I can’t stand being around my father-in-law. At our wedding, he took credit for everything and did nothing. This year, I had a difficult time at work, and he made fun of me in front of family and friends. When I had our baby, I gained weight and had a hard time losing it. What an opportunity for him to belittle me and make sure everyone knew how weak and out of control I was. Even my husband avoids him. He didn’t have an easy upbringing. I can’t stand being around him, and he scares me. How do I handle a guy like this?
Mean and Nasty FIL
Dear Mean and Nasty FIL,
What you are describing is a classic adult bully. Your FIL is a man who thrives on domination and control. He needs to feel powerful and obviously has no other way to prove his worth.
Perhaps he was bullied by his own father, or became this way because of his business, but that is no excuse for treating people with a lack of respect and compassion. He knows exactly how low he is hitting by commenting on your post-pregnancy weight, especially in front of others. Your husband should have stuck up for you, but there may be some deep emotional problems between him and his dad, so you need to take control for yourself.
There is no real way of handling this other than to ignore him, but in a very deliberate way. When he says something demeaning, stop, sit up straight and tall, shoulders back, pause, look him straight in the eye for three seconds then turn away and talk to someone else. Don’t pout, don’t make any gesture that will give him the satisfaction of knowing he has injured you. Instead, by simply looking at him with confidence and as though you pity him, you gain the upper hand. By turning away and speaking about something completely different, you have dismissed him as though he doesn’t exist.
A bully doesn’t like that. You’ve taken away his power, his ability to take control of you and the room.
Doing this over and over will teach him that you are a force to be reckoned with and he will probably move on to someone else. Will he ever stop? Probably not. From your description, it sounds like he has been exhibiting this behaviour for a long time.
This is my first year as a teacher and I love my job – almost. It’s not the kids that are the problem. It’s one particular mother. I’ve met with her twice. She not only raised her voice with me, but she accused me of picking on her son. She has every excuse in the book for his bad behaviour and lack of work. He is nasty to other kids, and I can certainly see where he gets it. She has threatened to go to the administration and has accused me of being incompetent. I haven’t spoken to anyone about this. I was hoping to handle it on my own, but now I’m not sure. What should I do?
Teacher Parent Problem
Dear Teacher Parent Problem,
Teaching kids is a noble profession and can be extremely rewarding and frustrating at the same time.
You need to learn to deal with this these types of parents from the start. Unfortunately, overbearing parents are sometimes part of the job.
If you think you are going to change her parenting methods, I can assure you that you are not. She is frustrated and has chosen you as her scapegoat. She’s trying to bully you into agreeing with whatever her complaints are. Be prepared. Have all your notes ready and don’t be defensive.
Hone your listening skills. Even if the parent is being condescending and loud, listen to what she is saying and be objective. Don’t interrupt her. It will only fuel the fire. Instead, sit or stand tall and look straight at her. Your body posture should be confident. Determine if there is any truth to her accusations.
For future meetings, bring in a colleague or the principal for support. Every teacher goes through this as some point. Don’t be shy to ask for help or ideas. Each school will have protocol on how to handle these situations. Above all, you’re a teacher. Don’t let this incident affect how you treat her son. Each child should be treated equally.