Dear Rhonda & Dr. Cheri: When Grandma’s the bully
Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
My grandma plays favorites with her seven grandchildren, and I’m not a favorite. I’m 12 and an only child.
I’m mostly shy. My mom says, “You’re my shy — beautiful girl.” But grandma tells me I’m a wimp, a fatty, and stupid.
We get together for Sunday dinners. I always help clean up afterwards. Most of my cousins don’t. Grandma laughs and tells me it’s good that I know how to help, because I’ll probably grow up to be a waitress. She tells my cousins I’m untalented, and they laugh at me, too.
She’s so mean and I’m so sad. I cried about it once, in front of Grandma and the “angel-girl” of the family. I don’t do that in front of them anymore.
My mom told me, “That’s the way Grandma is; she doesn’t mean it. That’s just the way she is.”
Should I tell Grandma to shut up?
The Bad Cousin
Dear Sweet Girl,
Grandma’s a bully. She may be bullying you because of your goodness and beauty. She may see you as her perfect victim because you’re quiet. She might be jealous of you, and in targeting the nice and quiet one, she’s confident she can gain power over you. That’s the hideous behavior of most bullies.
However, she’s probably unaware that she’s a bully. Still, it’s no excuse for her to treat you badly and encourage others to do the same.
Bullies come in all ages, shapes, and genders. It’s worse when the bully is supposed to be a trusted family member.
Try these healthy steps:
1) Don’t become aggressive, but be assertive. The more emotional you are, or become a bully-victim yourself, the more power she gains. You’ll never change Grandma. So change your actions. Tell Grandma to, “Stop treating me with disrespect.” Then turn around and don’t engage in any bantering and don’t defend yourself.
2) Dignity, dignity, and dignity. Don’t let anyone take your dignity. Be civil (caring, courteous, and considerate) and limit your contact with Grandma or others who treat you poorly. You deserve better than that. Stand tall and be noble.
3) Talk with a trusted adult. Don’t gossip with, or about, other family members. It’s insidious. It’ll ruin your goodness and your ability to not stay a victim.
4) Work on developing a talent or two. This is not to show Grandma you are indeed talented — it’s something for you to focus on and something you can enjoy. It’ll also help you express your feelings in a healthy way. Be committed for six months, and learn the value of commitment.
We believe in you!
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri
Rhonda Orr is the president and founder of the Prescott-based Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation. Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Send your anonymous questions to Rhonda@rhondastopbullying.org. Join our podcast at BullyingLifeandStuff.com.