Ahhh, the holiday season. Family and friends all gather for the feast and good cheer! Almost every family has one, the family bully. The relative young or old that is a bully but because they are family we just accept who they are and “ignore it”. We look the other way when little Johnny takes your child’s toy for the 20th time that day, we walk away when we hear Suzy tell her cousin she is ugly, we laugh when the adult aunt tells you that you are fat.
In our book we discuss how ignoring the bully does not work; it only makes the situation worse because the bully will continue to bully. We also discuss how it is important to address the situation quickly so that the bullying stops. The same is true for the family bully; if we do not stand up to the bully it will continue and even get worse as the party continues. So what is a family to do?
One solution might be to have a casual conversation with your children before the party, discuss what could happen and what to do if it happens. We do not want to make the child dread the party so a light and casual conversation should do the trick. It would also be helpful not to use the word bully or call the relative a bully. We teach our children while at school to say no to the bully, we teach the children not to watch someone else be bullied but to help them out, the same holds true with the family bully. Say no, we are not going to stand for this anymore, disarm them and take away the power.
With the adult bully we might want to politely and firmly address the situation the first time it happens. Waiting until the fourteenth time Aunt June puts someone down may just make you want to explode. It is very important to stay calm and professional because in some cases the bully is looking for a reason to fragment the family and a confrontation would be the perfect reason to end the annual family holiday party or even stop seeing the relatives all together.
The adult bully is a practiced bully. He/she has been doing this for years and is the master manipulator. By reacting quickly and calmly instead of yelling and screaming or ignoring will help disarm the power of the bully. Just as you would with your children, prepare yourself for what might happen, plan how you will calmly stand up to the bully or for another relative that is being bullied and say no, I am not going to take this from you anymore. Addressing it quickly may just help make the rest of the party more enjoyable and hopefully the other relatives young and old will learn from your positive behavior and do the same.
Have a wonderful holiday season. If it is to be it is up to me.