5 Ways You Might Be Bullying Your Kids

October is National Bullying Prevention Month where the major focus for kids, tweens, and teens is on how we can work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages.

Cheryl Butler
3-minute read

Bullying comes in many shapes and sizes including those who are the ones bullying. You don’t have to be a kid to be a bully; sadly, adults can be bullies, too. And that includes parents. In some cases, the bullies that cause the most damage are parents.

Here are five ways parents might be bullying their kids without even realizing it.

1.) Yelling

Somewhere along the way, many of us learned that raising our voices, leading to full-blown yelling, was going to result in getting our way or changing someone else’s behavior or actions. When it comes to our kids, this is not only devastating and scary to them, it’s also hurting their self-image. It makes them feel they are not capable, that they are worthless and are useless. As parents, we don’t want other kids, teachers, coaches, or adults raising their voices to our children, so maybe we need to think about that the next time we are about to lose control and yell at them ourselves.   See Also:  How to Stop Yelling at Your kids

2.) Putting Down in Public

There’s a wonderful adage that has been around for ages—criticize in private, praise in public. This is a terrific rule of thumb when we are trying to correct our kids about something they’ve said or done that isn’t pleasing.  Always remember how you feel when you’re put down in a public forum, it feels lousy and can have lasting, negative impacts.

3.) Being a Spectator at Athletic Events

When a child (regardless the age) joins an athletic team and participates in public with his/her team, the emotional stakes are high. Passionate child athletes are driven to perform at the best of their ability and work together with their fellow players to not only strive for a win, but more importantly to work together with their teammates.  When they do something such as strike out with the bases loaded, or miss the goal with only seconds to go, the last thing they (or anyone in the vicinity) needs to hear is “Who is that Kid? He stinks! How did he earn a place on this team?”  We need to remember that these are kids. Even professional athletes flub the touchdown pass or don’t make the putt.  Disparaging comments such as these can be like a sucker punch to a kid who is trying his/her best.  See Also: 6 Ways to Encourage Good Sportsmanship

4.) Being Too Controlling

Another form of parental bullying that can sneak under the radar screen is being too controlling. This happens when we over scrutinize what our kids choose to eat, how they dress, the hobbies that interest them, and those they choose to hang out with. In addition, loving to disagree with their stance on things they find important, invading their privacy, and not allowing them to have any say in household matters, rules, and responsibilities. Kids need to have some sense of control in their own environment so they will learn to adapt and adjust when they do eventually have more freedom as they grow and spread their wings.

5.) Focusing on the Negative

By nature, human beings crave to be accepted and acknowledged. This is no different for kids—young or old.  When we tend to focus on all that a child does wrong—“Your grades are too low,” “You never get your homework done on time,” “You are too loud and hyper,” or “Why can’t you be more thoughtful like your sister?”—rather than what they do right—“That was terrific how you stuck up for your little brother on the playground today!” “Thanks for making sure the dog got a walk when I had to work late tonight,” or “I love how you always wake up with a smile"—we draw attention to what’s not working rather than all the things that are great! Tweaking the focus to what is positive rather than what is negative can boost a child’s self-esteem a mile high!

Please share your thoughts about bullying on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page!
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.