What should you do if you think that an adult is bullying you?  If a teacher, sports coach, boss or parent is constantly putting you down, bossing you around, criticizing you or making you miserable, how can you get them to stop? Dealing with a socially aggressive adult can be even more difficult than dealing with peers who mistreat you because you may be dependent upon that adult for your grades, your job, your place on a sports team, privileges or your allowance. Plus, they may be more intimidating because of their age or size.

The first thing to always consider is whether what they are doing to you is criminal. Are they hurting your body or possessions, or denying you the freedom to enjoy the basic rights that society grants you?  If their treatment of you is criminal, you need to consider whether you need to get legal authorities involved.

Usually, though, when adults are mean to us, they are hurting our feelings. These are the kinds of things that we should learn to handle on our own because they are a regular and inevitable part of life. People are going to treat us in ways we don’t like and often this will happen within our own families. A high percentage of marriages end in divorce, and it’s not because the partners were nice to one another. In many families, at least one child is frequently at odds with a parent or guardian.

As you’ve learned by now, the best solution is the Golden Rule. This means we need to respect people even when aren’t respectful to us.

Let me teach you a secret about adults. It may seem that they want you to be perfect.

But in most cases, that’s an illusion. It seems that way because they criticize and yell at you when they think you did something wrong or they boss you around, telling you what do.

You know what adults really want from you? Respect. You can be a model of perfection, you can do everything they tell you, but if you are disrespectful to them, they will not be happy with you. In fact, adults will be happier if you disobey them respectfully than if you obey them disrespectfully.

The most important thing is not to get angry, even if they are angry with you. If you get angry back, the situation escalates, and the adult will want to punish you not only for what they think you are doing wrong, but also for being disrespectful. If you stay calm and polite, the adult is likely to feel foolish and calm down.

Next, tell yourself that they care about you and they’re behaving this way because they think it will motivate you to become a better, more successful person. In many cases, this is true. Why would they be insulting or criticizing you if they don’t want you to be better? Why would they be bossing you around if they didn’t want you to be more productive and successful? Yes, it’s a shame they haven’t learned a better way to motivate you, but no one is perfect.

You will find that if you take such an attitude towards adults who are harsh with you, they will almost always treat you better, and both of you will become happier. Don’t worry that if you treat them respectfully when they are mean to you that they are controlling you. It’s really the other way around: it’s you who are controlling them, getting them to act the way you want them to. It takes strength, not weakness, to control our urge to respond with anger and defiance when people are angry or aggressive.

If the adult is mad because they think you did something wrong, apologize sincerely. An apology doesn’t have to mean that you actually did something wrong, just that you are truly sorry that your action hurt them. For instance, if your parents are mad at you because you went on a date instead of studying for a test, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have gone on the date. But instead of saying something like, “Mind your own business! It’s my life and I’ll do whatever I want!” you can say, “I apologize. I know you want me to do well in school, but I can’t tell you how important this date was to me. If you meet him/her, you would be thrilled that I went out with them.”

In some situations, though, the adult cares less about being respected than about you doing what they need you to do. For instance, if you have a job and it has to be done in a certain way or it will hurt the business, your boss won’t be happy if you slack off or make errors no matter how respectful you are. You must do what the boss asks of you. If you are respectful at the same time, your boss will be thrilled with you and will be less likely to treat you poorly.

Use the Golden Rule, and you will have better relationships with the adults in your life!

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