7 Ways Parents Can Address Sibling Bullying

Tips for putting an end to bullying among brothers and sisters

Twin blowing bubbles at brother in park
Altrendo Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Kids fight and bicker. That is a fact of life. But sometimes these conflicts can go too far. When normal conflict turns into bullying, parents need to step in. Letting kids fight it out is not always the best approach, especially if there is an imbalance of power. If you think one of your kids is bullying the other, here are a few things you can do to confront sibling bullying.

Put an end to aggressive behavior. If your children react to one another in aggressive ways including hitting and pushing and even name-calling, you need to intervene immediately.

Tell them that the behavior will not be tolerated and discipline your child for bullying. Teach your kids how to treat one another with respect even when they disagree. And show them how to relate with one another in healthy ways.

Hold the bully responsible. It is essential that kids that are bullying know that the choice to bully is theirs, regardless of the reason behind it. Stress that bullying causes pain for their brothers and sisters and encourage them to take responsibility for their actions. To ensure that they understand this, be sure your children can repeat back what they did wrong. Then implement appropriate consequences.

For instance, should your child be grounded? Is an apology needed? Should he lose a privilege? The answer will depend on the severity of the bullying incident and your parenting style. But the key is to do something to ensure that your child understands that bullying is unacceptable.

Defuse jealousy. Although jealousy is a normal human emotion, it can be exacerbated if you don’t praise your children equally. Be sure that each child receives recognition, love and acceptance and avoid comparisons at all costs. You also should avoid labeling or categorizing your children. In other words, do not call them “the athletic one,” “the smart one,” and so on.

Doing so only breeds envy and contempt.

Always point out your kids’ good characteristics. Mention concrete things that you saw or heard them do. Let them know you value their efforts as much as their sibling’s efforts. Remember, when your kids receive compliments from you, what they experience is affection. The more compliments you give your children, the more affection they feel. They also will feel like they are being recognized and that their needs are being met.

Teach and model respect. The first step in teaching respect, is for parents to model that behavior by acting supportively toward one another. Additionally, you should talk to your kids about what constitutes a healthy friendship and encourage them to take steps to be a good friend to their siblings. You also may want to adopt a family philosophy that encourages family members to help and support one another.

Instill empathy. When a child feels empathy toward other people, this will go a long way in preventing bullying. Kids who are empathetic will be able to see that bullying hurts other people and will learn to refrain from it.

In fact, empathy, along with emotional intelligence, are the cornerstones of bullying prevention.

Empower them with problem solving skills. Kids don’t automatically know how to problem-solve. Many times they will default to unhealthy methods instead. Consequently, work on problem-solving techniques and stress collaboration. Give them situations to work out or create opportunities where they have to work together to get a job done. And be sure to supervise them to ensure one sibling is not taking advantage of another.

Prevent future bullying incidents. Sometimes when bullying is caught early, it won’t happen again. But do not assume this is always the case. Instead, continue to monitor the situation, correcting bullying or unkind behaviors immediately. And remember if one sibling bullies the other, this does not mean you are a bad parent. Kids are still learning what is acceptable and what isn’t. Be firm and consistent. You and your kids will get through this and come out stronger in the end.

Continue Reading