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These unhealthy forms of manipulation show up in relationships between adults but also in adult-child connections where they do long-lasting damage. Unfortunately, children who experience either or both grow up to be adults who often have trouble recognizing those patterns in action because they are so familiar. Both are abusive, reflect an imbalance of power in the relationship (and the fact that one partner wants to take advantage of this power), and highly destructive. According to marital expert John Gottman, stonewalling is one of the four behaviours which are signposts that the marriage will fail and end in divorce. Needless to say, while these behaviours are emotionally hurtful in adulthood, they have a long-lasting effect on children and their emotional and psychological development.
This pattern has been the subject of so much study that it has a formal name along with an acronym: Demand/Withdraw or DM/W. It describes the situation when one person wants to initiate a discussion about something important and the person to whom she is speaking reacts by withdrawing—refusing to answer, saying nothing or displaying derision, or perhaps even leaving the room. This is a classic power play guaranteed to make the person making the demand feel belittled, ignored, and enormously frustrated which, in turn, is likely to turn up the emotional volume if it’s an adult doing the demanding. Unfortunately, that escalation is likely only to produce further withdrawal, because now the stonewalling person feels truly put upon and angry. It will surprise no one that in relationships where one person has an anxious/preoccupied style of attachment and the other has an avoidant style, the pattern of stonewalling can become a familiar fixture and a death knell for the relationship.
This term doesn’t come out of psychological literature but out of popular culture, derived from a 1930s play and then a movie Gaslight from the 1940s starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. It describes behaviour orchestrated by one person to make another doubt her own perceptions and, ultimately, her view of reality. Generally, for gaslighting to be a success, the person doing the gaslighting must have some kind of power over the other person—the victim might love or trust the perpetrator or need him or her—and the victim must have insecurities that the gaslighter can exploit. People with an anxious/preoccupied style of attachment, who worry and fret about signs and signals that they’re about to be left or betrayed, present ideal candidates for gaslighting. Excerpt from Psych Central, read the full report here.
Child bullying Bullying
Bullying is not just a problem for a minority of children; it is a widespread problem that can affect the culture and climate of a whole school. According to Bullying UK’s 2006 National Bullying Survey (the largest, most comprehensive survey of its kind at the time):
How to spot the signs
If you feel your child may be the victim of bullying, look out for the following signs:
www.bullying.co.uk recommends asking a few simple questions to find out whether your child is being bullied:
For a younger child:
For an older child:
What to do if your child is being bullied
If your child is being bullied, don’t ignore it. At the most extreme level, bullying can on rare occasions lead to suicide or attempted suicide, so it must always be taken seriously. Of course, children have to learn to accept and even ignore a certain level of teasing, and parents need to provide support so the child can deal with this. But physical threats or continual taunting is distressing and should never be tolerated.
Helping your child
It is important to stay calm. Don’t lose your temper or react angrily towards your child’s teacher, as you could end up getting banned from entering the school or even facing legal action. Make an appointment or have a quiet chat with them to explain your concerns or fears. The teacher will know all the children well and will be able to help you decide the best way of sorting out the problem. If you feel that the situation is not being resolved following the meeting, ask to see the school’s anti-bullying policy. All schools are legally required to have one. Study it and note points that you feel are not being met Make an appointment to see the Head Teacher and refer to the school's anti-bullying policy. Leave the meeting with an action plan and ask for a follow-up by a phone call. Keep a record of any meeting you have. If you still feel that the issue has not been dealt with then ask the school for the contact details of the Board of Governors or Local Educational Authority. Write to the Board expressing your concerns and why you feel that there has been no resolve. Make a list of all the questions you want to ask and take someone along with you, so you don’t miss anything that they may say.
What if my child is a bully?
If you find out that your child is bullying others, it’s likely to be a shock. Do try to stay calm though, so you can get to the bottom of what’s going on. Discuss what has been going on with your child and find out his side of the story. Children bully for a number of reasons. It may be that he is being bullied himself, or he may be trying to get attention or become popular with a group. Help your child to understand how his actions are affecting other children. You may need to talk about this over a period of time. He needs to know that bullying is totally unacceptable. If the bullying is happening at school, talk to your child’s teacher or form tutor to get a better picture of what is going on and what can be done. If there are other children involved in the bullying, they may be putting pressure on each other. It may help to speak to their parents – they will probably be as anxious as you are to put an end to the problem.
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