.  If you engage him, you’ll come away too drained and angry to get back to work.
  • The Bore who’s Fascinated With Her Life.  She’s so wonderful and important that you must listen to all the excruciating details of her life – especially the very personal ones about her bodily functions or love-life.  You want to close your door and hide.  In order to appear caring, you almost feel compelled to tell her similar details of your life.  She counts on your politeness not to throw her out.  In this case you feel more slimed than drained, but you’re still too upset to get back to work.
  • The Whining Slacker.  He’s lazy and won’t lift a finger to meet deadlines; he’s a no-show at crunch time.  He whines, complains and wants sympathy and help.  Everyone has to pitch in and do his job or the team looks bad.  He’s never grateful and doesn’t return the effort to help others.  Since they keep paying him for slacking, you grit your teeth and feel like slacking also.  Slacking is a communicable disease.

These energy vampires control the turf and productivity plummets.  They leave a wake of frustration and anger; co-workers and managers feel drained by every interaction, like someone took a quart of blood.  And then we go home and drain our families, either by repeating the details of what happened or by taking out our frustration and stress on our loved ones.

These vampires go from team to team, leaving a wake of corpses, but hiding their harassment and abuse behind good-sounding excuses and justifications.  It’s always someone else’s fault and everyone’s against them.

You can’t change a vampire by begging, bribery or appeasement.  The first step in stopping these workplace bullies is to recognize and label them.  You must maintain your individual boundaries, protect yourself from getting emotionally drained or enraged, and get back to work.

Energy vampires can be purged by a concerted effort of managers and their teams.  If you aren’t willing to do that difficult work, you must start looking to work in another department of your company or for a new company.  But wait; there’ll be vampires there too!