Don’t Let Your Child Bully Your Brother or Sister

Brothers and sisters will fight. They are going to poke each other on long (or short) car rides. They’re going to be nudged to be the first to go out the door. They will fight to control the TV remote control. After a while, it may begin to sound like the usual background noise of a family with several children. But typical sibling rivalry or fights can turn into full-blown bullying – and this is abnormal and normal.

Rivalry versus bullying

Sibling rivalry is, at least at some point, inevitable. They share space, parents, pets, toys and electronics. Feeling competitive in at least one area of ‚Äč‚Äčtheir life is normal and expected. However, when one of the siblings deliberately tries to harm or humiliate another sibling, they have crossed the line from rivalry to territory of intimidation.

The Very Well Family explains the difference:

One of the best ways to spot sibling bullying is to know the three dimensions of bullying. These include power imbalances, deliberate actions, and repetitive behavior. In other words, when siblings are regularly called names, humiliated, intimidated, physical abuse, and other forms of bullying, this is sibling bullying.

Bullying can be physical, it can be mental and emotional, accompanied by incessant insults and name-calling. Both are bullying, just as we would consider it bullying if it was from a peer at school and not a brother or sister at home. In fact, researchers at the National Childhood Violence Survey found that bullying by siblings causes mental distress in the victim, which can lead to higher levels of anger, depression, and anxiety.

If you’re still unsure if you’re witnessing an argument or bullying, your children’s reactions may provide a better clue. If both children are upset and involved in an argument, it is probably a common fight between siblings. However, if the playing field is uneven and one child is upset and distant from an argument while the other seems to revel in his misery, you are probably witnessing bullying.

Don’t add fuel to the fire

If parents are not careful, they can make the situation worse. Psychotherapist Susan Swanson writes for GoodTherapy, parents often give their children subjected to abuse, bad advice, how to behave with your brother or sister:

Often well-meaning parents tell the victim to either ignore the bully or fight back. None of these approaches seem feasible for the typical child victim. And none of them is effective in any case: ignoring the bully is tantamount to inciting her, and to resist is unrealistic advice for a child whose temperament is neither aggressive nor belligerent.

Parents can also promote or encourage bullying by labeling their children – he is smart, she is athletic, he is outgoing. Labeling like this creates an unhealthy sense of competition between siblings, which can escalate into bullying.

Treat it like any other bullying.

Just as you would intervene if you knew your child is being bullied at school or expecting teachers and administrators to intervene, you need to intervene when bullying occurs in the home.

The Very Well Family offers a 7-step process for eliminating bullying at home:

1. Intervene in violent behavior immediately . This includes physically aggressive behavior and aggressively nasty language such as name calling.

2. Bring the bully to justice. The bullying child must be able to repeat what he did wrong and he must face the consequences. This can range from an apology to a loss of privilege, depending on the circumstances.

3. Get rid of jealousy. Every child should receive the same amount of attention, love, and acceptance. Avoid comparisons like the plague they are.

4. Exemplary respect. Whatever we say, they are more likely to follow what we do. A supportive, respectful, and loving environment starts with the parents.

5. Develop empathy. When a child can empathize with how much bullying hurts another child, they are less likely to want to hurt another child.

6. Teach them to solve problems. Create an atmosphere of collaboration between siblings by seeking opportunities for them to work together to get the job done.

7. Prevent future incidents. Once you solve the problem of bullying, it may or may not end. Watch how the children communicate and say firmly and consistently what is acceptable and what is not.

Remember also that your children are still learning; Just because a child is now bullying a brother or sister does not mean that he is a bad child. In fact, they may be dealing with their own internal stressors – perhaps being bullied at school, or feeling unsupported or ignored at home.

Interfering with harmful behaviors at home can help you understand the root cause of any anxiety or distress the bullying child may be experiencing.


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