When One Sibling Is Bullying Another

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Today, we had a reader ask for advice about when siblings are mean to each other, also known as Sibling Bullying.  Sibling Rivalry is real and it is hard to deal with, for the child and the parents, but when it goes to another level and becomes bullying, it is time for the parents to truly step in and take action.

Sibling Bullying

When One Sibling Is Bullying Another

We personally do a “no technology week” about once every few months to bring our kids closer together (it works like a charm). But when one child is just downright mean to another, it is a whole different situation.

When I read the question on Facebook today, this mom said that her 12-year-old is mean to her 5-year-old, it made me sad.  I work with children in these kinds of situations daily, as part of my therapy job.  It can be hard for everyone involved, but there are some things that can make the situation better.

  • Take away electronics every time that it happens.
  • Do not ever give in.  You need to be more consistent than ever.   If being mean is occurring on a daily basis, you need to stop it.  Every single time that you hear a mean comment, your child gets X. (Maybe sent to their room, or take away 15 minutes of time before bed… whatever X may be. Just do it every time.)
  • Talk and LISTEN to your child.  Sit down and just TALK.  Have a conversation about what is going on.
  • Set your expectations and stick to them.
  • Talk to your younger child, too, about the consequences.  They will be the same for everyone involved.  The mean person receives a consequence.  Period.
  • Work as a group to see how they can talk it out and find a solution when they have a problem.
  • Confront the jealousy.   It’s real.

Sibling Bullying

According to NBCnews, sibling bullying happens more than we think:  “At school, the lines are much more defined: If a kid punches or kicks or relentlessly teases another kid in his or her class — that’s bullying. But at home, if a brother or sister does the same, it might be dismissed as just another sibling squabble. The difference between normal sibling shenanigans and sibling aggression is a little murky.

The accepted attitude is, ˜Well, children will be children, ™ and that this is a normal rite of passage for being a human being, says Kilgore, who writes the blog  Sibling Bullies and has written a book about bullying.

And that’s true, in away. If you have a brother or sister, he or she is probably the first person you ever fought with. That can be a good thing, Tucker says “ most sibling conflicts and competitiveness are normal, and they can teach children constructive ways of fighting and negotiate.

John Caffaro, a psychologist in private practice in Del Mar, Calif., a San Diego suburb, says one of the biggest red flags signaling sibling bullying is this: One child is always the aggressor, and another child is always the victim. Parents should also look for signs of aggression that aims to leave the other child feeling humiliated or defeated.

Still, the emotional impact of being bullied in your own home, by a brother or sister you trust or look up to, isn’t easily dismissed.   Kilgore says that as a small child, the bullying was all the more hurtful because, as mean as her sister got, she couldn’t stop loving her.”  ~ Melissa Dahl, NBCnews.com

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