When to leave a family member that is bullying?

When people read my book – the bully vaccine – they learn how to use behavioral techniques known as operant conditioning to get unwanted behaviors – like bullying – to stop.

One of the joys I have when people read the book, and the way I know they understand the science is when they extrapolate from the childhood bullying examples I provide and start to apply them to other situations.

One of the questions I recently got was – , do your approaches work within families where there is bullying?

The answer is:

Yes. The same behavioral conditioning is at play. The thing to realize though – is you can only change behavior that is within control of the individual. So – if they are unable to choose different behaviors – you can’t change the behaviors. You only may be able to mitigate it or lessen it’s intensity.

I added:

I wrote that – because – in my head – I’m thinking there may be a mental illness or health issue that may be driving behavior. If bullying is happening with an adult in the family – leave. If it’s a kid – work on it.

Being realistic

It is important to understand what a child or adult can control and what they can’t. Trying to change behavior that is unchangeable because it’s either instinctual or necessary for the mental health of the individual is pointless, cruel and frustrating.

That doesn’t mean you should tolerate someone treating you poorly. It just means you should approach these issues with compassion.

With children, you can help coach them into methods to get their needs met in a more pro-social way.

But if the person in question is – say a sociopath and enjoys watching people suffer, then you – as a regular person – can’t help them.

You goal at that point is to protect yourself from someone who is harming you without doing unnecessary harm to them. A person with control issues, will act as if you are hurting them if you no longer allow them to control you. But that is their problem. You protecting yourself – by getting away – isn’t actually harming them.

Let me give you an example – I was in an abusive relationship. My boyfriend has control issues. It wasn’t that he was mean or anything, and he never hit me. It was more that he had a mental health problem that caused him to behave erratically and that negatively effected me.

His ability to keep me in his orbit – when I left – I’m sure hurt him. When he started stalking me and I got the FBI involved, I’m sure that wasn’t good for him. But it was necessary for me to get away from him.

If you have someone, an adult, who is close to you, who is bullying you – you do what you need to do to protect yourself. If the problem is mild – deal with it – talk it out. Discuss it. Use positive reinforcements etc to help create a better dynamic between you.

If – on the other hand – the person is abusive – and is abusive because of mental health reasons – leave. Sorry to be blunt – but leave.