Mixed Messages: When Your Child’s Bully is their Sibling

February 5, 2013  |  

While there are bound to be arguments, bickering, and competition between siblings, constant name-calling, threatening, and/or hitting among brothers and sisters is more than a rivalry, it’s textbook bullying. So why are some parents allowing it to go on under their roofs?

In the past few years, teachers and parents alike have become more vigilant when it comes to bullying at school. But while the bad behavior is being more closely monitored in classrooms and on playgrounds nationwide, it’s often being ignored in the one place that children should feel safe — at home.

To some, a child being rude and rough with their siblings is just a part of growing up; and allowing it to go on is a safe way to teach kids how to handle conflict, or how to “hold their own.”

“There might be some good intentions behind these thoughts,” says Jesse Matthews, Psy. D., “but it could be due to [parents] feeling powerless or not knowing what to do.”

While a parent may think that they’re in control of the issue if it’s happening in their home, as Matthews points out, “Aggression breeds more aggression,” and allowing that type of behavior in the household not only causes more emotional damage to the victim than schoolyard bullying, but it often leads to violence and hostility outside of the home as well.

How do you determine what constitutes as bullying in your home? As a parent, the easiest thing to do is to ask yourself one critical question: Would I allow another child to treat my son or daughter this way?

If the answer is “no,” then it’s time for you to take action.

But how do you address bullying when you’re the parent of both the bully and the victim?

Dealing with bullying from both sides of the issue can be difficult, but Mary Pritchard, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology at Boise State University offers these tips:

Be a Positive Role Model For many children, their first encounter with bullying starts with “innocent teasing” from parents, and usually leads to teasing amongst siblings. “As a parent, if you don’t want your kids to tease or bully each other at home, you’d better look at your own behavior,” Dr. Pritchard tells MommyNoire. “It’s that whole ‘actions speak louder than words’ thing.”

Don’t Tolerate It Everyone in your household should know that bullying in any form isn’t allowed. But rather than just punishing the child who’s doing the bullying for their actions, both children need to understand why it’s important to you that the home is a “safe zone” for everyone in it. Remember: Be fair, firm, and consistent.

Keep Lines of Communication Open “It’s more than just having one conversation,” says Pritchard. “This should be a continual check in… At least once a week, check in and make sure everything is okay. This is true for all parties — the bully and the victim.”

Above all else, children should be taught how to effectively talk to each other and work out their issues without resorting to physical, verbal, and/or emotional abuse; a lesson that helps them foster better relationships in the home, at school, and wherever life may take them.


Photo: Google Images

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