How to deal with adult bullying in a family

Updated July 19, 2017

A bullying adult causes rifts and separation within family units by using aggressive psychological behaviour that leaves very little in terms of physical scars and evidence, but potentially lifelong mental trauma for their victims. Power and control usually stand out at the main reasons behind adult bullying and the levels of abuse can vary from something as small as menial nitpicking to physical violence. Adult bullies frequently use tactics that set other family members against each other then feign surprise or consternation when made accountable for their actions.

Spotting an adult bully

Verbal and physical attacks make it easier to identify adult bullies within a family environment but the manipulative measures taken by some aggressors make bullying harder to spot. However, any behaviour that leaves you feeling isolated, threatened or exploited often falls under the classification of bullying. Provoking arguments, preventing other family members from participating in external activities without good reason and accusations of other family members having mental or psychological problems are also prominent indicators. Once identified, dealing with adult bullying becomes easier.

Addressing adult bullying

In most cases, the initial response to identifying an adult bully within a family environment is confrontation but arguments only serve to reinforce the control bullies seek. Instead, make your own personal inner decision to remove yourself from playing the role of the victim. Naturally, standing up to adult bullying will eventually happen but by understanding that domestic issues blamed on your own behaviour aren’t your fault, recovery from victimisation and manipulation will begin.

Confiding in others

The unpredictable nature of bullying, at its worst, occasionally results in physical abuse and by confiding your fears into someone you trust, the feeling of being alone disappears. Exchange accurate details over bullying incidents and if the levels of victimisation threaten to spill over into violence, arrange for your confidant to be around at times when bullying most often takes place. Usually, an external presence will stop immediate bullying and this gives the victim more time to address exit strategies or to approach the subject of counselling with their aggressor. If an adult bully strikes in the company of others, having a witness could help in any future action you choose to take.

Confronting adult bullies

Where no physical threat is imminent, confront adult bullies and expose their habits in a calm, open manner. Never become aggressive or hostile yourself but make it clear you now understand the behaviour of your aggressor is regarded as bullying. Be clear that any future incidents will be unacceptable. Never make direct threats but be concise that continued bullying won’t be tolerated and that you are prepared to go to any lengths possible to address threatening or restricting behaviour. Often, exposure makes a bully reconsider their actions and with sufficient support and counselling, their habits can be broken.

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About the Author

Based in the United Kingdom, Paul Miceli has been a professional writer since 2006. He has been published online by Ideate Media and Promiga and has a proven track record of producing informational articles and sales copy. Miceli is educated to U.K. "A-level" standard, continues to work as a paint sprayer and has more than 25 years of automotive body repair experience.