It’s bad enough when a child is bullied by another child, but when they’re dealing with adult bullies it’s an even bigger blow to their self-esteem and well-being. After all, adults are supposed to be the trustworthy ones, the people you go to when you need help, the responsible ones who tell you everything is going to be okay. Imagine being a child and hearing horrible taunts coming out of the mouth of a trusted teacher, or worse, an adult family member. Teaching your child to deal with adult bullies is a little different than teaching them to deal with bullying from their peers.
Tips to Help Your Child Deal with Adult Bullies
- Explain what counts as bullying in adults. Like child bullies, adult bullies also use physical brawn and emotionally damaging comments to intimidate or scare a child. No one has the right to hit your child, and no one has the right to make your child feel small or scared. Any time those things occur at the hand of another person, it is a form of bullying.
- Set clear rules of what you expect from the adults in your child’s life. If your older brother always thought it was fun to tease you in what he thinks is a fun way, and seems to be continuing that tradition with your children, sit him down and explain that while you know he doesn’t mean to be a bully, his words do hurt and if he can’t speak to your children with respect, he can’t speak to them at all. Let teachers and school officials know you will not stand for them belittling your child too, if you see it starting to happen. Setting clear rules up front shows that you are serious about protecting your child from adult bullies and will not tolerate it even from those closest to you.
- Teach your child from the start that adults are not always right. I think one of the most important things we can do for our children is teach them that adults make mistakes too. Acting like we’re perfect and always right sends a very bad message, because when an adult does something so very wrong, like taunting a child, kids get very confused by the mixed message. They think: If mom says adults are always right, and Mr. Green says I’m stupid, then Mr. Green, by default of being an adult, must be correct.
- Encourage your child to question authority when appropriate. Growing up in my generation, we were taught to not question authority, and it made it more difficult to speak up when we saw an adult doing something wrong. Teach kids that while authority figures who exercise their power properly should be respected, those who clearly misuse that power should be questioned and challenged. This goes along with teaching them that adults aren’t always right.
- Give them clear instructions on how to handle adult bullies. Challenging the adult bullies themselves may not always be the best idea, so let kids know that if they see an adult misbehaving, they should tell you or a trusted adult right away.
- Escalate the complaint to higher authorities quickly. With adult bullies the damage to your child’s psyche has the potential to be quite severe. Deal with it swiftly. If it’s a teacher, contact the school officials right away. If it’s not dealt with, escalate to the school board and then the police. If physical violence is involved, jump all chain of command and immediately file charges with the police department.
Have you ever encountered adult bullies in your life? How did you deal with them?