How to Deal With Adult Bullying in a Family

Stopping adult bullying in a family is a priority because it can affect the mental and physical health of the entire family. Unresolved conflicts can lead to threatening behavior and even violence. There are three different types of bullying behavior – physical, emotional and verbal. The Canada Safety Council defines bullying as a “grab for control by an insecure, inadequate person, an exercise of power through the humiliation of the target.” Stopping an adult bully requires cooperation from the victim. A victim needs to develop the self-esteem to stand up for himself and to say no.

Write down how the bullying makes you feel. Often being bullied arouses strong feelings of anger. Consciously exploring and dealing with these emotions is a vital step to deal with adult bullying. Adult bullying in a family can be directed toward a partner, the parents, the children or a combination of people in the family. If the bullying has been directed toward you, remember that this is not your fault and you should not blame yourself. Adults are responsible for how they choose to treat you. If the bullying is directed towards the children, examine the possible reasons behind this choice.

Role model kindness and calmness. By choosing not to respond to the bullying in an angry manner, you send the message that you are not a threat toward the person. Often a bully reacts in an angry manner, since he regards other people as a threat to him. He may also have experienced a lack of kindness and respect throughout his life. Showing respect for his ideas, thoughts and feelings promotes the development of a higher self-esteem and self-concept. A person who bullies other people lacks self-esteem; being verbally, emotionally or physically abusive is a way to deal with this lack of self-esteem.

Discuss the situation with your children and let them express their thoughts and feelings about the situation. Emphasize that it is not their fault, and talk about the importance of being calm and talking to each other. Invite your children to have conversations with you about the subject, and make sure that they feel protected and that they know that certain things should never be acceptable.

Talk as a family about the situation. According to an article in the Swiss Journal of Psychology, a lack of unity within the family is linked to bullying 3. Research ways to hold a family meeting where you listen to everyone. Make a formal plan where you let everyone express his feelings and suggest different ways of dealing with the situation. If the bullying has recently started, you can involve the bully. In some cases, it may be better to discuss strategies with other family members before involving the bully. Regardless of your decision, inform the bully and invite him to the family meeting.

Research theories together about why this person is bullying other people. Peruse the local library for books about bullying and invite everyone to read the books. Discuss the content in the books. Often it is easier to discuss the behavior of others and the ways bullying is dealt with by the characters in a story; this may help you to find solutions. Search for books written from a bully's perspective; this may help you understand the reasons behind his behavior. Watch films and discuss events where bullying has taken place.

Use assertive responses. A clear, calm voice, well-chosen words and assertive body language calms down a situation. Practice looking people in the eyes, and stand with your feet apart. This helps you deal with a heated situation. Be aware of your own body language, and role-play situations at home where you act and talk in a calm way. Teach your children to use assertive responses.

Schedule time off. The stress of living with adult bullying can weaken you, and this is picked up by the bully, often increasing the likelihood that he will do it more. Spend time every month, week, or day relaxing. This shows the bully that you are taking care of yourself and that you are strong. It also helps you deal with the bullying in a calm manner.

Use relaxation techniques. Meditation and yoga help to focus attention on breathing and body posture. This will help you deal with bullying in an assertive way and manage stressful feelings. Invite the children and your partner, and practice together. Other physical activities, such as walking, cycling or swimming may also help to bring you together as a family. Use positive language, and encourage everyone to participate.


Encourage your partner to seek professional help from a counselor or psychologist.


Seek professional help from a counselor or psychologist, if you are concerned about the well-being of your children. Signs to look for are sudden changes in behavior, sleeping problems, and reports of your child being involved in bullying at schools. Some children who are bullied at home bully other children.

Assertive behavior alone may not have the desired effect if the bullying has already been going on for a while.