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'It felt like she was the boss': How to deal with kids who bully their parents

Bullying is a big issue for parents worried about their kids. But what if your child is the bully and you're the target of the bad behavior?
/ Source: TODAY

Bullying is a huge issue for parents worried about their kids being intimidated at school or on the playground. But what if your child is the bully and you’re the target of the mean behavior?

Some families are reporting feeling overpowered by their children and complain they're helpless to deal with their disrespect.

“It felt like she was the boss here,” said Martha LeClerk about her daughter Natalie. After Natalie’s parents separated when she was 11, the girl began to act up.

“She would come home just really angry and mean, rude, slamming doors...she would just find ways to humiliate me if she didn't get what she wanted,” LeClerk told TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager. “I started feeling defensive, unsure of myself as a mother. And so I think that behavior from me made it worse for Natalie.”

Natalie, who is now 15, acknowledged that her mother could have been stronger. But because LeClerk didn’t know how to handle the girl’s outbursts, she let the behavior slide.

It’s a real problem that usually happens to three types of parents, said Sean Grover, author of the new book, "When Kids Call the Shots."

  1. The guilty parent: When there's been a divorce or financial hardship, the parent feels bad for the child so they start to reward him or her and they don't set limits.
  2. The anxious parent: This mom or dad is always worrying and children interpret that as, "You don't believe in me" or "You don't trust me."
  3. The ‘fix everything’ parent: This parenting style creates a dependency on the mom or dad and the child begins to resent them.

“Kids always go through test periods where they really want more power...than they can manage,” Grover said.

“If they grew up with good structure, limits and boundaries, they're better able to contain frustration and talk, rather than act.”

If you’re a parent who wants to regain control, Grover offered these tips:

  • Don’t give kids everything they want: The more they’re given, the less they appreciate it and the more they demand.
  • Don’t be afraid to be unpopular: All kids want structures, limits and boundaries.
  • Never let your child disrespect you: Be firm about behaviors and make sure you create a culture of mutual respect.

For Martha LeClerk and her daughter Natalie, it took counseling to bring their relationship back to normal.

“I would realize, ‘This isn't who I am. And, like, I could be nicer and I could change.’ And I did,” Natalie said.

Her mom had this advice for other parents dealing with out-of-control kids:

“(Don’t) sink to their level,” LeClerk said. “If you have something to say to them, you say it clear. And then you turn your back and you go away and stop it there.”

Follow A. Pawlowski on Google+ and Twitter.