7 Ways to Deal With the Family Bully

Learn how to respond to the bully in your family


Often people believe that bullying is something that only occurs at school or on the playground. But that is not always the case. Aside from online bullying, workplace bullying and even sibling bullying, bullying also occurs in families among adults.

Sometimes family bullying happens simply because the adult bully has never learned how to relate in a healthy way and other times it occurs because the bully wants to manipulate and control situations.

If you are faced with a bully in your family, here are some suggestions on how to handle the situation.

Avoid getting emotional. When dealing with a family bully, remain calm and avoid acting out in anger or frustration. You cannot control the bully, but you can control your reaction. Write down the incidents and include important details like the date, time, place and type of incident. Doing so will help you identify any patterns in the behavior.

Turn to a family member you trust. Share the details of your experience with a family member or a trusted friend. The key is to find someone you can confide in and who will support you when a bullying incident occurs. What’s more, it is never a good idea to keep silent about the bullying. Telling just one person can help you feel less isolated and alone.

Make a choice. When the bullying occurs, you have a choice. You can leave, fire back with a witty comeback or try to ignore the bullying.

The key is to not give the bully what he wants by reacting negatively or emotionally. Maintain your composure and be respectful. Just because the bully is behaving inappropriately does not give you license to behave that way too.

Establish boundaries. When it comes to a family bully, it is important to create firm boundaries between you and the bully.

For instance, if your husband’s aunt repeatedly insults your cooking and humiliates you in front of your guests, tell her that her comments about your cooking are insulting and you want it to stop.

If she continues, you might want to consider no longer inviting her to your home when you are providing a meal. Make yourself clear and stick to the rules you set. She may never change her behavior, but you do not have to tolerate it just because she is family. Anytime family members continue to cross the line in their treatment of you or someone in your family, you need to limit the amount of contact they have with that family member.

Assert yourself. Anytime someone bullies you, it is important that you learn how to stand up for yourself. Being assertive means that you are honest about how you feel without acting aggressively, engaging in name-calling or being a bully yourself. Be specific about the problem without getting emotional. But be prepared for the bully to challenge your perceptions or tell you that you are being unrealistic or too sensitive.

Do not own these accusations. They are just another attempt to control you or manipulate the situation.

Remain confident. Family bullies are able to quickly discern whom they can control and manipulate. Avoid looking nervous, insecure or defeated. No matter what happens when you set boundaries or assert yourself, stay strong. It’s also important to remain respectful and do not give into any pressures from the bully.

Take time to recharge. Being around a bullying family member can be draining. Be sure to take time for yourself afterwards. Go for a walk. Read a good book. Get a massage. The key is to do something that will help you de-stress and get rid of the negative energy that a bully brings. What’s more, if the family bullying begins to take a toll on your emotional health, be sure you look for a counselor that specializes in the family issues.

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