Communication Tip:

Originally written by Kerry for tutorial reference material, rewritten for Communication Weekly.

Are you raising your child to be a bully’s victim?

One test is to ask your child, “What would you change about me?” However, this is tricky because it's possible you've already trained him/her to monitor what he/she says around you. You must have an intention is to get to the truth or you’ll unconsciously intimidate your child into responding politely with nothing significant. i.e. "Nuthin."
For example: Relationship Communication Workshop participants pair off and ask each other that question ten times in a row, with the intention of eliciting a different answer each time.
Another test is to ask your spouse, “Regarding our child, what would you change about me?” Again, you must intend to be a safe space for the truth to be told.

Actually, it’s not necessary to do any tests. You already know the answer. Your child is either out-going and spontaneous or he/she is shut-down (timid, shy, fearful, clumsy, accident-prone, socially awkward, not gregarious, perhaps speaks only when spoken to with one-word answers). In other words, you, using your leadership-communication skills, have either inspired your child to be open, confident, and spontaneous, relatively shut down; or, you have self-righteously enabled your spouse in abusing your child (always for reasons). If you are addicted to withholding then you have trained your child to withhold certain thoughts and to put up with unpleasantness. 

Children who have been shut down are ripe for bullying; they are so used to being intimidated and abused (physically, verbally, or psychically) that they carry themselves in a way that broadcasts, “Pick on me. My parents bully me all the time so I’m used to it. I probably deserve it. I have no self-respect. I lack the courage to speak up for myself.” It further communicates, non-verbally of course, "If you hit me hard enough it might cause authorities to intervene and restore communication in my family; nothing I've done with them has worked so far." Misbehaving/failing in school and life is one way of drawing attention to the fact that ones parents have lapsed in doing their imitation of communication.

If you sense that your child is somewhat shut-down not to worry, it’s possible to recall the very first time he/she shut down and to clean up (acknowledge) the incomplete, (in communication-coaching lingo any communication that did not end mutually satisfyingly is referred to as an incomplete). You're looking for the first time this happened, assuming your child was once a typical spontaneous, question-asking-machine; there was an incident, after which things were never the same.
* You yelled, communicated condescendingly, invalidated him/her, or you made him/her wrong (in short, you were abusive) or, you the enabler, have been blaming your spouse for being more abusive than you.

Ironically, unconscious, accidental verbal abuse is not what causes the change from spontaneous to “quiet” and submissive to persist; it’s that you didn’t acknowledge to him/her afterwards (or to date) that you knew you were abusive. That incident will continue to have undesirable effects on your child until you clean it up with him/her, or, he/she gets support later in life in recalling the incident and then acknowledging to themselves that that was the turning point. By consistently acknowledging your abuses you will train your child to immediately recognize abuse—therefore he/she won't unconsciously marry someone addicted to abusing and being abused.

What's exciting is that within a single 3-hour sit-down session with a communication skills coach you can create a new communication model (a way of interacting/behaving) that will inspire accurate and respectful spontaneity. Or, you can do The Clearing Process and then invite your child to do The Clearing Process for Parent and Child with you.

A divorced child-rearing parent is typically ignorant about the necessity of daily male and female influences that are in fact essential when rearing a child to be whole and complete. Such arrogance, "I can do it better by myself" begs to be humbled; usually such a parent has yet to acknowledged that their leadership-communication skills caused (unconsciously intended) the divorce and so they unconsciously teach their child to blame.

The child of gay parents who home-school is missing an equal number of interactions with the opposite sex. With single-mothers certain communications (especially those delivered non-verbally via male vibrations) produce different results when it comes to confidence in relating with mature males.

Things to look for: The very first time you were upset and yelled, "That was stupid." "What the hell are you doing?" "Don't be a smart ass." "Be quiet!!!" "Shut up." "Stop asking stupid questions." or, if you have "punished" your child by sending him/her to bed, or, if you haven't acknowledged an abuse earlier in the day. i.e. "I get that I was abusive to you earlier today". Remember, it's not the abuse but the absence of the follow-up acknowledgment of the abuse shortly thereafter, thereby completing the incident through to mutual satisfaction. It's important to keep in mind an acknowledgment is not an apology, it's a simple statement acknowledging what's so.

Use this Comment form for comments/feedback (Free-no registration)

To ask a question please go to Dear Gabby's Message Board (free - registration required).

Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 6/4/13)


Press Continue button to return to Index of Communication Tips.

[ top | Index of Tips | ComCom's Home Page ]